Pandemic Day 6 – The Introvert’s Guide to Self-Isolation

Day 6: The teenager at our house ripped my face off yesterday.

Nearly a week into our quarantine, she is ready to slay dragons—and not in the way I prefer her to approach beast slaying.

Don’t get me wrong, lockdown in a small Vancouver apartment with four people who are cranky, scared, and not sure how bored bored can get is, well, slightly limiting.

However, when I say things to her like, “There are, legitimately, hundreds of books for you to choose in this house. Pick one and read it” I can confirm it results in outbursts that provoke horrors such as taking a teenager’s phone away for a few hours (God, no!), coping with the muttering irritation, and avoiding all contact with said teenager for at least an hour in order to keep from experiencing the Wrath of Khan.

Okay, I get it, I am not funny. So, I will stop trying to be. Here’s my point:

My big kid, she’s an extrovert. Her life revolves around her social activities and her tight friend group.

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Me, well, my social activities tend to involve building worlds and crying over the losses of characters who live in other universes. Not to mention, when it comes time to slay dragons, I make sure I’m only out dealing with the ones who have it in for the human race. Dragons are cool. We should proceed in the slayer department with prudence. If you need a cool weapon, though, I got you.

This lock-down is challenging her beyond all comprehension.

We’ve all seen the jokes and memes that are now slightly tired. Introverts have been preparing for the moment when they rise as superior self-isolators. We are, I will tell you, superstars at it. I’ve worked from home for most of the last 14 years. I feel like what I am about to share with you qualifies as Ph.D.-level introvert advice to those of you who actually like to interact with other people.

1. It is okay to find yourself batshit crazy one day and in need of extreme amounts of human contact.

Even introverts (gasp) require some amount of stretching out into the world. So, we see you and know your pain.

How we do it: SKYPE, Zoom, Discord, FaceTime. Yes, that’s right, we don’t actually go see people. We clip our hair back, wash our face, put on a socially acceptable shirt, and jump on a call to talk about whatever.

I’ve seen Maggie Tai Tucker do a virtual waffle-off with a friend.

Matthew Ramadan and Danny Ramadan did a video on how to make self-isolation margaritas.

My sweet friend Lee Ann Mordecai Steyns is hosting FB Live sign-language classes for kids.

I hook up with my writing partner every week to share pages, talk about our novels, and keep each other motivated to keep telling stories.

2. DO NOT sit on the couch or at your desk the whole time.

Oh mah ghad, people. If there is one thing introverts know, it is that your body will begin to ache and cry out for you to get up off of that couch at about hour 24. Yes, I realize that is a lot of hours and I’m making poor attempts at humor again. However, watching every episode of The Man In The High Castle, Witcher, Outlander, The Walking Dead, Westworld, maaaaay actually result in you wishing you’d made much better choices when your ass is killing you and your back has staged a full revolt.

Introverts know this because, well, we regularly repeat this regretful mistake and then HAVE to spend every day at the yoga studio for a month to repair a 60-episode TV or three-book series reading binge. EVERY DAY. I hope you understand how much human contact that is for an introvert.

There is this thing called YouTube. It has exercise videos, dance videos, music videos. We introverts strongly recommend you find the one you like and hop around in your underwear for a while. We do it all the time (no one knows this because we don’t see anyone). Every third show, take a break and move.

3. Beware of the snacking monster.

One of the strange, unexplainable consequences of modern boredom is that we get all food crazy. When people who move a lot start to get into quiet spaces, snacking comes into play big-time.

Not all introverts are snacking experts. However, I can attest to many a day where I’ve not left my desk other than to gather the pretzels or the cheese or mix drinks. Oh the list goes on.

I can also attest that you will not spot how this is impacting you until you peel the pajamas you’ve been wearing for three weeks straight off of your body and try to put your cute jeans back on. You get my drift, right?

Solution: Consider why you are eating. Also, consider that if you eat all of your snacks now, you are snackless for many weeks to come unless you have the great urge to go to Safeway in the middle of all of this. This could play in your favor, I realize, in that a lack of self-moderation means you HAVE to not snack later. Your choice though. No judgement.

