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If you look the term “extrovert” up in the dictionary, you’ll find something like this:
Extrovert [ ek-struh-vurt, -stroh- ]
¹an outgoing, gregarious person.
²Psychology. a person characterized by extroversion; a person concerned primarily with the physical and social environment (opposed to introvert).
Or you might see this:
Any personality test that I’ve ever taken has shown me to be an extreme extrovert. And not just any old extrovert who may have a few introverted tendencies. Not this girl. There are extroverts at the high end of the scale, and then there’s me looking at all of them in my rear view mirror as I race off the top of the charts and out into some space/time continuum where there are parties and events and fun and talking and laughing and lots and lots and lots of people who are all there to entertain and interact with ME.
Unlike extroverts who have an introverted shadow, I need ZERO alone time to recharge. Not a minute. If I take a 30-minute shower, I’m good. I don’t even need the whole 30 minutes. I’m usually still in mid-rinse when I start thinking about what I’m going to be doing as soon as I can race through the daily formality of bathing and getting dressed and get out of the house.
I think I’ve pretty well always been this way. I’ve never been any sort of a homebody. And the more people I’m around, the happier and more energized I am. Sometimes even to the point of being a little frenetic.
Did you know that the famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung came up with the terms “introvert” and “extrovert”? After I graduated from college and moved up to Birmingham, I took a continuing education class at UAB in Jungian Psychology. I signed up for it because my college friends had scattered, and I was lonely. I didn’t really give a happy rat’s ass about Jungian psychology; I just wanted to meet new people.
Bad idea. As it turned out, everyone else in the class was actually interested in Jungian psychology and not in a bored, restless, chatty classmate. Go figure. I should have probably found some sort of improv class, but I’m not sure such a thing even existed here in the early 90s. Plus, I’m a terrible actress, but that’s neither here nor there.
According to FractalEnlightenment.com (I had to look up some Jungian psychology because I don’t remember one thing from the class except nobody wanted to talk to me), Carl Jung thought that “in all of us lies an unconscious mind – one which is not conscious of feelings and thoughts all the time, but those feelings and thoughts are capable of affecting our lives nonetheless.”
Fourteen days into social distancing, which in Birmingham has turned into shelter in place, I think my unconscious mind is taking me over.
If y’all will recall, I’d made it through about a half a day of working from home before I started getting antsy. (You can read about that here.) So as you might imagine, the past 14 days have been a tad rough on the old Audster. Social distancing has given me more time alone than I’ve had in years and years and years. And it’s caused me to be more introspective than I like to be, which is to say, I don’t like to be introspective because it’s something people tend to do alone so I rarely am.
But I’ve tried, inasmuch as everly I can, to delve past my general AAARRRGGGGHHHHH state of mind and use this time to examine how I actually feel as a social butterfly who’s had to climb back into her cocoon clutching her Cherries in the Snow lipstick like a security blanket. It’s hard for me to put the sensations into words or ideas because I think old Carl was right on time — it really is like something that I’m not conscious of but that is affecting me in a profound way. Nevertheless here goes…
You know when you watch some disaster movie and there’s an aerial shot of the power grids shutting down right before the monster or aliens or robots smash everything into oblivion while people run scared and sweaty through the streets? Foomp. Foomp. Foomp. One by one the squares go from a million pinpoints of light and activity to dark squares of nothingness. That’s what my brain feels like. The longer I go without social interaction, the fun, funny, creative parts of my mind start shutting down one by one. Foomp. Foomp. Foomp. And what’s left is just a numb, dull black hole where my psyche used to be.
I get to a place where it’s hard for me to organize my thoughts to even think of things to do, much less make myself do them. I can’t seem to get my thoughts organized. Hell, I can’t really think of thoughts to organize. And in my rational mind, I know I can pick up the phone and call any number of people who’d be happy to talk to me. But my stupid unconcious mind makes it hard for me to think of who those people are to even dial the phone.
And if I’m being totally honest with y’all, I can look back on my life and see different periods where I had these same exact feelings. And dealt with them poorly every time.
Now y’all don’t get to thinking I’ve taken to my bed in a dark room. I’m managing! I swear I am. All this is just to say that it’s weird what tricks your unconscious mind can play on you and that it’s been very interesting to think about. It blows my mind that my personality type has such an affect on me when I can’t be my regular self. But it really really does.
And these “spells” don’t last long. Here are things that help:
- Going outside and walking around. At least you might see a few people off in the distance or somebody might pass by on the sidewalk and from an appropriate distance smile or say “hey.”
- Talking on the phone or, even better, FaceTime or video chat. It’s so great to see a face!
- Making to-do lists.
- Cooking meals and washing dishes. I don’t know why because it’s usually just me, but it does.
- Working on arts and crafts projects.
Here’s what doesn’t help:
- Social media. It just looks like everybody is having a more fun shelter-in-place than me. I know it’s silly, but my unconscious can be silly if it wants to.
