Struggling out of the cocoon.
Quarantine has its ups and downs, but it does sometimes feel safe. It’s a secure place where I don’t have to worry about so many things that engage my mind when I’m out in the world. When you’re quarantined alone, you don’t have to talk to other people if you don’t want to. There’s no expectation of what you look like or what you wear. Food and beverage become things entirely under your own control.
I am not saying that I love this situation, or that I want it to continue indefinitely, but some of these things can be seductive. For instance, the idea that I can hire someone else to shop for me and then deliver my groceries without me having to ever leave my house – that feels rather good sometimes.
But lately I have found myself merging from “comfort” into “avoidance.” Slowly, things are beginning to open up a bit in the world around me (restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores, parks, etc.) but I realize that I have become resistant to joining the world in the opening up process. I continue to make excuses to have things delivered, to do nearly everything online, to stay inside even when the weather is nice, to nap more than usual.
I’m not afraid of getting sick, nor am I worried about other people and their dysfunctional relationship with masks and social distance (pro or con). What I find is that I am hearing inner voices say things to me that make me feel almost afraid to start interacting with people in person again. It’s almost like some deep, inner part of my mind has tremendous social anxiety but has been well-hidden for decades. Now, for some odd reason, it’s making itself heard.
After 93 days of quarantine, you would think I would jump up and down for joy when I have the opportunity to start doing things out in the world again. Not so. I have had strangely ambivalent feelings about leaving my house, even on beautiful sunny days like the one happening right now as I write this post.
I have had to force myself – almost against my own will – to push through these strange resistances and go back outside to interact with people. Last Thursday, I went to a restaurant for the first time in nearly 13 weeks. It was wonderful, but it was also a strangely unfulfilling experience. I even got sick the next day with a sore throat and laryngitis. I believe – metaphysically – that was my body and my spirit telling me that something was wrong and that I needed to stop and focus inward.
That’s what I have been doing for the past week – throughout my days and here in these posts.
So I am trying now to make choices that put me out in the world again. I went to my office for the first time in weeks yesterday to gather some files and check mail, but in the process I did interact with a few other people. Last night I attended a small neighborhood party (appropriately socially distanced) to meet a bunch of people I had never met before here in my neighborhood. Today I plan to head again to the Morton Arboretum for a few hours out in nature, where I know I will pass others on the paths and have a chance to at least say “hello” in person.
As odd as this may sound, I feel as though I am fighting my way through some kind of thick, viscous membrane that is trying to keep me safely cocooned in a fetal position in the dark – alone and safe and secure. For one of the first times in my life, I feel the edges of social anxiety and I know for myself that my only hope to battle this is to push through it.
If the analogy holds true, let’s hope that when I emerge from this sticky cocoon I have transformed into something new and exciting. I’m not sure what my inner version of “butterfly” looks like, but I hope I am going to find out very soon.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.