Back when “shelter in place” edicts went into effect, I happily discarded all my group activities. When I moved here, I’d been careful to get involved so that I wouldn’t become a total hermit and stagnate in my aloneness, but pulling back came at a good time. I already knew many people, had friends to see occasionally, a small job, and neighbors to talk to over my fence.
Even though most people seem to have gone back to their normal gregarious lives, I’m still leery about doing things in groups, though I have been attending meetings for the one group I still belong to. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for the group), there have been several new members, just enough that the number of people attending makes me uncomfortable, but not enough to make me want to quit. Not that I would quit — all of the original long-standing members have become friends, and since they all have busy lives, the meeting is a good opportunity for me to visit with them. And anyway, I can generally handle anything for a couple of hours.
A lunch was added to the most recently scheduled meeting, with everyone to bring offerings to feast on before the business discussion followed by a special project, which would greatly have extended the time of being around others.
Thinking of all those people in a small room, especially since this is turning into one of the worst flu seasons in several years, and the flu season hasn’t even started, I worried about going, obsessed even. I didn’t want to take a chance on getting sick, but I also thought I should go since I seldom do anything in a group anymore. (And anyway, not everyone shows up each time, so perhaps it would have been okay.) All the dithering was driving me nuts, so I considered calling a friend and asking her to talk me into going. In the end, I decided to leave it up to the fates: if it was warm enough to finish my outside chores before it was time to get ready for the meeting, I’d go. If not, I wouldn’t.
As it turned out, despite the awful winds, I managed to water my lawn in plenty of time. Resigned, I started getting ready to go. Then I got a text: due to an emergency, the meeting was cancelled.
I laughed. Not at the emergency, of course, but at myself. All that worrying for nothing! It showed me the folly of becoming preoccupied by a situation that might not even come to pass. (Part of me wonders if all that obsessing somehow caused the emergency, which turned out to be rather minor in the end, but that, too is folly.)
So here I am again, apparently having learned nothing. The lunch and meeting have been rescheduled for next week, and I’m wondering: Should I go? It would be nice to step out of my hermitage and see friends. Should I stay away? It certainly wouldn’t be nice to be inadvertently exposed to any of the flus going around.
Go? Stay away?
When it comes time, I suppose I’ll do whatever it is that I end up doing, so there’s no real point to thinking about it before hand.
Or so I tell myself.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.
November 11, 2022 at 7:33 pm
I haven’t seem much in the way of stats yet, but anecdotally I’ve noticed significant numbers of people still apparently fearful of gatherings. That’s reasonable and understandable. Some people may feel there’s still a lingering danger from the pandemic, and especially for those who have medical issues, they may be right. In any case, it’s their choice to make.
That said, I’ve struggled with a sort of agoraphobia much of my life. Maybe in a past life I died by being trampled in a panicked crowd. Anyway, being in crowds make me really anxious. It’s not any sort of rational fear, it’s a lizard brain thing. Going through the litany of rational reasons why the fear is misplaced (risk of disease, plane crash, fire, etc.) doesn’t help much. What helps is recognizing it’s a lizard brain thing and staying focused on coping with the anxiety, so I can get on a plane or go to a show. When I was young, a crowded mall ended up in a panic attack. Now it’s uncomfortable, but I can get through it by just doing it and finding ways to keep the discomfort from being disabling.
My guess is that those of us who live alone are especially susceptible to a bona-fide reluctance to get back out there turning into the same sort of lizard-brain phobia I have. Once it gets into our lizard brain, it’s hard to get out. My lizard brain is a really slow learner.
Only you can know if it’s getting into your lizard brain. One question you might ask yourself is “if not now, when?”. Is there some objective metric where you can say you’ll be comfortable being in crowds? If not, consider the possibility that it’s getting to be a lizard-brain thing.
November 11, 2022 at 10:10 pm
It’s definitely a lizard-brain thing, and it’s always been there. I have a tendency toward claustrophobia and depression when I’m around more than a few people. And large crowds? Undoable. I’m dreadfully uncomfortable in crowds and terrified of mob scenes, and that was even before I was trampled by a mob of rabid Beatles fans.