Wings Under Your Sweatshirt: Why We Won’t Ever Wear Business Suits Again
Came across a wonderfully comforting word today.
As many of you know, I call myself a learned extrovert, which is my way of explaining the gulf between my work self, who runs McDay, moderates panel discussions, mans Zoom calls like a maniac, —- and my private self, who loves books, jogs: alone, takes baths to relax and generally recovers from the workday by craving alone time. Classic definition of an introvert.
And during this time, now almost exactly a year since the first case of COVID was diagnosed here in the U.S., I am going to say it: introverts have had an easier time.
Wow, did I really just say that? Can anyone be said to have had an easier time? Am I breaking an unspoken code just by using that word “easy”?
Everyone has felt the pain of loss from this terrible pandemic. But today I am focused on talking about those of us lucky enough to still be free of the virus, and without young children or elderly parents at home (a truly unprecedented situation and one I simply cannot imagine dealing with, having raised four children who actually went to school every day!) – what a novel thought in today’s world!
Yes, it may be time for those of us who have felt healing from this abundance of quiet time, to come out of the closet.
Since we introverts get our energy from time away, time alone, time outside, and quiet time, it just makes sense that we would settle in and even thrive during this enforced time alone. Some of my true extrovert friends are suffering, truly, from sensory deprivation. They thrive on the energy of being around people, literally absorbing a crowd’s energy into their bloodstream and feel so much better after a night out, or a conference room full of people talking over each other. This lack of people is shriveling them up, inside and out, and it is getting worse lately – it has really been such a long, long time.
As an introvert and eight-hour Zoomer (eight straight hours on Zoom calls is not atypical these days for me), I was starting to wonder about all the time home, alone and why I wasn’t complaining when so many colleagues were complaining about not getting out. Maybe complaining was just a way to connect – but it wasn’t connecting with me, at all and I felt unable to explain that as the weeks went on, that I was feeling, well, increasingly content….
What was happening? Introverts are scientifically different than extroverts, thanks to two neurotransmitters that exist in both extroverts and introverts, dopamine and acetylcholine. They exist, but work differently, in both types of brains. Check out this article by Susan Cain.
So, while initially I felt badly about loving these long hours of contemplation time, where I could write more fluidly (it is my job, after all so that was a great thing), and plan for my business more creatively, I was still struggling for a way to explain this zen-like calm, to others.
Today, I have found the perfect word: cocooning.
Not hibernation, but cocooning.
As soon as I saw the word, I knew that was what this unprecedented time was all about. For me.
Healing. Growing. Evolving.
After so many years (nearly 40 now) of working and traveling and pushing the boundaries as a female engineer in a (back then) man’s world and believing the 80s edict that we can “have it all,” I believe that I am finally healing, and I have this cocoon-time to thank.
I have actually slowed down long enough to realize that it is OK that the edicts of the 80s weren’t true.
And that I tried anyway.
I believed we could have it all, and that probably helped push me in ways that were positive, too. But you cannot have it all. At least you can’t have four children and a big job, travel, commute, cook meals, stay with your hobbies – and stay healthy or sane.
But try I did, and it was exhausting every single day.
And that pace doesn’t evaporate in minutes, or hours or even days. It has taken me months to begin recovery.
I was initially blissfully happy to not be commuting an hour each way into Philadelphia, and walking the dogs at 8 am instead, truly stunned by not being in a car. Not setting an alarm. Not rushing everywhere, while drying my hair, putting on makeup (and then putting on makeup again for those inevitable night meetings). Driving 80 mph to get home before daycare closed at 6 pm or to make a soccer game, or a play practice pick-up. Having bosses who emailed you (probably because their workday was just as nuts) at 10 pm and expected answers in the morning. Traveling all over the world. Cooking and reading stories to four children, over a span of twenty years….
It was just a lot, and it went on for a long time.
I really needed this extended period of time. Time I probably never would have granted myself.
So, I reach out to others who may be feeling some of the same emotions. Who, having spent some time observing the past, seeing the patterns, and forgiving yourself all the mistakes, recognize that you wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t for “there.”
“There” took its toll. And now it is time to heal, breathe and relax deeper into your soul, where the truth lies. Where I realize it is all OK.
After all, this horrible year needs to have coughed up some gifts and maybe cocooning is one of them.
With cocooning, you see, there come images of having wings to fly, once you emerge again.
See you soon, my friends. You will not notice anything different unless you check out my new wings, tucked under my sweatshirt (because I am never wearing a business suit again).