Thinking Aloud

Non-grumpy thoughts about stuff other than writing and gardening.

Expression and creativity in a world without a soul

Here is an inspiring post from writer, photographer, and observer of nature, Michael Graeme. His blog is always worth a visit!
Leave comments on the original post, please.

The Rivendale Review

The arts put man at the centre of the universe, whether he belongs there or not. Military science, on the other hand, treats man as garbage – and his children, and his cities, too. Military science is probably right about the contemptibility of man in the vastness of the universe. Still – I deny that contemptibility, and I beg you to deny it, through the creation of appreciation of art.”

Kurt Vonnegut -1970

Unless you’re already some sort of celebrity, it’s a well established fact the arts are no way to make a living. But what they do for the ordinary Joe and Joanna, is make living meaningful, or even just bearable. It brings each of us back to the centre of our universe. It may be there is nothing to life and death, nor anything beyond it, and all our stories to the contrary are wishful thinking. But…

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Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale. closeup of flower

I Ask Of You A Difficult Task

We can all use more hope these days. Please read the poem presented in RJ Llewellyn’s blog, and the thoughts it inspired.

Writing Despite Computers and Programmes

Truth be known. Some might think this as two tasks. Some might feel the source material and sentiments are not appropriate. Stay with me though.

Firstly I would ask you to read the following Russian (there’s the current trigger word) WWII poem by writer and war correspondent Konstantin Simonov, written in 1941 to actress Velentina Serova. The moving work was carried by many USSR soldiers, wrapped with a picture of their wife or girlfriend, it became an unofficial icon, a means of coping, a hope the bearer would survive.

Wait for Me

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait with all you’ve got!
Wait, when dreary yellow rains
Tell you, you should not.
Wait when snow is falling fast,
Wait when summer’s hot,
Wait when yesterdays are past,
Others are forgot.
Wait, when from that far-off place,
Letters don’t arrive.
Wait, when those with whom you wait

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Today It Is Ukraine. Yesterday It Was Elsewhere. Tomorrow? This Never Rests.

Here are thoughts worth reading from RJ Llewellyn, about the war in Ukraine, and other wars in other places.

Writing Despite Computers and Programmes

Where do we begin? How do we explain?

24th February 2022. Another Date To Remember….So many events, actions and commentaries since the day Putin and his court decided to take the next step in their endeavours to bring The Ukraine back under Kremlin control. The avalanche into the medias has been such that I literally had to check the start date. It was as if Time measured in days had ceased to be a relevant method of recording, all that counted was The Narrative, every daily action is affected by The Narrative, even Sunrise and Sunset are but part of the backdrop. So many folk are asking ‘How could this happen?’ Understandable.

Under the lens of the seemingly disturbing and dispassionate study of International Relations’ Realism theories what is happening in the Ukraine is predictable, almost inexorable. However this is not the arena to be bandying terms such as ‘Anarchic…

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card catalogue drawers

Being a Cataloguer

Have you ever lost a book in your house? And, while looking for it, been surprised to find one you don’t remember buying (or borrowing)?

Imagine how hard it is to keep track of thousands of books distributed among multiple buildings and available to be borrowed by thousands of people. That’s the situation in libraries, especially large public libraries and those that are part of colleges and universities.

In past centuries, when books were owned by the privileged few, it was possible to keep track by means of handwritten lists and users’ knowledge of their collections. But with the proliferation of printed books, increased literacy, and the growth of universities, something flexible and expandable was needed.

Card-based book inventories emerged at the end of the 18th century. Rumour has it that in France, playing cards, whose backs were blank at the time, were pressed into service to keep track of book collections. A book’s particulars were written on the blank side of a card, and the cards filed in order. But the real development and standardization of the card catalogue happened in the United States. By the end of the 19th century, wooden cabinets with hundreds of cute little drawers full of 3 x 5-inch cards (familiar to most people of a certain age) were seen in just about all libraries, big and small.

Someone had to create, file, and organize those cards. Enter the cataloguer.

During the Golden Age of Cataloguing (defined by me to be more or less 1900 to 1980), just about all libraries of any size had cataloguing departments, employing anywhere from one person who did it all to dozens, working behind the scenes, largely unseen by and unknown to library users. Every book passed through that department, emerging with a spine label that was in effect its address in the library. And into those drawers went 3 x 5-inch cards bearing a distillation of each book’s essence: author, title, edition, publisher, place and date of publication. Number of pages and height. Series. Presence of bibliography and/or index. Subjects. Co-authors, editors, and illustrators. The ISBN and other identifying numbers.

Elaborate rules were devised for recording and presenting all this information in a systematic way. Devised, revised, and occasionally re-devised. In North America, half a dozen cataloguing codes were created during that century. I entered the profession when one of them, the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, second edition (AACR2) was adopted. Coincidentally, it was replaced by a new code not long before I retired.

