I am an introvert. When our staff created a sticky note chart of where we fell on the introvert/extrovert scale a few years ago, my sticky note was in the other room. I am like a iPhone 5C that loses its charge really quickly just by existing in a room with other people. I have friends who drain my energy just by my thinking about upcoming plans with them. I crave alone time not because I’m anti-social, but because I need it to recharge. I need time to process, to think, to consider options, and time to just be in the quiet.
Before I came to teaching, college was incredibly difficult for all the people I encountered during my classes and in between. I was the kid who came early and sought out a spot to internally prepare for being in a room with 30-50 people for two hours. I was the one who, after class, bailed quick and sought out spots in corners outside to just be by myself. That said, I worked in industries that required talking and peopling all day. Thankfully, the places I worked, a small copier and fax sales office with little foot traffic and optical retail required only short bursts of in-person peopling and telephone interaction. When I moved into insurance service and sales, things became much more difficult–I talked to people ALL day long as a customer service rep in a room with hundreds of others, often being yelled at because the logical consequence of policy cancellation due to non-payment of premium was a thing and I had to ask people to commit to trusting our agency or company with their coverage.
Teaching is incredibly difficult for an introvert. I find most of my introverted colleagues come to work early to prepare both materials and themselves or they opt to come in at the last minute, having spent time alone before school to internally prepare. My role isn’t in the classroom anymore, but I still find I need to mentally prepare for the day, flexing my expectations of how I want my day to go with the needs of others, serving kids or teachers or parents who need support in some way. I am exhausted by the time the day is over, often coming home and napping, thankful that the only things I am beholden to are cats who may or may not care I’m home and a fuzzy puppy who has figured out that I need a little grace before playtime.
We are on a stay-at-home order here effective at 6am today. I still haven’t peeled the cat off the ceiling–he was laying on the phone when the reminder alert went off. This week is what would be our Spring Break. My days aren’t much different than they would be if we weren’t on orders to stay home, honestly–I’d still get groceries delivered, still sit on the porch with a book and a beer, but I might see a friend or two for lunch date. (A few of us are planning a Zoom wine date soon just on principle, for the record…)
A friend and I chatted the other night–she wanted to check on me because as a fellow gifted introvert, sometimes too much alone time isn’t good. She has kids and a husband working at home, so she’s not really alone right now, but I am–beyond the cats and dog, there’s no one here.
She asked how I was and I couldn’t really answer. I don’t know how I am. I felt purposeless last week, and kind of still do, but I’ve given myself permission to treat this week as Spring Break and not think about purpose just yet–I’ll have time next week. I’ve napped a lot. I’ve watched anything that’s not the news. I’ve taken the dog for walks to the park, sat on my porch in the sun with coffee, listened to audiobooks, and removed dust because there seems to be a great accumulation of it. I’ve worried for our small business that’s impacted by the stay-at-home order, but realized that I can’t fix it and don’t have any other ideas yet. I’m not uncaring or unfeeling–I just really don’t know how I am. There’s not a word for it that I know of though German might have one…they have a word for everything…and if they don’t, they simply make one up.
I tend to overthink a lot and want everything to be perfect for those I care about. I’m watching my intensities pretty closely right now, knowing that I’m stuck and needing to think outside the box, outside my comfort zone, both for self-care and the care of others. Maybe in another week or so I’ll be able to answer my friend’s question about how I am.
I worry more for those who are more impacted by all this than I am–I can’t fix things for any of them really. The healthcare workers and their families, those who are considered essential workers to keep things going, those who are sick with this virus or something else who are worried that it might become something worse, the business owners wondering how they’ll stay afloat when they can’t be open, those who have been laid off and will have to wait a long while for unemployment because everyone else is in the same boat. And I worry too for those who are in denial. Those who think any of this can’t possibly impact them or that somehow the rules in this situation don’t apply to them–what will have to happen to them for them to realize that we are stuck in this together–all of us world-wide–and see that it will take ALL of us realizing that to get through it.
So ask me next week how I’m doing. My gifted intensities are fairly dormant right now, but I’m sure a good cry is coming, and perhaps eventually I’ll have a word for what all this is.