I’m an introvert. I require quiet time—quite a lot of it—to recharge and prepare myself to be social. Some people think introverts don’t want to be around others. That’s not true. The fact is being with other people is enjoyable, but it requires a special kind of energy that introverts don’t have in great reserve. When the COVID-19 outbreak began introverts collectively (yes!) felt a need to help their extroverted friends and colleagues deal with the “new normal” of isolation. Now that we’ve been in the situation for over a month, I have seen a different pattern emerging. Extroverts are now taking over the quiet space and trying to make it noisy. I don’t think it’s intentional, but I do think that introverts may be the ones most stressed out by this situation.
Here’s an experiment. Put an extrovert in self-isolation with a room full of communication devices. What do you think will happen? If you’re on the introverted receiving end, you already know. Days interrupted by cheeps, dings, and chimes as someone needs to talk to you. Why you? You’re quiet, you know how to listen. The extraverts can’t become quiet, and of quiet and noise the same one is always on the receiving end of violence. Quiet shatters, noise doesn’t. Five weeks into this and the introverts have bags under their eyes and the extroverts are exclaiming “It’s not half so bad!”
While Nashotah House ruined it for me, for many years I had considered whether I shouldn’t join a monastic community. I need quiet as much as I need air, and although I can be outgoing when I have to, I need quiet at the end of the day to make up for it. My case is somewhat mild. I know introverts who truly struggle when they have to spend a lot of time in a crowded place. The internet, my friends, is a crowded place. It took these weeks for me to figure out why I have so much less time now than I used to. The demand of making noise has been upped.
Sitting at home with quiet streets outside can be eerie. It can also be rejuvenating. Embracing the silence isn’t a bad practice. One of the reasons, I suspect, that I still awake around 3:00 a.m. is that it is quiet. Very seldom am I interrupted then. Work will have its pound of flesh, of course, and from there on my day descends, or ascends, back towards quiet. It’s not a bad way to live. It just takes practice.