As my introverted self contemplates emerging from this pandemic, I wonder if I have a grown and changed during this time of cocooning? Has my caterpillar-self, happily munching on nourishment within my own walls, gained strength and confidence? Will I emerge from all of this looking like a butterfly with beautiful, delicate wings that propel me toward other people? Or will I continue to resemble a caterpillar with lumpy, atrophied connection muscles?
Like so many introverts in this pandemic, I have loved having time and space to think and read and write. Interacting with people largely through electronic devices has allowed me to spend a lot of time in my own head. That can become a complicated place to live, however, especially if I dwell in it for long stretches of uninterrupted time.
Even we introverts need to get out of our heads and connect with real people in the real world.
Now that I have had both vaccines, I know that I need to step out of my head and my house and head back into the world of flesh-and-blood people, back into face-to-face living.
A big part of why I know I need to re-enter the world of people stems from my love of Jesus. I want to wrap my life around loving and serving Him, and that compels me to follow His example of living a connected life. He consistently interacted with sick people, societal outcasts, religious leaders, children, women . . . He did not isolate Himself, claiming the protection of deity or even a personality test. I believe He calls me to do the same.
I need to remember that quiet fuels me.
Just as a car needs gas (or an electric charge) to keep running well, so we introverts need regular doses of quiet. It serves as our fuel.
Recently, I have adopted the practice of stopping several times during the day to examine my fuel gauge. Empty? At 80 percent? I know that I function better when my tank registers at least 70 percent full. And I know that moments of quiet act as that fuel. This check-in habit helps me pay attention and reminds me to slow down and fuel up.
Some of us had LOTS of opportunities for quiet during the pandemic as we hunkered down alone or with one other person. Others of us struggled to find quiet in a house full of kids learning online and spouses working from home. Sometimes we learned to gulp quiet in pre-dawn hours or after everyone else in the household went to sleep.
Pandemic or no pandemic, I know I live best when I have daily doses of quiet. I can’t forget that when the world begins to get noisy and busy again. I still need to find moments of quiet, even if that means carving out pre-dawn or late-night moments.
I need to remember the joy of taking on a communication challenge.
Although I love email, I discovered during the pandemic that lots of my friends and family members do not share that love. Some like to text, some like to use Zoom, and others even like to talk on the phone. Go figure!
As the pandemic wore on, I realized that I needed to learn to broaden my communication skills, including talking on the phone—NOT something my introverted self enjoys. I rely a lot on body language in conversations. And I always think I have interrupted someone when I call on the phone.
BUT I wanted to stay connected . . . Still do.
So I assigned myself the task of learning to talk on the phone, but I did it introvert-style. I texted first to set up a call. I made a mental or physical list of topics. I fueled up with quiet time before the call. And I gave myself quiet time after the call to process it and let it go.
Much to my surprise, I began to enjoy talking on the phone!
As I emerge into a post-pandemic world, I want to remember what I learned about communication: I can and should take on communication challenges for the sake of those I love, but I can do it introvert-style.
I need to remember to pace myself.
Within twenty-four hours of receiving his first vaccine, my husband had lined up 5(!) trips. As he explained them all to me with great enthusiasm, my introverted-self began to quake. Several of these trips involve me!
So how do I navigate travel again, and travel with an extroverted, travel enthusiast?
I must remember to balance days of busy with days of quiet, and I must use my words to explain my need of refueling in quiet. I cannot expect the extroverts in my life to read my mind and know what I need, especially when it differs so much from what they need.
Traveling holds such gifts of connection, and I don’t want to miss out on those gifts by wearing myself out.
I need to remember to embrace introversion as a gift, not a curse.
If I believe God wired me as He did for a reason, I need to celebrate that and not wallow in feelings of “less than.”
One of my favorite, laugh-out-loud Bible passages says it so well:
A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.1 Corinthians 12:14-18, MSG
Living authentically as ourselves, pandemic or no pandemic, matters. And so does living connected. Even we introverts need connection to the real world. And the real world needs us—our quiet, thoughtful, empathetic voices.
The Apostle Paul sums it up well:
But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”?1 Corinthians 12:19-24, MSG
We need each other, whether introverted or extroverted. As we all emerge from this pandemic, let us work to see each other and hear each other. Let us help each other find our way back into the world of real-life people.