On not joining in.
This has been such an achingly long isolation, with it’s constant undertones of fear, desolation and death that it’s great to see everything opening up again, in a way. I’m really glad, for example, to see the cafés, shops and bars that have survived the no face-to-face customers and very little government financial support opening up again. And I know the ones run by people I know will be good and careful about how things work in their openings up. So great and good luck to them all.
But I won’t be coming out to play in this fake reality of ‘it’s all over now.’ Because it isn’t is it?
Instead I’ll continue to live much as I have in these latter lockdown weeks since we’ve at least allowed each other to meet, distanced but there. Zoom never did compensate for looking friends directly in their real eyes. A friend at a time though, in my case, has turned out to be exactly enough. To listen to each other, properly.
And it’s not simply about being careful, this continuation of mine. It’s also because I like it. For several years now I’ve been pulling away from social occasions. Greeting invitations to them with quiet dismay and being increasingly evasive about whether or not I’m going to turn up. Then whenever I would turn up finding polite, if possible, ways to leave. Or just leaving anyway as soon as I could work my hopefully unobserved way over to the exit door. An awkward way to live.
But now this ‘no’ of mine doesn’t feel awkward at all. Because in the quiet of all these lockdown months I’ve learned something about myself that I’d never realised before. Which is that I’m an introverted sort of person who’d been trying to live an occasionally extroverted sort of life. Which is over now.
And of course there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with being an extroverted sort, any more than there’s anything wrong with being how I am. Some of my best friends are extroverts and I know they’ve suffered deeply from groups-of-humans deprivation in all this. But not me.
So as the wider occasions of social life are got going again think of this as my polite as I can manage advance refusal of all invitations to group gatherings. I’m not coming.
Not coming to “there’ll be just a few of us,” not coming to “everyone else will be there,” not coming to “you really should make more of an effort” and not coming to “you mean to say you’re not coming to this?”
Yes, the answer’s “No.”
And you can read more lockdown reflections here at “Pandemic Stories”