"With stay-home orders issued worldwide and offenders arrested for attending funerals and weddings, it's time that society learned a thing or two from introverts."
For loners, recluses, and other solitary types such as myself, sheltering-in-place feels natural and normal.
However scary other aspects of this pandemic might be, for us, this aspect isn't.
Working from home? Making our own meals? Amusing ourselves? Contactlessness? Not a problem. Not boring. Not weird.
With stay-home orders issued worldwide and offenders arrested for attending funerals and weddings, it's time that society learned a thing or two from introverts.
That's new. The mainstream has always mocked, punished, and pathologized us. Society loves ... well, society, with all its conversation, eye contact, and crowds.
This is an evolutionary legacy: Our prehistoric ancestors survived by forming clans. Down the millennia, it took whole villages to build barns and defend themselves. Whoever could or would not help with harvests, rituals, or wars was seen as heartless, evil, weird.
Fast-forward to this century, when declining a party invitation sparks rage and misdiagnoses—“Come out of your shell!” “Think you're too good for us?” “Are you depressed?”—and serial killers promptly inspire such headlines as “Las Vegas Gunman Was a Loner" and “Loner Student Shoots 10.”
But, now, thanks to a microscopic onslaught, extroverts are being forced to act like introverts.
And we, the homebodies and avid solitarians, have the advantage of knowing how to thrive under conditions that feel to the world-at-large like jail or hell.
States of being we always welcomed—isolation, separation, distance—are being required of everyone. For us, a day inside alone is just another lovely day. For extroverts, it means stifling their true natures and doing things they find painful and weird—as if pandemics were not weird enough.
Here are eight recluse-tested tips that anyone can use to make the best of these new isolated, mainly-indoor days:
Whether it's reading, viewing, learning, or any of those other "ings" you once vowed to sustain but that got submerged in the rush of adult life ... dust off those old National Geographics, those thick novels. Now's the time to watch those kung fu films or car-repair tutorials you've bookmarked, and to teach yourself Morse code once and for all.
That messy, overflowing attic, dresser, kitchen, closet, car, desk, shed, garage: Year after year, we dread and thus ignore the dire ordeal of cleaning them, telling ourselves we're "too busy right now." Guess who's not busy anymore? Guess who has tons of time? It feels good to finally scrub, declutter, and reorganize.
Quarantine lends us the leisure to ask, then answer, our own questions. Where should I go when travel becomes possible again? What is its history, its botany, and its cuisine? How should I get there, and what should I bring? Which new sport or practice might I explore? These days were made for research. Give your future self the gift of being well-prepared.
Home sick from school, were you the sort of child who made birdhouses and strung beads? Rekindle that innate creative spirit. Use whatever you can find around your home—no shopping trips required!—to craft, cook, build, and fix. Lonely? Connect with others by creating things to give away or trade or share someday.
Experience This Moment
And the next. That sounds so obvious, but mindfulness is easily forgotten in a crowded world. Take inspiration from sadhus and monks who meditate in treasured solitude. Or make it informal and fun: No need for mudras or mantras; just notice colors, textures, the expansiveness of minutes, and your transient moods and thoughts.
It's not required under quarantine, but given how close together most of us live, silence is polite. For some, it's off-putting and unfamiliar. But sit still amid it and you'll notice microsymphonies: birdsong, the hum of distant highways, rustling leaves, machines—and exquisite spans of strange, vivid soundlessness.
We've been placed into the rare state of having no choice. Unless we want to risk infection or arrest, we must abide by weird new rules. Social distancing and wearing masks and all the rest teaches a larger lesson: how to live with what we have and make the most of it.
What better time than now—when no one's watching—to create a virtual chrysalis, rest for a while inside it, then emerge transformed? What would you most want to shed, alter, upturn, adopt? How might you make that possible? In private, dreams start coming true.
Want more? Read about how to be happy alone.