omg i made a scrapbook
too much

the gift of a year; or, how i blew a pandemic

it's so easy to say, " if i had the time, i would (fill in the blank)."

the past year has taught so many of us that maybe it isn't really about the time.

did i write a book? no. did i lose 3o pounds? no. did i learn how to bake bread from scratch? no. did i finish all those projects, big and little, that linger around the house? no. did i make zoom plans, to stay connected with people? no. did i do deep cleaning? no. did i finally organize 15 years of digital photos? no. did i finally organize printed photos? also no. did i read all the books i bought and planned to read? no. did i binge-watch every show and movie on my 'must watch' list? no. did i catch up on sleep? no.

did i do anything useful with the past twelve months?

well ... no. but also yes.

i DID write. just not much. i DID start making exercise a habit and am healthier now than i was, just haven't lost any weight in the process. i DID finally master yeast in the bread machine, so i kind of made bread from scratch, if the machine isn't considered cheating. we did some projects, a couple of zoom calls with family, and i cleaned when i had to. i organized photos a little ... enough to feel like i got started on the project. i did read, but i've spent so much time over the past four years reading history and non-fiction political books that i burned myself out and couldn't pick up non-fiction. i DID binge-watch some stuff, but more than that, i stuck to things that i knew would bring me peace, that would mindlessly entertain me, and to which i didn't have to pay much attention. and i feel physically rested, but emotionally i am still exhausted.

the fact that we have stayed sane and healthy and still like each other after the past year feels like all the win i need.

so why do i feel like a wasted a gift?

truth is, many things about being home and unscheduled exhausted me.

harper has been home every day since march 12, 2020, three days before she turned 15. her best friend had recently moved out of state, which sent her reeling, then school went online. dealing with distance learning has been - to put it mildly - a clusterfuck. she needs to be back in school, and i need her to be back in school.

marc has been home every day since early march of last year. his company said early on to expect in-person meetings and travel to be on hold until this july, at the earliest. for the first time in nearly 25 years of marriage, he's been home every day, slept in our bed every night, eaten every meal at home every day, every week, every month, for a year. while it's been lovely, and we still like each other, and we've talked quite a bit this year about our Next Stage plans, the truth is i miss being alone.

which is a very odd to thing to say after being isolated from the world at large for a year.

but when there are people always here, even if they are in their own spaces, i feel stuck. i feel like i have to be outwardly productive on something visible and practical. being quiet and contemplative and creative don't feel useful or valuable. and i have had to be a thorn in harper's side constantly about school.

i'm feeling suffocated.

when the covid year began, there was a sense of excitement, in a way, about what it would be like to live in lockdown for a few weeks. we started seeds indoors, we got out for walks and fresh air, we had this smug, giddy, "look at us quarantine!! woot!" attitude. when summer came around, henry swam in a lake in a wet suit while it was still cold, then bought a bungee so he could swim in his girlfriend's pool until the team could figure out how to safely train. harper set up facetime "play dates" with her best friend, and they drew pictures together while they talked. living creatively in the "new normal" still felt novel, but took on an air of urgency, to figure it out because who knew how long we'd be in this.

and we made it. life was good, in its own new way. and then we survived fall and winter in similar fashion, yet i learned nothing about using my time more wisely. i couldn't. and i had no idea why.

we have all known we are introverts (well, not henry), so the aspect of not being WITH people for the foreseeable future didn't bother us a bit. but it turns out that when you isolate in your own spaces in your own home, and go hours without seeing each other, it changes something in you. marc and harper will both come to my office, sit in the chair in the corner, and just chat. and while early on in covidland i cherished that, now i just feel usurped. it has taken me until my mid-40s to have a space that is all my own, and now that i have it, people want to come visit me. and harper will follow me around the house, showing me funny videos or memes, and while i adore that she wants to include me, and i know my time with her at home is short, and i know she's lonely ... i feel like i am back at the toddler stage, and just want someone else to entertain the kids so i can escape.

