Becoming an ‘I’

I had to chuckle when I began to read Charlie Grindle’s story. That’s because according to Myers-Briggs, we’re nearly twins. Except he’s an E and I’m an I. For those not familiar with Myers-Briggs, I or E basically describes where you get your energy or in other words, how you charge your battery. If you’re an E you are energized by the outer world of people and if you’re an I, your energy tends to come from within. I’ll let Charlie explain what life as an E is like for him or rather was.

Here is Charlie’s story:

Do you remember the ‘I’s and ‘E’s of the Myers-Briggs test? It was a handy evaluator for hiring, firing, and yes, even dating. By answering the standardized questions, you got your standardized personality type. Much more descriptive than your astrology sign.  ‘I’s were introverts, and ‘E’s were extroverts. My test showed that I was an EFNP. It’s the ‘E’ that I think about now that I am self-quarantining. I was definitely an ‘E’, big time: theater, church, piano bars. There was no situation that I wasn’t comfortable in, no crowd too big, no chance to shine missed.

But something happened when the stay at home order went out: I found that I liked being by myself. So far, the conversations have been deep, but witty. I always know what I’m talking about and laugh a lot.

Time has lost its meaning. I haven’t worn a watch in a month, and I do like my watches. The ‘correct’ times for walking the dog, making lunch, or starting cocktail hour have become very fluid. My circadian rhythm has left the room. As I seem to be European in my napping and eating schedules if left to my own devices, this period with no deadlines or alarm clocks is a short-term joy. Some days I have to look at my phone to see what day of the week it is. Tuesday, I water the plants and Sunday I go to virtual church. If I lose track of those days, each day is the same.

There’s no rush to get dressed when you don’t need to leave the house. And being a fashion plate even at the hardware store has lost the feeling of ‘must’. Sometimes the pile of ironing (some still do) can contain almost everything from the closet, but standards must be kept, and I attack the pile with glee. Had I been on the Titanic, I probably would have worn my tuxedo to walk to the lifeboat. Some days I don’t shave until 3, some days I don’t shave. And I rather like the shaggy-haired hippie look that I never enjoyed in college. Even with the thinness on the top, it gives me a sense of doing something I shouldn’t. Some people have even seen me wearing sandals with socks, but darned few!

Charlie and his dog

Walking the dog is a daily challenge, to go somewhere different each day, or at least rotate known trails. He smells something different every day, I try to find something I hadn’t noticed on our last walk in that spot. He says ‘hello’ to other dogs in his usual way. I say ‘hello’ from the end of the eight-foot leash. Our walks are the three things that I try not to change too much, timewise. He is more sensitive to changes in routine than I seem to be. If we’re not headed out the door between 7 and 8, noon and 12:30, and 3:30 to 4:30 for fresh air and ‘daddy time’, he lets me know that he knows we’re off schedule. Even a ride in the car to the drug store can be part of our enjoyable time together. And drive-through windows are the best part of any ride as they usually include a treat for the cute face in the back window. He really doesn’t suffer much from the quarantine.

A friend from Maryland tells me he has lost weight by being home all the time, although he has access to adequate food supplies. I’m the opposite. I too have reliable sources of food, but find I’m packing on the pounds. A lack of movement during the day is one reason, another is the availability of food, and the lack of anything else to do but eat sometimes. While there are enough exercise programs on television and the web to keep us all ready for the Olympics, solo exercise can be less than satisfying. Even if you don’t have a conversation with the person on the next treadmill, you are aware that there is a real, live person present. Being physically present to others, and they to you is like air to some people. Like huggers, they need to be around people. Hugging, when approved or expected, is something I miss. That brief physical connection can give a boost to any day that may not be the best.

Laughing, and making others laugh is something that is a necessity in my world. A brief giggle from the cashier or a boisterous guffaw from someone in line adds to my sense of fulfillment for the day. If I can’t make someone laugh before the sun goes down, even at six feet away, I take it as a personal failure. Laughter may be good medicine, and certainly, laughter can ease the loneliness of quarantine through a shared laugh with others or watching a comedy by yourself. Forgetting about the sadness and harsh reality of these times for even a few minutes can be a rest for the soul. When most of the news is bad, like a sneeze, laughter can make everything except the feeling of the moment disappear.

Charlie Grindle's project
Books and music to organize

So you see, there are still bits of an ‘E’ about me. But I do enjoy the solitude and freedom from schedules. Reaching out to friends on the net or the telephone gives almost the same sense of satisfaction and happiness as a coffee date or a shared meal. Organizing books and music gives me a wonderful sense of accomplishment. For me, this is very much a time for self-examination and evaluation. What am I missing? What do I need to have in my life when things improve? What do I want my new normal to include? Can I streamline my life without feeling any pressure from society? Maybe doing without will have a positive effect in the world and show people that less really is more. We can be good to ourselves and the earth without excess. Be as good to yourself as you can while staying safe. Love not too much, but always enough.

Charlie Grindle

Thank you, Charlie, for being you, whether you’re an E or an I. You made me laugh and you also made me think about my own answers to the questions you have been pondering. One more thing, I ditched my watch because of you. And I used to check it all the time.

Don’t miss a thing! Sign up to receive an email when I post something new on Catching Health.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.