4. I mean this with all sorts of love, don’t be aimless.

Aimless introverting has resulted in many a solitary human not dealing with life well. We all need goals, and if your aim is to watch as much TV as you can for the next few weeks, excellent. Just set that goal for yourself and give it your best go.

There’s a whole lot of talk out there about exploring the quiet and letting yourself be bored and giving yourself a chance to slow down.

I am all for that.

However, I also know that five days into letting myself freeform through life is also a personal recipe for slipping into major depression. Once there in the midst of a psychiatric episode, it is much harder to cope with everyday life, much less a pandemic.

Solution: Know yourself well enough to know what you need every day to keep upright.

For me, I follow this strict routine:
1. GET DRESSED. I do not linger in my pajamas because it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. This comes from YEARS of working at home and finding that a morning routine helps me focus and center myself. Fresh clothes and looking in the mirror at a put-together human is personally very soothing.

2. MAKE LISTS. Even if it is a list that involves basic daily chores, I write them down and check them off. Again, I accomplished something even if it was just doing laundry.

3. MAKE YOUR BED. This is a big one for me. I make it every day, sometimes it is the only thing I get done around the house. It’s a psychological trick that works.

4. DRINK WATER. I know, this sounds like every other post, but I swear this matters more than you can imagine. If I didn’t alternate my coffee with water, I’d be out slaying more than dragons.

5. OPEN THE CURTAINS. We are not cave-bound. Let the light in. You need it right now.

Okay, that is my speech.

Go rise, extroverts. We introverts have your back.

Pandemic, Day 4 – Spontaneous Solidarity

Day 4: I have no idea, honestly, what provoked me.

In the last few days, I’ve strived to lessen my intake of pandemic rhetoric. (BIV Publisher Kirk LaPointe has an excellent editorial on how one of the gifts of all of this is the opportunity to spark a misinformation eradication mission here: https://biv.com/…/covid-19-crisis-should-spark-misinformati…)

That’s when it happened.

There I was, scanning the headlines, trying to avoid anything that appeared to pontificate on who is to blame and why we should hate someone new, and a piece about how travel start-ups are surviving this downturn caught my eye. I get that being sick is what most people are focused on. My mind, however, dwells not on the virus so much as the global economic crisis spurred on by it.

The article felt neutral enough to wade into without worrying about amplifying my anxiety.

So, I read on.

There they were, GetYourGuide. My own familiarity with the name surprised me. I had no idea they were a Berlin-based travel start-up company. What I did know is that when I became travel-obsessed over France, and then Spain, GetYourGuide was everywhere I wanted to be. They had cool side trips, meet-ups, interesting excursions, a great website, walking tours, lots of great ways for me—the mid-life woman who travels sans companions—to dive in and explore a place with a knowledgeable guide at my side.

The article was the neutral oasis I’d hoped for and proved very interesting. It touted financial prudence in business and how, through that restraint shown early, all three companies in the article turned their sales teams into customer service teams to manage the onslaught of cancellations and display strong confidence that they can withstand the significant downturn.

This is getting a bit political and slightly preachy. So, I will retreat back to my purpose here. My share is not about the places you access information or being smart in business. This, my dear ones, is about small acts of love in unexpected places.

All I could think about after reading the article was how the folks at companies such as GetYourGuide must be at the very end of their wits. Their mental health must be teetering. Their teams fight the fires of people, in the midst of sickness and worry, possibly loss of income and stability, also watching their sacred investment of money set aside for the most-necessary break from daily life disappear with little chance of recovering it.

So, I went to the website and began to type.

Let me be clear, I’m a realist and aware of why GetYourGuide tugged at my heart. I’ve got a huge chunk of cash wrapped up in what I believe to be the start of my annual solo adventures. This October, it is meant to be Spain. Will I be able to go? Who knows. However, I’m planning on it unless circumstances demonstrate the trip to be foolish.

