Flying home from Australia in 1989, my seatmate asked me four questions. I still remember her amazement to my last answer. The question was: What would I do in a white room, no way in, no way out, only a shaft of sunlight streaming into that empty space? I answered that I saw myself relaxed and curled up in the inviting sunlight. I was the first person she had met who imagined themselves comfortable there. According to her psychology training, people’s white room answers indicated feelings about death.
This year’s lockdown forced many people to become more comfortable in their own skin and to accept what may feel intolerable for extroverts.
Enjoying alone time is akin to breathing for me. I adore coping only with my own energy zinging around, and it does zing, not needing to flow and co-mingle with anyone else’s.
If eulogists at my funeral stick to the truth, they’ll have to say, “Prying Rusti out of her comfort zone to attend events was a nightmare.” I hope they add, “She was worth the effort.”
My extroverted nieces suffered during the first lockdown. I employ varied habits that may aid others struggling during COVID. Anybody can advise, “Find enjoyable solitary activities,” though I believe unsolicited advice only masks criticism. We all need to navigate these challenges in our own way. I can only share what works for me.
Writing and reading is naturally a one person endeavour. Maybe write your life story. (Free memoir writing article upon request.) If reading traditional books fails to tempt you, try comic books or graphic novels. Anyone can Netflix binge.
Listen to calming binaural beats and allow yourself to imagine BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Zentangling (drawing complicated patterns or doodling) and walking are the closest I have ever come to meditating. If you need to fill a social gap, attend online meetups or discussion groups. Talk to a friend on the phone or resurrect the art of letter writing. Don your mask to go mail them.
As unsolicited advice may be criticism, I will cease and share this: my days disappear all too soon, starting the day with writing gratitudes, my Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), tweaking my memoir, reading, all before any screen time. Sometimes I attend between three to six daily Zoom meetings. Can we say we are really alone? People quarantined after the First World War did not have our tech to stay connected.
Busyness is likely my downfall and, on the bright side, a boon during lockdown. I am interested in almost everything, and find it a challenge to fit in daily exercise, good food, reading, and writing. If I do watch something, it’s on an iPad on the kitchen counter while I process kombucha or kefir, cook meals, or clean before moving to the bigger screen to bounce on my trampoline. If I do sit, I might sort papers, indulge in some zentangle, or paint my nails.
Positive psychology suggests our contentment and happiness is 90 per cent dependent on teaching our brain to scan for the positive. The ancient Greeks defined happiness as, “the joy we feel striving toward our potential.” People who choose a big dream or goal require daily baby steps, building in some rewarding daily achievable goals. And, they tend to be happier. Working passionately toward a goal delivers more pleasure and satisfaction than trying to find the bottom of Facebook or the mythical end of Netflix. You might even reach bedtime feeling grateful for your solitude.