I’ve always straddled the line between I and E—introvert and extrovert—though I often present like an E. I feel energized when collaborating with others. I enjoy attending conferences. I love traveling to cities to bask in the unique energy of people and the architecture and transit systems they inhabit.
For years, I assumed I was more E than I. As time passes, I have become more sensitive to what specifically energizes me and which activities suck my will to live. While I enjoy learning and one-on-one relationships that spark from conferences, for instance, the deafening din of 250 strangers swilling cheap wine at a networking happy hour makes me want to dive under a table.
While my mouth loves to chit-chat, my introverted heart thirsts for quiet reflection in order to repair and, thus, function. The I is stronger than I thought. Better said: the well-mannered I is easier to deny in favor of the nattering E, but when the I goes unnurtured, she strikes back. Without quality alone time, the I becomes agitated, and the world starts spinning. She takes the whole contraption down when she goes.
Nowhere is the seesaw between I and E more evident than in coronavirus quarantine where, for once, the I is winning.
When I left my job in February, I fantasized about months of uninterrupted time to write. In an alternate universe in which COVID-19 did not overtake the world, these introspective hours would have been tempered with readings, performances, classes, a weeklong summer workshop and meet-ups with friends and colleagues.
In self-isolation, my introverted tendencies have taken over, and not necessarily for the better.
Some weeks, I go dark for several days without intending to. No phone calls, no FaceTimes, no Zoom meetings. The further inwards I turn, the more reluctant I am to crack the shell and make contact. The quieter I get, the more painful the idea of a phone call. For some reason, I feel shy about reaching out, even to people I love. When I finally do follow through on connection, I come away renewed.
Reconnecting with the ebullience I once felt (not long ago) from quality conversations with friends reminds me that it’s not healthy for me to swing too far one way or the other. The middle between E and I, if I can get to a balance, serves me best. So goes the shifting experiment in which I titrate a tincture of interaction. Zoom yoga on Saturdays, a few phone calls each week, virtual classes and lectures, FaceTime with friends who don’t mind me showing up in a Red Sox ball cap and a ponytail, fresh off a long walk.
This month, my conversations included my first interview on behalf of Seattle Arts & Lectures. I spoke with Kristen Millares Young, a Seattle journalist and author of the novel, Subduction, recently released from Red Hen Press. I met Kristen in 2013 through Artist Trust‘s EDGE Program; I count her as both friend and colleague, so speaking with Kristen was a lovely way to start.
While editing the interview transcript, I realized how much I miss conversations about art, literature and writing. I feel grateful to SAL for this opportunity. I initially reached out to volunteer because I wanted to support this wonderful organization that has given so much to our community. It turns out that these interviews are exactly the medicine I need right now, too. I hope that others feel the same.
Last week, SAL hosted a terrific online event with the journalist Elizabeth Kolbert (author, most recently of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.) Hopefully, there will be more events like this, as we can all use an infusion of thought-provoking culture.
I will continue to update my Publications page with future interviews. The next features a teacher and writer-in-residence from the Writers in the Schools program. Through WITS, SAL connects working professional writers with students and teachers to elevate and amplify the voices of students throughout the Puget Sound region. If you’re looking for stories of uplift, it’s a great place to start.
In the meantime, stay safe out there.