On Staying In

Sometimes I don’t leave the apartment for a week at a time.

I started to think about why I’m so comfortable not going out, and I thought at first that maybe it was tied to my current sleep routine. Every night I spend time doomscrolling and obsessive news lurking, then reading on my Kindle until my eyes are bleary, then listening to music until I’m actually drowsy. Then and only then do I actually – finally – fall asleep. Most nights, that’s around 2am. When I spatula myself out of bed the next morning for work, I invariably insist to myself that I will go to sleep earlier the next night, but I never do. Hell, I even have a cron running on my computer that makes it speak aloud, “go to bed you idiot” at 10:30 each night. I guess I don’t sleep much.

Part of the problem, for me, is that I am never, ever bored at home. There’s always something to read, a video to watch, small projects to put off. All my stuff is here! There’s always something to do when I should be sleeping like a sane and normal person. (Yes, I know my sleep hygiene is garbage; that’s not what this post is about.)

In the last two weeks, I’ve left the building perhaps three times. Once to the dentist, once to the grocery store, and the other time was a walk with a friend to pick up some dinner. I recently mentioned to that same friend that I hadn’t really been out in a while and she asked why- and I didn’t have a good answer. I mean, yes, part of it was that work had been particularly contentious, including a weekend full of twelve-hour workdays.

I feel a little guilty that I’m being a bad friend by holing up in my apartment instead of trying to socialize more with my friends, but then most of them who are too skittish about Covid to actually do anything social. I don’t blame them – everyone has their own comfort level about being out and about during the pandemic. I don’t know anyone up here who would dine inside a restaurant. And it’s just cold enough to be really uncomfortable dining outside.

Switching to pandemic lock-down was easy for me because my own built-in inertia already makes me predisposed to stay in. Without social plans – a concert, a movie, a musical, pub trivia, or dinner with a friend – I’m perfectly happy to stay at home and do my own thing. Left to my own devices, I can easily stay at home for days at a time. Longer, with food delivery.

There’s really just not that much going on in the outside world lately. Honestly, though, I can’t think of a good reason for not going outside, other than “I just don’t want to.” The only real down side is that the longer I stay in, the harder it is for me to finally get up and go outside.

Do you get stir-crazy when you can’t go out for a long time?

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Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels.com

On being alone.

Over the last two weeks, my social calendar has thinned out a lot. Everyone is trying to stop the rapid spread of Covid-19, and social distancing is super important for that. In my area, there’s a curfew. Restaurants are not permitted to open their dining rooms- delivery and takeaway are the order of the day there. Grocery stores are limiting their hours. Companies and schools are transitioning largely to work-from-home where possible. For those scenarios that can’t be done remotely, lots of layoffs are happening so that their employees can try to find something else or sign up for unemployment. And so it goes.

While I understand and agree with the reasons behind all of this, I’m very frustrated with the end result. I’ve lost nearly a dozen concerts from my schedule, as venues close in an abundance of caution. I’ve canceled airfare and hotels for two different out of state trips, and there’s another two that may be on the chopping block over the next week. My weekly trivia and monthly karaoke are canceled for the time being. The only thing left on my calendar for the next ten weeks aside from work stuff is MegaCon and one doctor’s appointment. I suspect both of those could wind up canceled before much longer. (Edit: Two hours after this was posted, MegaCon was rescheduled for June.)

For most of my friends, our new weird quarantined reality is a big adjustment. For me, it’s not really all that different than my previous life. I work completely remotely, live alone, and eat most of my meals alone. I actively enjoy not leaving my apartment- I can stay here for days without ever feeling bored or stir-crazy. There’s always something for me to do here. There’s a pitfall, of course- the longer I stay in, the harder it is to break the inertia and get out.

My extrovert friends are losing their minds right now, but for me this isn’t bad at all. Doing stuff alone has always been easy for me. Movies, concerts, trips to other countries: I’m perfectly happy going by myself. Having companionship for these jaunts is enjoyable, but never necessary. I’ve learned over time that while I usually have anxiety about leaving the house, I almost always have fun once I get to where I’m going.

These are the two warring sides of my personality: the loner and the social animal. Am I an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert? One of my friends told me a while back that he thinks I’m very social even though it’s sometimes really difficult to get me out of the house- he’s not wrong. Crowds drain me. Too much of that kind of noise makes me glaze over. Too much ambient noise (other than music) depletes me.

There was a brief time a while back where I thought that my loner tendencies might be some sort of personal or psychological failing on my part, so I read a bunch of books about being alone. In “Party Of One: The Loner’s Manifesto” by Anneli Rufus, there is a paragraph about how children played with the original GI Joe doll, the 12-inch version that my brothers had. (This is not to be confused with the four-inch toys that came out in 1982 with all the vehicles and accessories to compete with the similarly sized Star Wars toys at the time. The first GI Joe, the 12 inch one, was only one Joe. They didn’t introduce the snow guy and the ninja guy and the metal-faced guy until later on with the four-inch GI Joe friends.).

Anneli Rufus writes:

“Creating scenarios with only a single doll validates the power and wonder of the individual. Even if this is only a molded-plastic individual with painted-on hair and a mass-produced costume, it is a vessel through which the child projects his own visions of himself as an independent thinker, doer, adventurer, and winner. With only a single doll, the child celebrates self-reliance, learns to strategize, and learns the most potent lesson of all: The doll- or the real person the doll represents- requires nothing in order to do things and have experiences. Its adventures are sparked and carried out through ingenuity, imagination, creativity. In playing with a single doll, the child discovers how to entertain himself. A lone doll gives the message that one is enough.”

— “Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto” by Anneli Rufus

The book goes on to talk about how the four-inch toys came with their personalities already set, predetermined. Reading this, I thought back to my own childhood. Whenever I was playing with my armada of the tiny Star Wars toys, I didn’t follow the preinstalled personalities or their already-written adventures.

Instead, I would put a blanket on the floor in a blobby unfolded state so that it would make caves. Then I’d select one particular character, never a Luke or a Han- generally some smaller, less important character, and I’d make that character go live by themself in one of the caves. I only chose one, and I stuck with that one. On the far side of Blanket Mountain. Far away from the rest of the action figures. When I was playing Star Wars with other neighborhood kids, this usually led to some frustrating times, because they wanted to interact, and I wanted to be a hermit.

I think a therapist would have a field day with that one.

How are you handling quarantine and social distancing?

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Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels.com
Header photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels.com
https://www.pexels.com/photo/crowd-reflection-color-toy-1679618/