It is almost one whole year since the pandemic started to take hold worldwide, and since we entered our first lockdown. How the world has changed since those early days! I wrote a tweet about it a few days back: ‘does anyone remember how strange it felt the first time you went out wearing a mask?’ – Now it’s second nature. Hiding behind masks. Hiding behind walls. Locked down and locked in with my writing. In some ways, it’s the perfect set-up for someone who enjoys writing and is not altogether comfortable in social situations. Perhaps this is a little dangerous for people like me…
The biggest frustration of lockdown for me has been the restrictions on travel. I’m never happy staying in one place for too long, though the restrictions are teaching me much about being grateful for the moment, and the place in which I live. More time for meditation, reflections (such as these) and more one-on-one time with my family. This is all great. But perhaps it is sometimes a little too great.
Right now, I don’t have to have much contact with the outside world: I dress how I want, I write when I want, I don’t have to interact with anyone I don’t want to. That’s all well and good, but it’s not real life, is it? I’ve had social anxiety issues my whole life: my worst nightmare would be to be dropped into a party full of people I don’t know, and then to have to mingle and make small talk. These are the basic life skills that many people take for granted, but for others such as me they just don’t come naturally.
I used to drink to ‘make myself more sociable.’ Anyone who’s had experience of this knows the law of diminishing returns: it works fine for the first 2-3 drinks, then follows the descent into blithering idiocy. I stopped drinking 18 months ago, and this, combined with working in an office, was helping to boost my social skills: I no longer needed alcohol as a crutch; I was being myself and I was ok with that; and most people I knew were ok with that too. Anyone who wasn’t ok with that didn’t matter. I was making progress.
Then the lockdown happened.
I doubt I’m the only writer with reclusive tendencies. After all, it’s impossible to write in a social situation: writers need solitude in which to do their work. But always being isolated is not good for anyone, especially writers: how can we write about a world we do not experience?
The other day I was introduced to some of my husband’s friends and I just clammed up: I felt this panic and it was horrible because I felt like all my progress to becoming a more sociable human being had been lost. Once the opportunity arises to socialise, I must take it, however hard it might be initially. Or else I might become like the subject of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 1:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
It’s quoted out of context (Shakespeare was talking about the need to pass on our best qualities to our children) but I think it also applies to the practice of writing: ‘self-substantial fuel’ can only burn for so long. So, as I prepare for the children’s return to school, I also prepare for my own return to ‘the real world…’
Wish me luck!
Well, you communicate really well on here, so at least you have it in you. It’s “just” a case of bringing it to the surface.
Yes, it’s a different kind of skill communicating in writing to in-person, but thank you 🙏
But it’s not like there is a vacuum there to begin with, that’s all I mean.
True, and I’m not that bad but once I get to know people, I just have trouble being confident with people I don’t know!
When I started my voluntary work they asked me to phone perfect strangers, I was like, how can I do that?, since I’m naturally quite an introvert, Very different to my home territory of IT! But I do okay, and many of those strangers are now almost friends. I bet people think you do okay, too. Whatever you feel, pretend like you know what you’re doing – that’s how I get through 🙂
I am thinking of doing some voluntary work actually: should be a great way to get ‘back out there!’
The stuff I do is just telephoning people. It was just a case of going into their office and picking up the phone. Even easier since our various lockdowns as I do it from the sofa!
Oh I’m terrified of the telephone 😱 so maybe that’s something I could work on!
Yeah, it isn’t something I would have chosen but it has worked out okay. You never know…
Really interesting dialogue. I’ve often thought that most writers are a bit introvert in nature, which is why we really appreciate the power of the written word. Yet I know extroverts who would shrink from the possibility of writing something for others to read. I guess we all have our different strengths and should make the most of them, without worrying too much about what others think.
Exactly right! I don’t worry too much anymore but I still need to be able to function in society on some level 😂
Quite right. It’s just a matter of getting things into perspective.🙂
Good luck with the school return, hope it’s ok.
So do I 😅 thanks so much: I hope homeschooling is going ok for you too.
It’s been easier the last couple of weeks, I’ve started just rolling with it and prioritising work a bit lower down the list
Honest post, I think we can get too comfortable with social isolation. Most writers are introverted I have found as well. I think I am somewhat better with age on social anxiety, because I generally just don’t care as much what people think of me. I probably gravitate to quieter people myself though. Interesting read! 💕
Thank you Tricia, I’m pleased you found it interesting!
I agree, writing is a very different kind of communication. I too feel uncomfortable in social situations, and have no verbal skills when actually confronted with another human. Even people I know often have no idea what I’m talking about, so I’ve learned to stay quiet. I do think it will feel strange shedding our isolation. I have no idea how to go about it. I will also say that having young children was always a safe way to connect with other adults for me, so that may help you. Most of the friends I have now were made during that time–even though our children are long grown, we have remained friends. (K)
My difficulty is that we have moved around so much I even find it hard to reach out to other mums my own age. I’ve seen so many different cultures and languages, they all seem to fit whereas I feel I don’t belong. But this is probably more of me having a problem with myself than anyone else having a problem with me.
It is hard to keep continuity when you move a lot. Even a different neighborhood can make a difference.
Great thoughts of your inner world Ingrid!!!
It’s an interesting time for sure right now and it is wild how we’ve adjusted to wearing masks so well. I have loved the permission to not be out there in the same way and not having the social obligations we had at once. People think I’m an extrovert but I’m an ambivert that very much loves my alone time. There will be an entry phase for sure and it sounds like you had a taste of it. Maybe you’ve changed for the better and like your alone time so be careful not to judge yourself harshly. ❤️
That is a very good point, thank you Cindy: I always judge myself harshly and I am trying to ‘let go’ of that too!