Isolating from people for over a year has been quite an experience. I’m not an extrovert by any means, but for the most part isolation has been voluntary, not mandatory. In the past, I’ve gone to parties because I’ve psyched myself up to go. I would have a fun time, but then I’d home, unwind for about an hour, then sleep unbelievably well.
But I do love people. I especially love being around people I consider close friends and family. That’s not saying I don’t like making friends, but that process is navigating new territory. Some people are easier to befriend than others. I generally have a very accommodating personality. I observe body language and facial expressions and tone; I listen and can often meet a person at their comfort level or on common ground. One of my greatest contributions to humanity is getting people to open up, to have people be ok with vulnerability. And have them feel connected to others, even in ways that seem fleeting or insignificant. Those ways have impact.
When I lived in New York, the deep desire to connect with individuals in countless, nameless mobs sometimes prompted spontaneous conversations about heavy things. The urgency to relate on deeper levels cut through a lot of the small talk. I remember waiting for a crosstown bus, and one other lady was at the bus stop. Somehow we struck up a conversation, and before I knew it, she was talking about her feelings about a daughter getting married. We boarded the bus and continued the discussion. I remember looking at her face. Although the openness came more from her, I also felt seen. I felt a connection.
I blogged a lot more when I lived in NYC, through the heart of the Oughts, almost seven years. When I look back this habit of writing likely helped with my social skills. In 2008 I had made a goal to write every day. Didn’t have to be substantial content. Didn’t have a word limit. Just had to think of a thing to write about and write. I do believe I lasted the whole year. (I’ll have to double check the blog.) That daily routine prepared me for social situations, because I had practice quickly forming opinions about various topics. I had practice going through my day observing everything, storing ideas and writing prompts. Learning to look and feel beyond myself.
And now, I’m reading a lot more, experiencing the privilege of living vicariously. Seeing the world through diverse lenses in books and other media.
And while reading has done wonders for my empathy, it’s not quite the same as writing. I mean, both are different ways of listening, or at least processing the world. If I can find the words to write something, I can usually find a constructive, correlative action. Even if that means more listening. Which is the case, most of the time.
I think this post puts me on a 10- or 11-day streak of writing. And as parts of the country start opening up more with increased vaccinated populations, stepping out to interact with other humans seems really important. Looking people in the eyes as they relate their lives of the past year in isolation. The cabin fever, the anxiety. The sensitivity to light. The reflex to cower away from someone going in for a hug.
I don’t know: writing about it has helped me get to a more stable emotional place. I would like to think that it can help me help others to feel seen or listened to. Or cared about. Or loved.