By Yvonne Parrish
The directives have been received: Shelter in Place, stay home, wear a mask, wash your hands, distance yourself socially. Be safe, keep others safe.
As an introvert, this sounded like a plan I could manage. I certainly don’t want to infect anyone with anything, and I want to be safe. I have food and other necessities. I should be prepared to do whatever small thing I can to prevent the spread of this dreaded coronavirus.
The first week of this confinement, I discovered that I shouldn’t share a cup of tea and visit with my neighbor. My daughter reminded me that people I love weren’t immune to the virus. Then I discovered that my good supply of food had to be prepared, cooked, which meant pots and pans and leftovers.
Churches were closed, hair salons were closed, gyms were closed, theatres were closed.
Gradually I began to realize that thinking I was an introvert didn’t help when I found that one of the most cherished privileges I have as an introvert or extrovert is my relationship with people, my community, which is best expressed face to face, smile to smile.
Nevertheless, I remained ready to honor the prescribed guidelines, and have tried to find ways to adapt to this change in my routine.
My first plan was yard work. With all the rain, the weeds are growing as fast as the flowers are blooming. I soon remembered that I really dislike yard work. There are bugs out there and they bite. And, there was a snake. I don’t like snakes.
Then I remembered the many times I have said, “As soon as I have time I will clear out those storage boxes.” This was now that “as soon as I have time” moment. I started with the first box (there are many).
In this box were treasures. I lived 46 years in California before returning to Georgia.
My Mother, sister, aunts, uncles and friends had all written me letters. Keeping these letters was necessary for the days of homesickness when nothing would satisfy except to read that “five quarts of peas had been frozen that day and the temperature was very hot.” To throw out, destroy these precious memories without first rereading every word was unthinkable. This took several days, but with stiff joints from sitting so long and nothing thawed for dinner the job was done. I kept only the newsy ones.
The next box contained my postcard collection. Over the years as we traveled, I would note on a scenic postcard the “who, where, why, when” of the trip and keep it as a record of our vacation. Then friends realized what I was doing and they began sending me postcards from their travels.
My collection grew, from one album to several, and finally the box. I couldn’t just throw these in the trash without reminiscing about the good times we had enjoyed. These were gifts from my past after all. I found an old postcard from an inn along the coast of Oregon called Tu Tu Tun Lodge, situated on a river, with its own dining room, and common room with books and board games. Could you throw that out? After many chuckles, some tears and lots of regret these, too, followed the letters to the trash. This has been a lengthy and tiring job.
And, it probably sounds trivial in the midst of a time when there is so much illness and death. And, a time when we are having our activities and relationships disrupted so severely.
So, in this crisis there has also been time to be quiet and think about what I really believe and to remember that my relationship with God is real and has not been disrupted. I can rejoice.
There has also been time to think about my family and friends. Kept from personal visits, it has been possible to visit through available technology. I have enjoyed many FaceTime and Zoom visits with my children and grandchildren. Not as good as up close, but I’m thankful for these “distanced” visits.
I have been encouraged by phone calls and e-mails from friends, ministered to spiritually by live streaming from my church, and joined in prayer for those who are sick, unemployed or hurting in this time of crisis.
I have had time for walks in our neighborhood, watched the wild flowers bloom along the roadway and to appreciate the willingness of friends and neighbors to offer help when needed.
Even for an introvert, loneliness sometimes encroaches like a little dark cloud overhead, and I long for a visit with my family and friends face to face, to go to a ballgame, to sit in church and worship together, to sit on the porch and talk with neighbors.
I think it isn’t wrong to long for these times together, but would be wrong to rush back into our former routine out of discontent.
My hope is to remain content, believing we will persevere in the relationships that encourage and strengthen us as we wait for a safe return to the activities we enjoy.
Yvonne Parrish, a graduate of Georgia Southern College, is a widow with two children and two grandchildren, who has lived in Madison since 2008.