Introverts Unite

So this past week has been a surreal one on so many fronts – my husband’s company ordered him to work from home, my kid’s school is now closed for at least two weeks, we cancelled our spring break vacation, the robotics tournament my boys had been working so hard for was postponed, and the shelves at our local Kings Soopers…well they looked like a scene from the movie Contagion… Despite all this (or perhaps because of it) I came to realize just how introverted a writer I really am.

This realization dawned half way though day one of my husband’s ‘work from home’ week. He started on conference calls just after the boys left for school (this was before the school district announced all schools were to close on Friday) and didn’t stop talking pretty much the entire day. I know I should be sympathetic (I mean who wants to be on back to back conference calls!) – but most days it’s just me, my collie Hamish, and the imaginary characters in my head and I desperately missed the peace and quiet. By day 3, my poor husband was going stir crazy because he, as an extrovert, needed (and missed) having work colleagues around him. I, on the other hand, was longing for solitude:) So when the social distancing decree came down, I wasn’t fazed. Give me a computer to write on (or good old-fashioned pen and paper), a book to read, and some art supplies…and I am pretty much good to go. My husband on the other hand was already writing up a long list of chores we could accomplish:)

Now my husband and I have been married a long time (over 25 years!) so none of this comes as a great surprise – except that we’ve never really had to confront our own personality types in quite this way before. Neither of us were prepared for just how different our introverted versus extroverted outlook would be. One of my twins joked that he’d seen a meme on how introverts have been preparing their whole lives for social distancing – and while I laughed at first…it’s actually true. Though I doubt most of my friends would ever describe me as introverted – I enjoy being with people, am usually very chatty, and can be quite..er…theatrical when I want to be…but recent events have made me more aware than ever, just how much my creativity comes from the absence of people, and the quiet spaces of my day. This all means that there will certainly be some interesting times ahead, as for the foreseeable future I will have my husband and twin sons at home. We will all have to carve out our own quiet spaces (or in my husband’s case, some virtual-people filled spaces) and I will have to find ways to satisfy my introverted need for quiet and solitude.

So TKZers how many of you consider yourselves introverted? What has recent events revealed about your own personality or creativity?

In these challenging times we can all benefit from appreciating our common humanity, embracing empathy, and understanding how we can bridge our differences. In the meantime though…any words of wisdom on how two introverts (one twin and me) and two extroverts (my husband and the other twin) can survive in quasi-isolation??

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35 thoughts on “Introverts Unite

  1. Great post, Clare. As with most Black Swan events, this one will create change, and change is always good despite the transition being rough sometimes.

    I’m very introverted, but fortunate in that I have a separate writing (and cover-design and blurb-writing) space about 150 feet outside my back door. So it’s an easy commute. My wife, who recently retired, is taking on Marketing for our writing business, which frees me up to write more. She works in the house, and I work in my aptly named Hovel. (grin)

    Other aspects of this Event are also working to our favor, or at least will do no major harm. For example, the Licensing Expo in Vegas has been postponed from May to August as a result of this Event, which means we’ll have a few months longer to get ready. And on and on.

    Best of all, we get to make personal predictions of what the new norm will be when all of this has passed. Interesting to anticipate those changes and see what pans out and what doesn’t.

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    • We are certainly living in interesting times. I’m sure my husband would be happy to name my writing space the hovel – another major difference between us is that he is tidy and I am…not!

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  2. In our relationship, I am the extrovert. My husband is the introvert. However, my situation is the same as yours: my daily work environment is altered for an indefinite period. Family are around all day now and sometimes we are required to interact with them. I perceive this not as an introvert/extrovert issue, but rather as an encroachment on my write-at-home freedom. To cope, I go into my tiny writing room and close the door. If the door is closed, he knows not to bother me unless there is an emergency.

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  3. I’m one who prefers my alone time. I see very little difference in the way my life is unfolding now. Hubster and I are both retired, so we’ve grown accustomed to giving each other space.
    I am going to cancel a hair appointment, even though it’s probably low-risk, but you never know where the person in the chair next to you might have been. Up here, lots of people work at military bases. I’m in that ‘stay home’ age demographic.
    My twice-a-week yoga classes have been cancelled. If I’m motivated, our instructor has classes on YouTube. I’ll go for walks with the dog.
    Hubster does the grocery shopping, but living in a blizzard-prone spot, we always keep a decent stock of supplies.
    I’m not inconvenienced at all, and if keeping distance flattens the curve, I’m all for it. You know–Science.