- Online shopping. Mall shopping makes me happy. Online shopping is just a great sucking vortex of despair.
- Binge watching old shows. There’s nothing that makes me feel duller mentally, just absolutely flat and numb, than watching reruns on TV. Having said that, I am enjoying Schitt’s Creek and Tiger King on Netflix, but I also crotchet while I watch TV because otherwise it just seems like a waste of time.
- Being told that I should cheer up because it could be worse. I know it could be worse. Every bad situation you can think of can somehow be made worse. And I know I may seem selfish and silly and weird and dumb, but unless you are me, you probably just don’t understand.
But enough of this complaining and whining. I said each week I was going to give y’all an update on the last week, so here goes.
I had some goals. They were:
- Have more realistic goals.
- Write the great American novel.
- Have more realistic goals.
- Work on the painting I’ve got started.
- Record 5 videos for ArtPlay with writing prompts for adults.
- Work on having a positive attitude.
- Write more rambling posts just like this one!
Here’s what I actually did:
- I published this rambling post about what not to say in a room full of Southerners and wrote the one you’re reading now.
- I finished the afghan I was making.
- I did paint for about an hour one day, but thought about painting more than I actually painted.
- I discovered Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and did one class.
- I found my long lost deviled egg plate while looking for something else that I still haven’t found.
- I made vegan banana bread.
- I invented a new soup to use up the corned beef and cabbage that seemed to be multiplying like the loaves and fishes in my refrigerator.
- I went to two virtual cocktail parties and had one virtual afternoon coffee with a friend.
- I discovered different parts of my neighborhood that I’d never taken the time to explore before.
Here are some things that I am thankful for:
- Sonny Boy. Not only is he home, but he’s out of quarantine so we can spend more time together. I think he’s just the most fun and entertaining person.
- Birds. In the last week, I’ve had two close encounters with a woodpecker that might have even been a yellow-bellied sapsucker. I saw a crow chasing a hawk. I saw a hawk fly within 15 feet of my balcony. I witnessed two robins getting busy as well as a mockingbird who was trying his darndest to impress a lady friend. I saw an actual bluebird on a branch. And I’ve seen scads of other little birdies all doing their little birdie things. They’re all so happy and carefree and not even thinking about social distancing or sheltering in place. And that makes me feel happy too. We also saw one turtle and one rat at Railroad Park. I don’t see this stuff when I’m in the office all day every day.
- Annie’s gluten-free boxed mac and cheese. Sometimes you want to put your whole face into a bowl of mac and cheese just to feel better. But if your family is gluten-free, it’s hard to indulge those impulses. Lucky for me, Annie’s has the answer — right down to the orange powdered cheese. I did throw in a couple of New Horizon’s cheese singles to perk it along.
What weird thing did I think about this week? Funny you should ask!
- I happened to catch an appearance by Crystal Gayle on The Marty Stuart Show. Now I’m sure y’all know that she’s just about as famous for how long her hair is as she is for singing. That got me wondering just how long I would have to be sheltered in place and away from my beloved friend and hair guy Chase for my hair to grow to my knees. Well, my hair is currently about a foot long so it would have to grow 39 more inches to be at my knees. At an average growth rate of 6 inches per year, it would take 6 and a half years for my hair to reach my knees, if it would even grow that long. In contemplating this for way too long, I read a few different things that said everyone’s hair has a “terminal length” that it will grow, which basically means your hair will only grow to a certain length before it just gives up the ghost and quits. That’s why some people have hair that will drag the ground and others have hair that will only reach the bra strap. Who knew?
Here’s what I’m going to do next week:
- Make a daily schedule. I’m going to take a page out of the See Jane Write playbook and schedule my unconscious mind into submission by making myself an hourly routine. SJW is my writing group, and the founder, Javacia Harris Bowser, has always advocated for scheduling out your days so that you can be the most productive. I’ve dabbled in scheduling, but now it’s time to go all in.
- Start the embroidery project my mother gave me. I love a craft! And working on this pillow top will teach me a ton of new stitches and skills. Plus, I’ve crocheted so much in the last few years, my wrist is killing me! I need to give it a rest.
- Get to work on the ArtPlay videos for adults that I didn’t record last week. But one of the kids videos I recorded has been posted, so if you have students who are interested in writing, here’s that video. It’s all about how to build characters and there is a writing prompt at the end. Plus there will be more kids videos to come so you can help your students keep up those writing skills from home.
- More yoga. I’m into these yoga videos now, and I’m going to use this time at home to get stronger and healthier.
- Write more rambling posts like this one. I teach my writing students that writing can be cathartic. Now it’s time to practice what I’ve been preaching because it really really is!
Until the next time we meet on this blog, let’s keep each other’s spirits up, keep our hands washed, and keep on keepin’ on the best way we can!