The problem with someone like me, as I explained briefly in my About the Writer segment, is that when the enjoyment and satisfaction of pursuing one form of bliss wears off, there is usually a period when I don’t know where to turn next for inspiration and motivation. These slumps can last anywhere from hours to days to weeks. This past year, even before the pandemic arrived, I spent literally months in the doldrums, feeling stagnant and purposeless, and wondering if I would ever be able to find my feet beneath me again. Nothing that had proven uplifting in the past worked. It was pretty demoralizing. And it was definitely unproductive.
But after spending so many years striving for a purpose in life, I had decided, apparently, not to strive any longer. I accepted the stillness with tenuous faith, knowing that all life ebbs and flows. All creation has a pulse, and this was simply my downswing, for however long it lasted. I took the advice I had heard so many times before, and used the time for self-care, in preparation for a time in the future when I would again be active and productive.
I also discovered a new “little” hobby: miniature gardening. This little gem gave me small spurts of inspiration and kept me sane throughout the spring and summer of isolation due to the pandemic.
It wasn’t the relative isolation from other people that I found difficult this past year, exactly. It was not getting the right kind or amount of outside stimulation to sustain any real forward movement. In the past it’s been pretty much intuitive; something apparently random would pique my interest while out and about, and I would take it from there. As an introvert, I have learned to limit my exposure to people, places, and subjects that I find of value or particularly inspiring. But this year has been especially limiting, and has forced me to go searching for some kind of motivation without the spark usually supplied by an encounter with something outside of myself.
One of the results of the pandemic (as well as a reason) is that people have had to look inward more. I knew that introspection wasn’t particularly an issue for me, but I didn’t understand until just recently exactly how it would force people who weren’t so inclined to do this. Yet I could see that it was happening when I’d read the news or my rare visits to social media.
Extraverts and Introverts
It is estimated that 50 to 75 percent of the population are extraverts. Personally, I think it’s closer to the latter; but then again, introverts aren’t broadcasting as much, so it could be as much as half. Those extraverts thrive under stimulation from outside of themselves, while we introverts take a beating relative to our sensitivity. When the pandemic struck and the world pretty much shut down, that was a lot of energy to suddenly go still. For someone who thrives in an environment of external energy and activity, it would be extremely crazy-making to have it all suddenly stop. Without the external distractions, they would have to focus their own energy elsewhere. There is nowhere else to go but inward. I suddenly felt kind of sorry for the extraverts when I learned this. Isolation must be as uncomfortable and exhausting for them as crowds are for me. But it was necessary, and it was time. We are moving into a new age, one which will require us to both know ourselves, and to be able to respect and understand others. And I haven’t yet met an extravert who understood the impact that too much external stimulation has on an introvert.
I also realized very recently what may be the most important thing I have learned this past year: what it means to just BE. 2020, for me, was much less about doing than it was about being. All that striving I have done in the past was to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. This year I’ve spent most of my time just being, and without feeling guilty because I wasn’t doing enough. There has got to be some value in that. Hopefully it will be something that will serve me well as we move into an unknown future.
Understood. Extraverts are in real trouble during these times, because they need external stimulation. So trying to tell an extravert not to gather in big, noisy party atmospheres, but to socially distance, etc is anathema to their very nature. Introverts, on the other hand, have a lot of things going on internally all the time, and don’t need much in the way of external stimulation. They are well aware that an extravert in the introvert’s environment can be extremely irritating, because it interrupts the introvert’s thought processes. The issue with the pandemic is that it is much harder for extraverts to ‘behave’ themselves, and therefore I suspect that extraverts may suffer more disease and death then would be expected even given their majority.
This is a time when all peoples are asked to consider how their behavior can negatively impact those around them. I imagine that this will require something that is out of the ordinary for many extraverts, because their need for external stimulation does not lend itself to such introspection as would be required to consider the needs of others. I hope I am wrong. But I think that the virus is depending for its existence on the selfishness of people.
I’m curious as to what you have learned about yourself during this past year, Tarw. ‘-)