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    • Definitely hoping we can all flatten the curve. We also usually have some extra stocks on hand in case of a bad winter storm. Now, we are just readjusting to spatial issues but I can always walk the dog to get some breathing room!

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  4. Introvert homebody here, although I’ll miss my writer friends b/c our meetings have been cancelled. The gym is closed so I’ll also miss zumba.

    Long, quiet walks with Hamish may help you recharge when your circuits overload, Clare. Walking is when I do all my plotting. Physical activity, fresh air, and blood circulating works wonders. Once the next scene is in my head, I hurry home, eager to write up a storm even in the midst of distractions.

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    • I am a Zumba fan too (and missing it!). Walking Hamish is definitely part of my plan – I like plotting and getting tricky scene situations resolved while I’m out and about in the fresh air!

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  5. Intro-extra combo here as well. I usually work at the local library–I enjoy being around people even tho I don’t interact with them much–and wife works at home.

    “Open floor plan” is obviously a plot by the extras. Having a door to close that the others respect (absent Harvey’s great sitch) is the key, I believe. And, hopefully, one is capable of long walks and not limited to crowded urban sidewalks. It’s too cold yet–in Cleveland, anyway–for working outside.

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    • Eric – we’re having a brief spell of spring weather so outside is an option now but given this is probably Colorado’s ‘false spring’ snow will probably return and we will all be back inside quick smart!

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  6. I just read a really funny article about how introvert gamers have woken into their own utopia. The same for most of us writer types. A quiet place to do what we do.

    I’m basically an introvert, but I can be the charming extrovert at will. My dad was a charismatic extrovert so I call my ability channeling my inner Milford (Dad’s name). My sister, the psychologist, says that the easiest way to know whether you are an introvert or extrovert is that extroverts are recharged by being with people. Introverts are exhausted by it.

    To get the husband and kids out of the way, suggest they visit the local park or go hiking or anything physical that will wear down the kids and give you some quiet time to do your work. A win, win.

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  7. Maybe this was the meme your son saw: “Avoid large gatherings, stay home as much as possible, and interact with others mainly online? INTROVERTS, OUR TIME HAS COME.”

    Still laughing over it. Doesn’t scare me in the least. If I were to be cast as the heroine in a movie, and I could pick which one, I’d choose the one where she exits the underground bunker after three years and finds she’s the only one left.

    I feel like I have to apologize for this, but if I see other people-at the grocery store, the park, at church services-just once a week or every two weeks, I’m happy. I’m fortunate in that my husband is a lot like me. We have different talents and strengths, but we’re both introverts. Of my three grown, 40-something offspring, one is like me and the other two are extrovert business owners. When we visit with the two extroverts and their children, it takes me a week to decompress. 🙂

    Clare, maybe you and your introvert twin could schedule interactions between you and your extrovert husband and twin. Maybe twice a week, half hour sessions?

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    • I don’t think you should have to apologize for that, Deb! I find it perfectly normal myself. Going “out” to see friends is a special occasion, even if that friend is a small business owner who runs a boutique downtown, or the friend who runs a plant nursery half a mile from my house. I may not see them for months, so visits are always special.
      Not all of us are wired to be “on” 24/7. I, too, take weeks to decompress from the dreaded holiday family visits.

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  8. Recent events haven’t changed our lives. My husband works from home, so he’s out in his shop while I’m at the keyboard. The only difference is The Kid. With all three of our grandchildren home and a wife who’s going stir crazy, he calls a lot more often (almost daily!) to vent.

    Clare, invest in a good pair of headphones. They’re a godsend.

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  9. My husband is a retired physician so we’ve been dealing with this for a while now. What works best for us is he’s an early riser and I’m a night owl. I’ve always needed my alone time so I tend to go to bed late and get up later and he goes to bed early and gets up early. Only problem is, when I get up he’s been up for hours and he starts TALKING to me! I need a sign that says, “No talking until after coffee!”

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    • I am with you there, Eve! In normal times this only happens to me & my husband on weekends, but years ago he learned to approach silently with full coffee cup at the ready! Haha!

