I retired from my fast-paced corporate job just as the world was shutting down due to Covid-19. All my anticipated retirement plans of time with my grandchildren, meeting up with girlfriends and family, plus travel to another country, came to an abrupt stop.
Retirement in itself is quite an adjustment, but adding forced isolation due to the pandemic was a double whammy.
Ok, I’m resilient, and I could step back for a time. I did a fantastic paint by number of the coast of Italy, redecorated one of my spaces, read lots of books, and learned how to Zoom with my family and hold family Zoom meetings regularly.
For the first time in my life, I did curbside pick-up and ordered groceries to be delivered. I used Amazon more than ever, with an ever-rising pile of cardboard boxes in my recycle bin.
I’ve always known I landed right in the middle between an extrovert and introvert personality. I love people and have set my life work to help others. At the same time, I love my home and being in it is a sanctuary away from people and the world.
With a flair for decorating, I’ve consistently allowed my creativity to make my home a place I can’t wait to be. My introverted side craved time in my home. Time alone or with my husband without others around, was a scheduled event planned into the week, before retirement.
When the pandemic started, the forced isolation of the pandemic was ok by me. The introverted side of my personality was thrilled. Social pressures were relieved as I stayed tucked into my home. Yes, I missed everyone, but I adapted quickly and seemed ok with it.
Now, as the world walks through the pain of opening up and closing down, and opening up again, I find that my personality has swayed toward the introvert side. It’s no longer 50/50 but maybe 75/25, with introvert being dominant.
I’m a bit worried about others I meet when out and about. Have they had their shots? Are they carrying the invisible germs that will infect me? Why are they standing so close to me in line? I’m so used to grocery shopping and not having any eye contact with anyone, that when someone does engage in eye contact, I wonder why.
I just want to be back home. In thinking of taking a trip, worries pop up about other places and their safety restrictions, or taking a flight with unpredictable (sometimes angry) people on board who won’t wear a mask.
For a time, I disconnected with some of my friends and made no new friends over the past year and a half. I stopped going to church when they closed down. Now that they’re open, I am not too sure about going because there are a thousand people singing in one spot.
These fears feed my introvert side. David Brooks puts it like this in his column in the New York Times: “[his] extroversion muscles have atrophied, and [his] introversion muscles are bulging!”
I know this, people are resilient. I’m resilient. I’ve been through hard times in my life that make me cringe when I think back on them. I’m still here and have learned to find true happiness and peace through it all. Each event changed me. Most of the time for the better!
I will be changed by this too. Will we all go back to the dominant personalities or traits we had before the pandemic? Science can’t reassure us of this yet. Studies are being conducted but more time is needed.
I can’t tell if my personality will be back to my familiar 50/50 or not. My introverted side says, “stay like this!” For now, my extroverted side is satisfied with fewer times of having my kids over, hugging my grandchildren, and taking trips.
However, when I do these things, I notice more. The connection is intense. The tone of my granddaughter’s laugh, the warmth of a hug from my son, and the wonderful taste of food while eating in a restaurant don’t go by unnoticed but savored.
I’m not throwing myself out into the new world in a rush. It’s been a year and a half of introvert muscle building. I need time to achieve the balance again. No one is making me rush, so I’m not making myself either.
Accept who you are and how this life event has changed you, even if the change is temporary. Every huge life decision, situation, and change has altered us in some way as we make our way through life. This one has altered everyone in the world at once. Accept this and move slowly into the newness of the world now.
I couldn’t say it better than David Brooks in his New York times column. “We are going to become hyper-appreciators, savoring every small pleasure, living in a thousand delicious moments, getting together with friends and strangers and seeing them with the joy of new and grateful eyes.”
This is the goal. When you do have time with friends, see the smile of a stranger, or venture out on a trip, exercise and become skilled at the ability to intensely notice every small detail. Let these details feed your soul.
Have you noticed a personality change due to the pandemic? Are you ready to push yourself out there, or do you want to hide in the comfort of your home? Is your extrovert side craving relationships? Are your introvert muscles stronger than ever?