The Times, They Are a-Changin’ (or Are They?)

Does anyone else feel like the last week took a month to pass? It was my first full week of adapting to the new reality we find ourselves in. Two Fridays ago, my company ordered everyone who could work from home to do so until further notice. On Monday, the county I live in issued an order (and then a revised order) restricting private and public gatherings, and then the state of California issued a “stay at home” order effective beginning Thursday until further notice.

It’s been stressful and surreal to experience so many changes in such a short time. No surprise that my anxiety was high and focusing on work became more difficult every day. Finally, on Friday, a mindset shift and a trip to my dad’s apartment helped me release some of the tension.

I had to look at my calendar to remind myself that I actually had a dance lesson this past week. I danced with both my teacher and my amateur partner on Monday evening (in between a lot of hand washing). It’s odd how the perception of time changes when a lot of new/unusual events happen in a short period. I feel like I haven’t seen my respective dance partners in months!

Last week, I shared ideas for keeping up your dance training while the studios are closed and we’re all doing our part to slow the spread of the virus by staying home. The Practice Ballroom Dance shop is still open and shipping orders, if you need a journal or the Solo Practice Guide.

This week, I wanted to share some general thoughts about how Life is changing, or maybe not so much for some of us. I mentioned that my anxiety was high this past week. Plenty was contributing to it. The continuous news reports about more people getting sick every day. The empty shelves in the grocery stores and knowing I only had one roll of toilet paper left. The feeling of being trapped at home, even though staying home cozy with my fur babies is a very typical weekend for me. Not knowing when my next dance lesson would be.

About midweek, I stopped watching the news and reading reports online. On Friday, I went “shopping” at my dad’s apartment. He was out of town and had just stocked up on toilet paper, so he said I was free to stop by and grab what I needed. I have to admit, just bringing home a small pack of TP lifted a weight off my shoulders. I realized it was also a small example of an underlying anxiety trigger.

I realized that I was feeling pressure to act in opposing ways. Take the toilet paper example. There was pressure to stay home and not go out in public. Cool, no problem for me. I’m an introvert. I don’t like being out and about among the general public anyway.

But I was unable to order things like toilet paper online because of people panic buying supplies. Websites like Target, Walmart, CVS, etc. listed TP as out of stock or “in store only.” So if I didn’t want to run out of supplies, I would not only be forced to go out in public, I would have to spend even more time than usual out shopping because stores were sold out. Last weekend, I must have gone to almost 10 stores and all of them were sold out of basics like toilet paper.

Thankfully, I’m comfortably stocked up now thanks to my dad and me buying a bag of pasta here and some frozen vegetables there as I went from store to store.

This next example may sound odd, but please keep in mind that 1) I am very much an introvert, which means social interaction takes energy and quiet time alone replenishes it, 2) I am still working full-time for the day job, just at home instead of the office, and 3) The Girl with the Tree Tattoo brand was already a primarily online brand before the virus started wreaking havoc.

Where I realized I was also feeling opposing pressures was in the mixed messages to stay socially distant and stay connected. It’s been amazing to see how many people in the fitness, dance, and other arts communities have shown up online to help keep people connected instead of feeling isolated. There have been countless online classes, shows and other events popping up every day.

There also seemed to be an assumption that the orders to stay at home meant everyone suddenly had nothing to do. I do realize that many people are coping with lost work or kids not in school. I thought it was really cool to see that places like museums and libraries were expanding their online content to help parents keep their kids engaged and learning while at home.

But aside from no dance lessons, my schedule hasn’t changed much. I still get up at 5am and work (at my kitchen table) from 7 to 4 Monday through Friday. I still fulfill book orders and keep the blog and social media pages updated for The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. I still walk my dogs and try to fit in a workout or two. I’m still going to do my solo practice today because it’s Sunday.

I don’t find myself with a sudden abundance of free time, and yet I felt pressure to show up more and do more online because of the persistent urge to “stay connected” while we’re “stuck” at home.

Of course, I’m one of the lucky ones who can easily work from home, at least until my work runs out. I realized on Friday because we’re all in this together, I was letting myself get swept up in what everyone else seemed to be doing to cope, whether or not that was the best thing for me. I need quiet time when I’m stressed or anxious. Perhaps a conversation with a good friend here and there. A glass of wine and a good movie with my fur babies. Those things help me process and cope with the new, ever-changing reality we’re facing.

Showing up live constantly on social media does not help me. It’s the same as showing up in person. It takes energy, it doesn’t replenish it. I think the push to stay connected online and not isolate is more aimed at extroverts, who may struggle with the prospect of staying home for the foreseeable future. What is being perceived as “social isolation” is my typical weekend at home.

So I decided on Friday to check out this weekend. Over Friday and Saturday, I limited my time on social media, didn’t watch any news, and instead pulled out my extended versions of The Lord of the Rings movies (a good 12+ hours of film). I even gave myself permission to delay this week’s blog post if I didn’t feel up to it. Obviously, the movies helped because here I am.

Times like these tend to bring out our true natures, for better or worse. You find out how well people cope with stress and what their coping mechanisms are, such as denial, humor, data gathering, or service to others. Now is a real-life scenario of the philosophical debate of doing good for the individual versus the community. We are being asked to serve our greater communities, from our local town to the entire world, by limiting or even sacrificing our individual needs and desires for the greater good and for an unknown period of time.

When I finally realized that I was an introvert trying to apply extrovert coping mechanisms, the anxiety started to ease. Honestly, introverts were built for crises like this pandemic. Stay home? I already do. Have things delivered instead of going out? Yes please!

This pandemic is new, but that doesn’t mean we need to change our ways of coping with the stress. Our old ways will work just fine. If they included in-person interaction, then they just need to be tweaked a bit. We have amazing technology that allows us to interact with people live without physically being together. So if you’re extroverted and feeling like the walls are starting to close in, host a virtual happy hour or dance party on Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc., etc. These video-conferencing applications are free and easy to use.

If you’re introverted like me, then you probably don’t need to change anything. You are serving your community by just doing what you normally do. If that means turning off the media and watching a movie with your pups, awesome. You don’t have to be connected to everyone online all of the time now just because you can’t connect with them in person.

For those dancers dealing with additional pressures like loss of income, my heart goes out to you. Which is nice, but I know that doesn’t really help you so… I also want to encourage you, after you’ve given yourself some time to process this loss, to get creative! Private lessons, group classes and workshops can all be done online. Other industries have been doing it for years, so there is no reason that dancers can’t do it too. Heck, you’ve seen me build an online ballroom brand! You are artists, which means you are only limited by your imagination.

I also have opportunities for working dancers and other artists through The Girl with the Tree Tattoo, so please contact me if you’d like more information.

Happy and healthy dancing!

3 thoughts on “The Times, They Are a-Changin’ (or Are They?)

  1. Mary Swann says:

    I loved this post Katie! I’m also an introvert and live alone, so this is normal for me, but I have to guard against laziness and obsessing over the news! I get distracted and waste so much time! No dance lessons today which is my main social outlet and my life centers around it, but lots of time for solo practice and I try to connect with at least one person each day. Thank you for your encouragement and for the Solo Practice Guide. I’ve used it for several years for reminders and to create practice plans. You really helped me structure my practice time and work better with my teacher. I’m sure he’s grateful too!

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