Lockdown. Oh the dream for this deeply introverted soul, being asked to remove myself into my own company, my beautiful wife excepted! But is this crazy period all that this introvert thought it would be? Here's my look at lockdown for the introverted.
A very real threat
Let me first say that there is no thought of flippancy here and no disrespect for those in the trenches fighting this horrible virus. I am fully behind the NHS and absolutely committed to playing my part by observing social distancing rules and guidelines.
Disclaimer genuine and complete!
So lockdown is nobody's dream. This **** is real and lives are being lost in the tens of thousands globally every day. We have known nothing like it in most of our lifetimes and it is genuinely frightening and disconcerting for each and every one of us.
That said, some of us are perhaps naturally better gifted to manage the situation in which we find ourselves. As an introvert, and also as someone who has mastered so many techniques to manage my mental wellbeing, I put myself in that category.
So what exactly does it mean to be an introvert? What I can tell you it isn't is to be shy, socially awkward - this is a myth and a misconception.
In truth, there are several types of introversion and I think Psychology UK describe it better than most in saying;
Introverts do not fear or dislike others, and they are neither shy nor plagued by loneliness. Simply, they derive more pleasure from, and are more energized by, their own inner life than by social events - Psychology Today
Actually, many would describe me as an extroverted introvert; it's not a phrase that I particularly like but I'll leave you to read the link rather than go into deep technical analysis. If you know me well, I suspect you will see where I'm coming from.
In short, me as an introvert means:-
- I am confident around people but very selective about those around whom I spend time
- I love a night out but with one or two select friends rather than a hundred
- At a party, I will not be a quivering wreck BUT I will be closer to the corner than the centre. I'll be deep in conversation all evening but most at the party may not know I'm there - I'll spend time with a few
- I can't do small talk! I'm either having a good conversation or I'll be rushing to end it!
- I need time on my own to recharge as it exhausts me if I'm around people 24/7 - this is why running is so important to me and why it is a solo activity
So back to the great lockdown
Actually, if you look at the above, I definitely am better set to deal with isolation than most.
I love time on my own and in my own thoughts.
I love not having to recharge my batteries constantly to see people. And just so you know, I do love being around my friends, but I also need to have had my solace if I'm going to give time with them what it deserves.
Lockdown, in many ways, would allow me to really engage in the solitude and reflection that I enjoy and, most importantly, allow me to keep my batteries charged. In many ways it has, but not completely.
Zoom is one of the buzzwords of lockdown. Zoom is definitely not new to me, in fact it's been a key tool in having a job which requires me to connect regularly with Australia and the US among others.
Now, however, it has entered into the protected space of home... in fact, Zoom is the new night out. And actually it has been great to be able to connect with close friends over the past few weekends to have really valued time speaking... over a coffee or red wine.
Here is the crux, and there are three parts to my crux...
- The weekend is a time when I might naturally catch up with friends, when time is put aside for them, when it is not rushed and I can really engage. Conversely, week nights have been time that I protect for time with my wife and even that has often been difficult with both of us often not home from work until closer to 8pm than 7pm. In short, my week consists of family, work and training as my core priorities (let's not mention Liverpool Football Club here too!!)
- When working in the office, I will often find a quiet spot to work on a key piece of work, losing myself in a meeting room, breakout area or hot-desking with me, my laptop and my headphones. Despite the fact I'm working, this is typically an opportunity for solitude and recharge and does allow me to be energised to meet people on a week evening. Remote working, some might think, may be the perfect scenario for this but has been anything but. When I'm on video (Zoom!) meetings for 5 or 6 hours in the day looking at the screen, the thought of further video calls in the evening is, quite frankly, frightening for my health mentally and holistically.
- Albeit that Claire and I are working in rooms next to each other all day... that's not quality time! It is no different from when we are at the office, that time together is much more important. By the time I finish work around 6pm and go out for my allowed exercise in the form of a run, nothing has changed in so much that I am home from work after a run commute and showered by 7.30pm or so.
Simply put, the biggest challenge has been saying no!!! Most of my close friends do understand that my introversion needs me to have that time alone, or alone with Claire, in order for me not to implode in exhaustion.
However, in these strange times that we're currently living through, it's harder to say no. We're not likely to have other commitments and have a clash in our social calendar - we're inside at home and, assumed by others, to be doing nothing.
So here's the deal...
More than ever, I want to be connected to my friends, and I'm probably replying to WhatsApp / SMS and similar quicker than I have.
I'd love to spend an hour properly catching up with others over Zoom at weekend over a drink to share everything going on in each others' lives.
However, don't be offended if I turn down as many invitations as I accept. My introverted needs have not changed just because of lockdown and Covid-19, and lockdown has certainly not created more hours in the day.
In fact, where I would often have said yes to a quick pint on the way home from work when not running, extra video time after a day packed with Zoom meetings are a no-go.
Perhaps I am managing this period better than most, admittedly, but that comes down from having an acute awareness of managing my mental wellbeing and knowing how my perspective of introversion allows me to be my best.
So from this introvert, I send you all the love and friendship in the world. However, I send a message that lockdown is not the introvert's dream as some have assumed, but a time at which, like for others, it is extremely difficult to balance the need for social interaction and reflective time alone, especially when our styles of work and social interaction have merged into one.