On missing the offline life

Not so long ago when introversion was all the rage, I was so quick to identify the part of me that fit the label. I took solace in every single meme that celebrated grumpy solitude, people-hating, or scoffed at the idea of getting out, meeting the world out there, taking the trouble to connect. I took way too much (more than was true, actually) pleasure happy being an island, in almost elevating the idea of never stepping out of my home to a virtuous existence. It helped that my life in Goa has become conducive to that. I had pulled back from so many people over time, there was so little stuff to distract me, I could really enjoy being home for days on end. I had convinced myself I didn’t need people.

Even now, I am mostly a homebody. I do thoroughly enjoy spending time by myself, at home, mostly quietly, doing my thing. But in the last few years, I have realised that I like the option of venturing out. I don’t like the idea of cleaving to the introvert label so much that I cut out the possibility of interacting with human beings when I feel like it. Contrary to what I said and believed in 2015-16, I actually like people. Most people, in fact. I like going out. I like doing things in groups, albeit small ones than large gatherings.

I know this about myself now: I enjoy the outdoors, I enjoy the company of people, I enjoy spending my energy outwards, as much as I like the peace and quiet of my own space and company.

I really love both. Almost equally.

And so when this lockdown began, given that the physical reality of my life was largely unchanged, it didn’t take much getting used to. Physically. Emotionally and mentally, is a different matter and the stuff of another post. But 45 days on, I just want to say I miss people.

Desperately, on some days. And this isn’t not just the lockdown blues or cabin fever talking. It’s just an outcome of having gone this far without that extra, outward interaction.

I am longing for contact, touch, real words shared in real proximity, being in spaces outside my home. I miss the tensions of dynamics, the unique energy of every interaction, the effort that it all sometimes takes, the anticipation of a meeting, the lingering satisfaction when it is done. The sharing of space, of language, of energy, of a vibe. I miss saying hi with a hug. I miss giving taplis. I miss the breakfasts, the coffees, the desserts, the favourite meals. I miss sharing cocktails.

I miss the little things. Catching glimpses of emotion when they escape — shimmery eyes, a quiver in the chin, shifty gaze, that phone that always gets in the way. I miss picking up on the unsaid things. I miss sitting across people. I miss the intimacy of that.

I’ve done umpteen video calls with friends. Long ones too — eating, drinking, sharing a doob — doing all of the same things online, that we’d do face to face in an era before all this. In that sense, I feel closer to my friends in different cities and continents because somehow in the post-Corona world we’re interacting on video a lot more than before.

I’ve taken yoga lessons on Zoom. I’ve caught umpteen events and speakers on Instagram Live. And it’s all been so great. The access that this kind of meeting has brought is honestly, staggering.

Until I think about how when it’s over and I shut the light off on that screen, I’m alone again. And that interaction somehow loses some of its sheen just like the battery it simultaneously discharges.

I was supposed to finish my family constellation course this year. In fact I was in class when the directives on social distancing were announced, putting a spoke in my last session. That was my last outing in the world. So of course we’ve moved the rest of this online too. Yesterday, 10 of us checked into a Zoom meeting. It felt good to reconnect and I’m glad for options to keep the learning going. I was excited. I was happy. But I couldn’t help but also feel like this “new normal” isn’t quite cutting it for me.

Something is missing.

And of course it is that intimacy and that something that only a life, in the flesh meeting of bodies can bring. But I don’t know if it is just that. Is it ever just about the physical?

This isn’t me being a luddite and dissing new ways of on-boarding technology. I see how much easier it has made life, I see how it has the potential to make good change happen in the world — I’m dreaming of decongested roads and lots more work life balance in Bangalore, for example, because hopefully more people are convinced about how possible it is to just stay the fuck home and get the same shit done.

So, I’m not complaining. I’m just saying I miss people.  I’m just saying that I am not all that much of an introvert I made myself to be. I’m just saying I liked my life with all the options available.

I’m just saying that even with all the increased, new ways of interacting, I feel lonely quite a bit of the time.

Four years ago: Blend

One thought on “On missing the offline life

  1. Pingback: The sweet confinement of aloneness – haathi time

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