why??

why has this gift of a year, of time and space, been so UNproductive, and driven me even deeper into my introversion?

can anyone else relate to that? can i redeem this time?

what happens in the After? when we can come out of our shelters and are in the world again? though ... people ARE out in the world again, HAVE been, and that just flares my anxiety and frustration and anger at the complete selfishness and inability to care even a little about others. people i used to enjoy and respect have lost my favor; i can't unsee who they are or understand their choices, especially when hypocrisy comes into play. so what happens to my relationships after this?

according to myers-briggs, i'm an INFJ. i've known that about myself for more than 20 years. what i didn't know until a few years ago is this thing known as the "INFJ door slam." essentially, it's how we preserve ourselves emotionally or physically. we cut people off, and that's it; you had your chance, but you blew it, and i'm done.

wow. once i read that, i just said, "yeah ... that's about right." i've been doing it for a long, long time.

but now, in the covid universe, i have a new reason to slam the door on people: i can no longer trust them, their values, their worldview. it was hard enough during the trump years, but add in how covid has been handled, and ... my social media friend count has taken a hit.

so after the vaccinations are given and the world opens back up, are there people in it for me? or will i stay isolated? and what happens to my productivity? or my creativity? if i'm not a part of the world, does creativity even have a place?

i've always thought myself more virginia woolf/"room of one's own," but what if i'm actually emily dickinson, never leaving my room and communicating only via the computer?

maybe a year is long enough. maybe it's time to get the gears of life moving again. it would be nice to do something intentional after all of this ... take some classes, be a part of something with purpose and deadlines, which is where i work best. we were given this gift of a year, we learned many things, we discovered many things, but maybe the greatest lesson is that putting off our desires and dreams and plans isn't so much about a lack of time as it is a lack of motivation and focus. if i had to do the year differently, i'd like to think it would be more successful and i'd have more to show for it. but maybe not. maybe this was the year i needed to know that isolation is my crutch, not my friend.

 

Comments

Leslie Didier-Paquin

So much learning has happened this past year. I am so with you. Also an INFJ who is familiar with the door slam. Also someone who has asthma who has had a difficult time watching the choices people make in regards to the greater good. I also live in an area that was quite pro-tRUMP even though I'm in a "liberal" state. Witnessing and honoring you as we navigate these gifts and challenges. Thanks for sharing!

April Laramey

Wow, I followed the link to the INFJ door slam, because I am also an INFJ, And HOLY ****. That is describing me to a T. It's freaky. That you for that link because that was a profound find for me.

Susan Renshaw

I can relate to so many of your points in this!
I have done some of the Binge watching, finishing UFO's zoom connecting, lots of crafting.
But now that we in Victoria, Australia, are heading back to 'normal', we have forgotten how to chat, to gossip, to discuss with other people. I find it hard to remember words!
We have got out of the habit of going out for dinner, going to the pub, shopping in malls.
When will it be back to 'normal'??

Victoria

I enjoyed your post. Much about it is familiar in my own life yet equally so,, nothing likened to it. Your words have inspired some hmm? moments and food for thought. Thank you for sharing!

Effy

I know all about that INFJ door slam. Once I'm done, I'm done. I don't judge it anymore since it seems to have served me really well.

Nicole

The INFJ door slam - I have a name for it now, thank you! I, too, did not become a super organizer overachiever during the lockdowns. I did make some bread and I did art, but I just didn’t have the brain cells for a whole lot, for whatever reason.

Francine

I can relate to every single word of this! Also INFJ (we're supposed to be the rarest type, are we just good at finding each other?) :) While I didn't do the majority of projects that I thought I would, I did discover my undying passion for art. Or maybe it's just a passion for art classes lol. But it still doesn't have a real purpose, so who knows? I guess some would say it doesn't have to? But I want to have it have a meaningful place in my life, we'll see.

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