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  10. Introvert here. And married to another introvert, although I consider my husband an intro-extrovert. We’re retired and have separate offices in our home, so I can hunker down in my space all day. But he needs to drop by every hour or so just to say hello.

    I hate to say it, but this coronavirus is a benefit to us. We have plenty of food in the house. All our classes and meetings have been canceled. And when we’re not writing or reading, we have an exercise room upstairs and a park close by. Aaaah.

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  11. Definitely the introvert here. I am exhausted by large gatherings. Even talk radio & commercials drain & annoy me. I think any of us who are accustomed to long hours of blissful alone time are going to need interventions sooner than later!
    The best advice I can offer, Clare, are boundaries. Set them now, and make sure they’re understood. It’s a shame that you have to relocate to the basement, but if that’s what it takes, make sure everyone knows that it’s a boundary crossed only in emergencies! (As in: asteroids, invading aliens, or blood loss, as I like to say.)
    My husband (the extra-extrovert) likes to tinker in the barn (his man cave) while I write in the house. Usually this works well, but invariably, he will bound in to relay an exciting result in his mad-scientist tinkering….right as I’m at a crucial plot point! Never fails.
    I’ve had to set the boundary that, if I hold up a finger, it means I’ll be with him later to share the excitement, but right now is NOT a good time!

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    • Cyn, your husband sounds like a MC in a novel about a mad scientist tinkering in his garage and discovering the next weapon to be used on the zombie aliens who’ve invaded and left us with a weird virus that can only transmit itself through our cell phones … oh, somebody stop me! 🙂

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  12. I used to be an intro but the older I get the more extro I get. Probably something for the shrinks to ponder. We are just today starting the hunkering down process (Everything’s still open here in Tallahassee — no cases yet — but it’s just a matter of time.)

    I am going to miss the daily interactions with folks here in this very Southern town. The clerks, the coffee guy, the student who knows how I like my eggs. But I’m one of those lucky souls who is happy when alone as well. The garden calls, so I will answer tomorrow.

    Stay safe and sane, my friends. We still can meet here as usual.

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  13. An excellent post, Claire! I’m a pretty extreme introvert. I get exhausted by people very easily- from a small family gathering to writer’s group meetings. I need that time to myself to recharge, and often use the excuse of going to the loo to recharge, even if it’s for a few minutes. It’s not that I don’t like interacting with people (I can be pretty extroverted when the situation calls for it), but too much interaction is tiring.

    So yes, your child is right: introverts have been preparing for this moment all our lives. It won’t be a hardship to work from home for two weeks. I might even get the clothes ironed.

    My husband and I are together more often than not on the weekends and do most everything together outside of that. I have a list of chores to get done around the house and he has his things to do around the property– and there is zero shortage of things to get done to keep out of each other’s hair.

    Just because you’ve got two extroverts at home doesn’t mean that it has to drive you nuts. The delineation of space is important; back-to-back conference calls need to be done in another room from your writing space. Noise-cancelling headphones, even with nothing being played, reduces the noise dramatically.

    It sounds rigid, but make a schedule of when you all come together, when you all need quiet time/time to yourselves, and when to check in on each other (lunch, morning tea, etc). Even if you’re in isolation, you’re not stuck inside. Use the outdoors to your advantage. Go for a walk, do some yoga, play with the dog, sit and relax with a cup of coffee… whatever floats your boat, and gets your batteries recharged.

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  14. I’m one of the few extroverts. I will miss my peeps! But I’m working to get our Pilates teacher on Zoom, so I’ll at least get that interaction. lol

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  15. As an Introvert in a house with 5 other people, I’m always on the lookout for peace and solitude! As a writer, I NEED my writing time to myself, so an extrovert partner that keeps telling me EVERY. SINGLE. UPDATE. is a strain on my introvert-sanity.
    Breathe. Remember you love them and steal whatever introvert time you can.

    Good luck!

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  16. My husband and I are both introverts who love our space. With both of us retired, we enjoy being home and close enough to grab a hug and a kiss or have a conversation between bouts of solitude. He has a beautifully furnished den where he spends quiet time during the day, leaving me with enough solitude to write and pursue my other passions. (No man cave. He has exquisite taste.) I am blessed.

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