I also want to be clear that travel isn’t something I take as an indulgence or a fancy. I waited almost 50 years to do it out of fear. To me, after France, it became the blood in my body. It manifested into the breath of my life. It is the embodiment of my independence, my sovereignty. It takes on a presence as my companion through the ongoing process of opening myself to all that I do not yet know.

Managing my emotions surrounding the potential loss of it in the midst of just finding it is pretty damn visceral. However, I’m confident that, if not this year, I’ll eventually be back on the road more devoted than ever to exploring.

I wanted to share my faith in tomorrow, for just a moment, with these folks who I’ve never met, whom I am confident don’t know the CEOs, who probably make $12 an hour to serve as customer service rep/counselors/keepers of the dreams.

So, I wrote:

Hi folks.
I just read a story about GetYourGuide and how you are managing the coronavirus outbreak.
I just wanted to send love and support to all of you.
I still have a major trip planned for October of this year and my plan is to show some big love to GetYourGuide when it comes time to book tours to places.

Standing in solidarity.
Robin Rivers

I received this response:

Dear Robin,
Greetings from GetYourGuide!
Your feedback is important and appreciated.
We humbly send you our gratitude and for putting a smile on our faces. You are a blessing!
Have a wonderful day and stay safe!

Kind regards,
Ann
GetYourGuide Support

Even if it was just the lovely Ann who saw it, wow. What a moment of sharing good energy.

So, let this time be one where we reach out to strangers and give them a bit of ease. Show the love, remind them and ourselves that life will come back online. Everything right now is forcing us to change, to let go of what we thought was going to happen, to consider our own expectations and how we navigate disappointment in order to recalibrate. None of us can force the wheel of daily life back into place, but we can show love.

Go rise to the challenge of it all. Send a note to a random stranger about something you admire happening in the midst of this.

It matters.

Pandemic, Day 3 – Manifesting Happiness

woman-with-sad-unhappy-face-holding-mask-fake-smile_88813-245Day 3: What is it with all the “your attitude needs to be gratitude” being shoveled at us by the be-happy crowd these days?

I have to tell you, I find this whole find-the-good-in-everything jibber-jabber is really irritating when everything has gone into the sewage pit of a crap day or a crap series of days—or in the case of 2020 so far, a crap year.

We’ve all had them, this brutal, soul-squelching run of nothing but negative. Getting out of the hole is nothing short of miraculous.

Or is it?

Like I said yesterday, I’m big into manifestation. The curious part is, it goes both ways. We joke around our house that it turns out I AM the center of the universe (ha). However, the reality is that when I am focused on human flaws or my own insecurities when I worry about things I cannot control or am running around the house stomping my feet, things get ugly fast in my little pod of peeps. I actually create more negativity. It’s like, well, a virus.

Does that mean I have the power to offer a mending sensibility when it comes to this already crap year? Hmmm, that seems like a lot of pressure.

No time for wallowing, because the answer is yes.

I’ve always known this. For whatever reason, the energy of the family is mine to maintain. I can send others to war or negotiate peace.

Again with the pressure. Can’t I just wallow without being nagged about these kinds of responsibilities?

I complain, yet, when I step into thoughtful dialogue and compassionate contact, hmmm, amazing, everyone is chill. When I lose my shit, well, you can imagine the tsunami.

The other morning, I read this article on the art of being grateful on the hardest of days. It got me right where I needed it because, well, these last few weeks have been a whopper at our house well beyond the coronavirus.

I’d started to descend into the fear and anger of it all—snarky, distant, demanding.

War was brewing.

Waking up proved harder and harder. Those be-happy people became incredibly irritating once again. I tore up my lists of all the things I love and ripped down all of my little post-it notes with “go slay this day” sort of quotes that dot spaces in the house where I regularly go.

I am, on the good days, one of those be-happy people. I stretch into it and slather myself with a dig-in mentality about keeping in the flow of goodness. When it gets hard, the mask gets ripped off. Be gone, easy happy tasks. Life was pissing me off and being grateful proved stupid.

Then, I watched what was happening around me while I was on fire. Kids=snarky. Husband=distant. Friendships=quiet. The bigger my flames grew, the bigger the pile of crazy that manifested.

