Government Sanctioned Introversion – what if it’s feeling good to go into hiding?

Isolation, seclusion, retreat, introversion – what if it’s feeling good?

There’s just so much happening that deserves observation during the TST era (These Strange Times). But from all the Zoom sessions with my clients in the last week, and my chats with family and friends, one theme has caught my attention. When others have raised it, it’s often been in an almost confessional tone…

“But I… I… I think… I think I like it…”

Read no further if…

Now. Some of the compunction around admitting this is entirely understandable: our NHS is practically on its knees already and people are suffering awfully, and to be honest, if you’re ill with COVID-19 or you’re working with or caring for people who are, please don’t read any more of this post. The last thing I want to do is offend you. If you’re ill, bless you and I so sincerely hope you get well and quickly. If you’re working with the ill or vulnerable, bless you and thank you. THANK you.

Freedom in restriction…

But if the central experience of this pandemic for you is the lock-down, rather than the realities of the virus itself… I want to know: is there a part of you that has experienced a small (or deep) sense of bone-deep relief to be at home? To notice the quiet outside on a usually busy road? To be exchanging cautious nods with strangers in six-foot-spaced queues for groceries? To be availing yourself of an hour’s walking in your neighbourhood? Or like me last night, to “go” to a social event, without having to leave the comfort and safety of your home?

What I sensed happening for me was the dissolution of an ever-present and never-noticed injunction to be “out”. In the world. For work. For a meeting. Out to exercise. OUT out.

I started to suspect that if it weren’t for this expectation – which seems to be encoded as a basic setting into my operating system – I would spend so much more time alone indoors than I actually do.

Of course, there are assumptions within both the kinds of work that I do, that the work will be done in the physical presence of others in places to which I need to travel. And pragmatically, it’s very convenient to have a separate place to go to with the right equipment for exercising.

But little going out is strictly necessary, in my particular version of life. And whilst I’ve always known how much I love my home, it has never been as clear to me as now that I love to be here alone. And, importantly, that I’ve not been doing it anywhere like enough.

And what has changed is that the current mandated restrictions have freed me and others to be more of our true selves, by temporarily moving the social-acceptability goal-posts.

Grief and longing…

What brought my attention to this more noticeably than anything else has been an unexpected visit from grief. I noticed a tender bubble of it sitting in my chest this morning, and when I gently approached it, and gave it a loving and enquiring prod, as if it were a sea anemone, it yielded a story of longing and deep sadness that this will one day be over, and I will “have” to go back out into a world of irritable traffic and impatient pedestrians and celebrity news and the latest iPhone release.

That the daily and heart-warming shows of unity, creativity, and generosity to and from strangers (this deserves its own post, of course), the quietness on the streets, the new routines of walking in local parks, and finding ways of keeping the body moving at home… that all these things will dissolve.

And like a sea anemone, my Solitary Self will retract into a salty chink in the rocks whilst that more brash, dynamic, wildly-busy, loud-laughing and go-getting self will leap out of her lockdown and rampage her way to Oxford Street or Leicester Square and drown me in noise again.

Circumstance or Nature? Over-busyness or Spiritual Starvation?

I’m left with two questions to ponder.

I realise that it’s possible that part of loving being safely cocooned at home may be because of the frightening circumstances we find ourselves in. Even those of us with no direct contact with the virus know on some level that we are under threat. We are experiencing so much change, and all of us are psychologically affected by this. So maybe right now it feels better than it might otherwise do to be indoors and more inward.

And speaking of inward… The other question for me is to do with my relationship with God (The Divine, All That Is, Existence, Nature, Goddess, Goodness – as you choose). Because I’ve found myself with a few minutes more available every day not just for a little yoga and actually cooking, but also for a deeper time of prayer. And I’ve experienced a renewed desire to connect with the teachers and teachings that have inspired me over the last 30 years.

So, is it that I’m loving this time because I was, straightforwardly, too busy (there’s no-one who knows me that isn’t laughing right now), or is it more than that? Is it that I was missing more than rest; more than greater balance?

Perhaps it’s the case that I was missing God, as I find Her through prayer and meditation.

Perhaps I have been missing God, to use the words of Sue Rickards in her class last night, through greater closeness with my own heart.