June 28, 2020

I’ll Never be Queen of the Quarantine: the Struggles of an Extroverted Empath. 

Am I the only one who feels like they’re failing at quarantine?

I want to shop exclusively at my local food co-op. I want to do more than that half-assed, virtual, fundraiser food drive for my local food bank which I held last weekend. I want to pursue another master’s degree, work steadily on my romantic partnership, start my own small business, and beat the drum of supporting my entrepreneurial community in my small Maine city.

As a self-identified extrovert, the quarantine has been surprisingly exhausting. Back in March, I had assumed that I’d have all of this leftover energy with no gym to go to, no yoga classes to find, no sangha to attend, or social obligations to meet. What a time for personal growth, right? Boy, was I wrong.

What I’d failed to consider back in March was that I usually get much of my energy from others. Being an empath, too much of my “me-ness” comes from other people. So, this collective fear, grief, and rage seem to have seeped into the core of my being.

I’d failed to consider how much having a highly intellectual career feeds my ego (albeit easily cut, if things get dicey financially at the corporation I work for). I’d failed to consider that my anxiety disorder is easily triggered by what others project. I’d failed hardest at considering that the impacts on those closest to me would be catastrophic: my mother having been through multiple rounds of chemotherapy now in her 60s, my father in his 70s, a partner who’s self-employed, and countless friends who own and work at small businesses.

I’ve read a lot about the collective grief cycle we’re experiencing—inevitably, this has to be the end of the way things were—it’s the start of a new way of being. And as a collective organism, when things change, we humans tend to fight it—some of us harder than others (I have friends who have self-elected to continue working out of their respective company’s offices).

My ego reined supreme when my state first shut down, but I reminded myself of how I tend to thrive in times of chaos. So naturally, I’d be “queen of the quarantine,” meditating three times a day and beginning my days peacefully by mindfully sipping my coffee. Instead of rushing through a few asanas before jetting off to the office (I’d really take my time), I would dedicate at least the first 30 minutes of my day to a quiet, flowing practice. There would be no more distractions from my coworkers, so naturally I’d be at least 10 times more productive.

I shop for groceries the same way I did before, with begrudging gratitude that I am healthy and can afford what I need—only some of it coming from the co-op. My partnership is still a challenge, my fundraisers lukewarm success, my job still unfulfilling, and my own funds spread too thin to save every small business I fear is in danger of failure.

I struggle to focus during the day and to sleep through the night. Despite my slow morning practice and added meditation, I’m still my anxious, rushed self. One day at a time, I’m stepping out of self-judgement. No one should be Queen or King of the quarantine because the monarchy, the patriarchy, the very foundation of our culture is (thankfully) unravelling.

I continue to meditate every day on the concept of success. As I’ve stepped out of “should-ing” myself to death, I’ve stepped into answering the question, “How can I be the most authentic version of me, without the energy of others, and stay in the presence of gratitude for my health and the health of my loved ones? Who am I in this moment of collective chaos?”

The answers to these questions change almost daily. I’ve yet to find a tried and true formula to feel like I’m crushing it every day. But in following my intuition, sticking to my meditation, yoga, and long run practices, I’m meeting myself for the first time.

Each day I make time, even if it’s just five minutes to do whatever I want: whether it’s dancing around the house like a madwoman, connecting with nature, spending responsibly and locally at the co-op, or taking myself on a quarantine date (glass of wine on the beach, anyone?). This time of isolation has allowed me to connect with the question that used to haunt me in my pre-quarantine meditation: what do I want?

I’m taking time to myself, to read more Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, to be silly out of the judgmental eye of others, or to just cry away from the judgmental eye of others. I’m meeting myself for the first time.

While I may not emerge from this time of social isolation as the new and improved version of myself, in following my soul’s little callings and pulls each day, in doubling down on the more structured things that do make me feel collected, I know I’ll emerge from this time at least knowing who I am—which is what our culture needs.

If we all take this time to meet, know, and love ourselves, when the rest of the world comes back online we have a shot at genuinely connecting with one another.



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