“Um, dude, are you like seriously this sadistic?” I asked myself. “Change your approach, woman. See what happens.”

The observation, after I chilled the hell out, reconnected with several of my most favourite people, and focused on my house full of beautiful humans proved, dare I say it, that I could single-handedly manifest happiness.

The wee one started making movies, the big kid reconnected with old friends who have been out of her life for ages, Ken started a new personal project that he’s been delaying for a year.

Well, dammit, it would seem that the art of gratitude on the hardest of days is all about the choices we make in the midst of those challenges.

It’s not for me to say to you, “Go make a list of what you are grateful for” or anything like that because gratitude and that satisfaction with life is manifested in so many different, beautiful, and impactful ways.

My challenge to you is to simply go manifest something beautiful during these really hard days.

I see it in people such as Robin Blackburn who posts gorgeous architecture and photos of the majesty of the human body every day.

I’m in love with the topics Kate Schofield Beem is having that bring forth prescient issues that require contemplation and conversation.

Elisabeth Rae Collett took us all on a tour through her Italy yesterday that brought me to tears with its beauty and personal connection.

We don’t have to fake happy. This time in our lives is hard. However, we can be the center of our universe and raise the energy of that universe up, giving others a bit of relief.

I’m going to go celebrate the fact that everyone in my house is still asleep and I can go work on the novel for another hour or so.

Go rise, my friends. We got this.

Pandemic, Day 2: Where Do You Find A Moment’s Peace?

Where do you find a literal moment’s peace in the midst of fear and anxiety?

For me, it’s the songs of the heavens. I find it strange to write those words because religion and I broke up a long time ago as I searched for my own connection to the Beyond.

I’ve been, at times, an angry agnostic—the collective mindset of religion and its history of believe or be banished is not my thing and often it was easier to think it wrong rather than see it as a different entry point into the mysteries than my own.

My experience in France last year shifted that perspective beyond what I ever imagined.

I find it wonderful and synchronistic in that it happened at that same time I immersed myself in a deep exploration of the potential of collective conscious. Could I, as part of the collective, expand the larger ability to create by understanding my own ability to generate personal consciousness? Could I heal myself and my family with self-compassion? Could I change the energy and the perspective of those around me just by working on how I contribute to the collective?

Yes, my friends. Oh my, big oh my, yes.

That whole concept of what you put your energy into is what multiplies in your life is real. Manifestation is fast and absolutely magical when directed to a single point and combined with doing the necessary work. Just ask Jason Rivers​ or the light-bringer Elana Epstein​, or my provocative, thoughtful friend Lindsey Lewis​. They are vessels of the power, showing us that getting in the driver’s seat of your life and believing in yourself means the possibilities are endless—if you are open to them.

The songs of the heavens, which alighted upon me during a powerful day of observed silence at Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud​ in France, brought all of my exploration around collective consciousness into perspective. It and the deep power which the abbey held opened me to the real potential of human energy and how we as a collective can rise above that which seeks to drain us.

It is through the echo of these majestic voices that I stepped away from the anger attached to my agnostic search for meaning. Collective prayer, sacred space, those places where the connection to the Beyond are profound, are crucial to driving the energy of the Earth upward and into the realm of deeper awareness of who we are. One is not better or stronger or righter than the other, they are deep sources of our ability to seek out and multiply that which we have forgotten is our OWN light and how one person’s growing light illuminates for others.

Illumination is not the easy path. In fact, self-examination and the true creation of light is one of the most challenging paths any of us will ever take. However, the songs of the heavens give me space to see, for a moment, the value in that work and the illumination that awaits all of us if we come together and rise.

I return to this brief song as often as I need to—after a crazy morning with the kids, in the middle of the night after my dreams take me beyond comfort, when I require a portal in time to write, when communing with the Beyond offers me a necessary sojourn.

Whether your path looks like mine or not, I hope this hymn brings you a bit of respite from the rest of the world today.

Here’s to driving ourselves in the direction of collective illumination.