Life under lockdown: The introvert’s ideal

I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Roxanne. I met her about 10 years ago because of something she wrote. At the time, I was working in the Marketing/PR Department at Mercy Hospital and the Development Department had hired a freelancer to write a lengthy article about the history of the Sisters of Mercy. It was beautifully written. A while later, I had the good fortune to meet the author, Roxanne Jones, and we have since become good friends.

Roxanne Jones
Cheers, Roxanne! (Before the pandemic)
Photo by Donald Jones

Before I let Roxanne tell her story about coping with the pandemic, a little background. In addition to being a freelance writer, she is a blogger and soon to be a published author. In 2015 she launched Boomer Haiku, a blog that took a humorous and slightly irreverent look at life as a baby boomer. She’s put that blog aside for the time being and is now co-writing a book with Leslie Inman about women and retirement. It’s called Voices from the Other Side…of Retirement. To learn more about their upcoming book and read their blog, visit their website Retirement Voices.

But first, here is Roxanne’s story:

When Diane asked me to write a guest post about how I was coping with the pandemic, I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant. It’s not because I’m having such a difficult time and didn’t want to publicly reveal my frustrations and shortcomings. Heck, I wrote my Boomer Haiku blog for three years and probably overshared in that regard!

On the contrary—I must admit that I’m actually kind of thriving in lockdown so far. There are three main reasons why:

First, I’m a self-employed freelance writer. I’ve worked at home for over 25 years. I need solitude in order to do my job (something my retired, stay-at-home husband respects and accommodates, thankfully).

So living under lockdown hasn’t markedly changed my daily routine; it’s business as usual, particularly during the workweek. If anything, I’m able to write with even fewer distractions since many of my clients (mostly hospital marketing and PR folks) are also now working from home and focused on pandemic-related crisis communications that don’t involve me.

Second, I’m an introvert. This means I’ve always needed alone time to recharge my batteries. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going out with friends, attending parties or entertaining (I’m what the psychologists would call a social introvert), but it stresses me out if I don’t get some quiet time on my own afterwards. Being perpetually “on” in a social situation exhausts me.

And, frankly, I enjoy my own company. My husband went away for a week back in December, and I only left the house to see friends twice during that time. Ensconced with the cat, a stack of books, sole control of the TV remote, and a supply of food and wine, I was perfectly content to hunker down by myself.

So being “forced” to stay home over the past two-plus months (except for trips to the grocery store and the vet) hasn’t felt like a great hardship. Plus, there’s no guilt about wanting to stay home versus socializing because no invitations are forthcoming under lockdown (our friends are taking the social-distancing mandate seriously). And there’s no pressure to host a dinner party to reciprocate for their pre-pandemic hospitality, at least for now. Whew.

I do understand how the more extroverted among us are chomping at the bit to get out and socialize. If the situation were reversed and the powers-that-be mandated that I mix and mingle day in and day out, I’d be pretty cranky too. But right now, given the health risks of face-to-face contact and my own introvert tendencies, I’m good with staying in. Periodic virtual happy hours via Zoom or FaceTime, phone conversations, texting and email are meeting my needs for social interaction for the time being.

I also realize that I’m fortunate to have a husband I’m happy to shelter in place with. Folks who live alone—or with someone they don’t feel a connection to—may be struggling with feelings of isolation more keenly than I am.

Which brings me to my third reason for feeling relatively sanguine during this extraordinary time:

Gratitude.

A couple of years ago, I started a bedtime ritual in which I mentally recite a half-dozen affirmations, then list at least five things I’m grateful for that day. I’ve found it to be a reassuring way to drift off to sleep at night instead of dwelling on the downside. It resets my focus on the good things in life—which I believe really contributes to my ability to stay on a more even keel, especially during the pandemic.

The horrific impact of the virus can suck me into a dark place full of fear, anger and grief (especially if I watch too much news), while gratitude invites me to count my blessings. I think of things like having a comfortable home in which to shelter in place. Enough food. A beloved husband next to me (even if he’s snoring). Decent health. A sweet cat curled by my side. Dear friends and family who remain healthy. The wherewithal to pay our bills and give to those less fortunate. The ability to read. A reasonable supply of toilet paper. And sometimes, I simply feel grateful that a particularly crappy day is over.

I don’t mean to minimize in any way the very real struggle that I know many people are having right now. I’m simply speaking from my own experience, and I’m not just blowing smoke or being woo-woo about the impact that practicing gratitude can have on one’s outlook. UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center did a study showing that gratitude can boost the neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine—just like the antidepressant Prozac. There’s also scientific evidence that gratitude can boost your immune system, improve your relationships and make you more productive.

In these challenging times, can’t we all use more of that?

Roxanne Jones

Thank you, Roxanne, for being so honest and for reminding us about the importance of practicing gratitude for what we have even — maybe especially — during difficult times.

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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.