Lockdown – an Introvert’s Dream

Before the c-virus I was happiest spending long stretches of time at home entertaining myself with no distractions. My writers group met weekly and I’d usually have coffee or lunch with friends at least once a week. That was the extent of my social life. If too many dates on the calendar registered upcoming events or get-togethers, a cloud of mild anxiety hovered around me.

It’s not that I don’t like people. I do. I can play nicely in the sandbox with others. I expect to be liked and I think I usually am. That may be delusional, but if it is please don’t burst my bubble.

That was when I had freedom to choose when I went out or when I stayed home.

This is very different. There’s an unseen enemy that could be hiding anywhere, on packaging, in grocery stores, on door handles or money. And suddenly my options have shrunk to zero. I’m seventy years old. If I value my life, if I want to continue to see the sun rise and set for many more years, I have to stay home.

So of course what I want more than anything else right now is to socialize. Isn’t that human nature at it’s worst: always wanting most what we can’t (or shouldn’t) have?

You’ve heard the saying, Be careful what you wish for? I was wishing I could host a small party. There are dear friends I haven’t seen since I returned from Italy. I went immediately into self-quarantine for fourteen days. I was so looking forward to the end of my two-week isolation.

Due to government regulation and self- isolation, those two weeks have stretched to over a month with no end in sight. But today my wish for a party manifested. It wasn’t quite what I’d envisioned, but I definitely had guests.

They were a pugnacious bunch. A fight broke out on my roof and tiles went flying. My Bali expat friends can be rowdy but they aren’t that agile. My roof tiles would have been safe.

The monkey invasion squelched my desire for a party. It reminded me that I really do love being alone. I have vast fields of time to gaze at the sky and daydream. I can write – or not – as the mood dictates.

But there’s an underlying thread that I can’t quite access. It’s a feeling – a sense of divine purpose – that this had to happen. This. Nothing else. And despite the alarming death toll, despite financial ruin, despite a world thrown into chaos, despite the uncertainty, and fear, and hardship, and untold suffering, there’s a place for gratitude. For thankfulness.

In my hours of solitude, that’s what I want to access. Gratefulness, without needing to know why. Thankfulness, trusting that this time is necessary. And acceptance of what is, knowing there’s no other choice.

A (Very Small) Room of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf had it right. People need a place to escape the rigors of social interaction otherwise known as life. Some of us need it more than others. You closet introverts know who you are.

I used to fight my introverted self. It isn’t the preferred category. The extrovert catches the worm. The introvert agonizes over the proper approach to the worm, whether or not the worm will be receptive to the advances, rehearses a dozen different speeches to break the ice and by then the worm is gone.

When Pasek asks me if I want to rent the place next door while mine is being renovated, I say, “Oh no. I’ll stay in my house during the construction.”

“No,” he says.

“Yes,” I say. “It’s okay, I like building projects.”

“No,” he says. Pasek is the project manager. Normally I would defer to his greater knowledge of best building practices in Bali. But this time I’m adamant.

“Yes,” I say, and that’s the final word.

It begins innocently enough. I arrange the sofa and chairs in my open living area so the crew can relax while they eat breakfast and lunch. I buy coffee, tea, and sugar for their morning and afternoon beverages. I make the extra bathroom available for their personal needs. In my mind it’s like a very long tea party and I’m the ultimate hostess.

My yoga and meditation routine gets pushed to 6 a.m. so I can be finished before the noise starts.

During the day I sit with my laptop at the dining table so I can watch the work while I write.

After a month the dirt and noise encroach. I remove the dining table and chairs, shove the sofa against the back wall, and relocate my writing to the front terrace. Not sturdy enough for constant use, the sofa breaks. That too is removed. Then the bags of concrete arrive and take over the terrace.

The desk in my bedroom becomes my island of calm.

A day later, the concrete for the new second floor is poured. Without warning, gray cement water rains through the bamboo ceilings of both bedrooms flooding them in minutes. I lurch away from the desk and run for buckets, mops, rags, anything to staunch the flow. I feel my enthusiasm slip a few notches.

Hours later, with the help of Ketut, things are drying.

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“Roof go tomorrow,” he announces as we return the furnishings to their original places. “Maybe furniture move, move.”

“The roof? Tomorrow?” I squeak.

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“Ya,” he says.

We assess the situation and I send him to buy tarps. The next morning I get up with a plan. There’s space in my extra large bathroom for the wardrobe and the chest of drawers. If I move those things out of the bedroom and arrange everything else at the far end to avoid possible future flooding from the unprotected area, the absence of a roof should matter less. I set to work. By the time Ketut comes back I’ve finished.

“Have help?” he asks, as he eyes the large, heavy wardrobe and chest now sitting in the bathroom.

“No,” I say. “I did it myself.”

“Not broken?” he asks.

“No, not me and not the furniture.” He laughs.

P1060865I change the bedding, arrange the side tables and hang a few things on the wall. Not bad. I sink into a chair and gaze at my handiwork. With the bulky items out of sight in the bathroom, the space feels larger. And it looks more like a studio apartment than a bedroom, granted a tiny studio, but the energy of it has shifted.

It’s a refuge. It contains everything I need.

Pasek says in two months the work will be finished. Yesterday two months would have sounded like twenty years. But now I have a place that feels organized and moderately clean where I can shut the door and claim private time. I’ve banished the ridiculous notion that I’m entertaining guests. Enthusiasm has resurfaced. I’ll be fine. All I need is a nook, an undisturbed corner where I can duck away to recharge my introverted batteries…a (very small) room of my own.

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