Introversion has never been my way of engaging with the world. According to Introvert, Dear “an introvert is someone who prefers calm, minimally stimulating environments. Introverts tend to feel drained after socialising and regain their energy by spending time alone.” I’ve always been extroverted. I gain energy from socialising and go stir-crazy without it. Attending a three day self-guided silent retreat may sound like heaven to my introverted friends. To me it sounds like a particularly cruel form of torture.
Yet for the first time in my life I want to be an introvert.
I have both chronic lymphatic leukaemia (CLL) and Parkinsons, which sets me up for a possible coronavirus double whammy. The lowered levels of immunity associated with CLL leave me highly susceptible to catching Covid-19, and if I do, both conditions make it more likely that severe complications might develop.
Consequently, I have begun a fairly aggressive self-isolation. Until the crisis passes I will be pretty much homebound. I’ll do church and work meetings online; avoid cafes, shopping centres, public transport, and anywhere else the chance of transmission is elevated; and try to stay 1.5 metres apart from Sandy, Ashley & Lachlan as we navigate around our home. I will try to get out for walks and some exercise, but it will be a mostly solo effort.
I don’t think I’ll run out of things to do. Most of my work can be done from home and has been this way for some time. Zoom allows me to hold virtual meetings. When it comes to leisure, I am thankful for the amazing array of opportunities technology presents. Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime, ABC iview and SBS On Demand will provide me with lots of shows to watch; podcasts are available on just about every topic I can imagine; my Kindle means I can access books to my heart’s content; Spotify enables me to jump around the room flinging my limbs in ways that at least I can interpret as dance or to sit still and weep at a beautiful ballad. I can go for walks, write, play guitar and might even take up a new hobby. I plan to invest myself more fully in some spiritual disciplines that my extroverted self always found easy to push down the list of priorities.
What I crave however is the very thing I must largely avoid – people contact. I plan to engage more fully with social media (my engagement levels had dropped in recent months due to the sheer nastiness that has increasingly plagued our social media feeds); I will try joining some online groups, such as a book-club; and will join an online home group through my church. The big question in all of this is whether online contact will substitute sufficiently for in-the-flesh encounters, and if not, how I will lift myself from the malaise and restlessness that will inevitably follow.
The next 12 months will prove challenging for all of us. We are going to see huge stresses placed upon individuals and our coping systems as we radically restructure the patterns of our relating while at the same time navigating an economy that is deconstructing. The implications for all of us will be different, but the difficulties will be real.
At the moment I don’t know what the solutions will look like. I’m not sure we even really know what the challenges will look like. But I am confident that if we keep looking out for each other we will find a way through.