In the 1960s, computers entered the picture and the whole thing was automated, by means of something called MAchine Readable Cataloging, aka “MARC Format.” Complex computer systems were created to use the data, first to print catalogue cards, and later for the online public catalogues still in use today. A whole new jargon and set of acronyms resulted. Real cataloguers “spoke MARC,” as in, “That goes in the 490, not the 245 p. The indicator is 1, so you need an 800, with the name from the 100 in ‘a’ and the title in ‘t.'” Translation: “That’s a series statement, not part of the title. It’s indexed, so add an author-title entry for it.” (Yeah, I know, that’s jargon too.) MARC Format was like a secret handshake among members of an occult society.

This was the milieu in which I spent my entire career as a librarian (1980 to 2016), at first in an environment cluttered with electric erasers, coding sheets, and coloured markers flagging new cards whose filing had to be checked. There was a never-seen-by-the-public master card catalogue called the “shelflist.” Books were adorned with an array of labels, stickers, coloured dots and spots. Passionate discussions, even arguments, occurred among cataloguers, about rule interpretations and minutiae of data. In the 1980s, the high discipline of Authority Control emerged–in effect, cataloguing the names of persons, things, and subjects, and creating a system of links among them.

Cataloguing was the perfect calling for a detail-oriented introvert with a fixation on order and organization.

Our mission was to apply and interpret the rules to create a map of our library’s collection, to help users find exactly what they needed, whether they were writing a thesis or looking for a good read. To create a catalogue record for a published work, the cataloguer must grasp the author’s intent, the information provided by the publisher, the needs of library users, and the rules and conventions of cataloguing. And sometimes the thing being catalogued is in a language of which the cataloguer has only the sketchiest knowledge.

Unfortunately, all this wasn’t always valued by managers and administrators. In fact, it often seemed they were our worst enemies, even our librarian colleagues. A whole department of behind-the-scenes specialists who spoke in arcane jargon and held books hostage until they had been subjected to obscure rituals? Bean-counting administrators focussed beady eyes on us as an unaffordable “cost centre.” We cataloguers became defensive, and resented having to justify our existence to people who refused to appreciate the value of our art. (And some of us secretly dreaded the prospect of being plucked from our cozy enclaves and thrust into contact with The Public.)

As the 20th century sputtered out, so did card catalogues. All those wooden cabinets were sold to people who thought they looked cool and retro, and were perfect for storing small collectibles. Library catalogues moved online, and there were calls for the death of the MARC Format, which was, after all, nearly 50 years old, like so many of the cataloguers who knew and loved it.

The Golden Age is over, but cataloguing hasn’t disappeared. Books and other intellectual creations still need to be organized, searched for, and cited. A giant entity called WorldCat has swallowed almost all the individual catalogues. Many libraries have disbanded their cataloguing departments and outsourced the work. Now we have something called “metadata,” a term familiar to self-published authors. Some (rather odd) people catalogue their personal book collections on Library Thing. As “search” enters a new era, many of those minutiae-worshipping, MARC-talking cataloguers have retired. Some of them are writing and publishing novels.

The narrator of my novel, The Friendship of Mortals, a guy named Charles Milburn, is a cataloguer at Miskatonic University in Arkham, at the beginning of the 20th century. The demands of the plot limit his opportunities to hold forth about his profession, but for those who are curious about it, there is a pretty good article in Wikipedia. Look under “Cataloging.” There’s also an interesting blog post about card catalogues from the US National Library of Medicine: Card Tricks: The Decline & Fall of a Bibliographic Tool.

It’s possible to catalogue anything. A former colleague told me he had catalogued a dustball, with smaller dustballs as supplements. When I retired, my staff made a spoof catalogue record for me. Here it is, in glorious MARC Format. That’s what all those numbers and lowercase letters are. Cataloguers know what they mean; others don’t need to. (Apologies for the reflections from the laminated paper.)

Fake catalogue record for Audrey Driscoll in MARC Format
Click on the image and zoom it up to read!

Featured image from Pexels

Page from weather record book December 2021

Weather Anxiety

I am a weather nerd. I follow weather obsessively online, via forecasts, satellite and radar, a network of local observations, and meteorologists’ technical discussions. For the past several decades, I have recorded high and low temperatures, cloud types, approximate wind strength and direction, and precipitation every day. I know how weather works in my region. Until this year.

All day it has been windy. The trees are in full leaf now, and their branches toss and sway, throwing off twigs, leaves, and green unripe keys (maple seeds). Siberian irises just coming into bloom shimmy and shake, but one stem of a tall bearded variety (white with purple edges) bows down to the ground. The gardener hustles over, makes sure the stem is only bent and not broken, and administers first aid with a bamboo stake and a couple of ties.

An evening around the time of the summer solstice. There is no wind; the air is absolutely still and perfumed by a thousand rose flowers in bloom. Plants stand in their characteristic shapes, their leaves precisely angled to stems and stalks, each one with its own version of the colour green. The sun has slipped out of sight, but its light gilds the scene with perfection. The gardener stands and stares, a cluster of deadheads in one hand, secateurs in the other. As dusk softly advances, the garden becomes a place in which a mystery is about to be revealed.

I wrote these two paragraphs last May, back when local weather was what is generally termed “normal.” I think I intended them to be part of a blog post about weather from a gardener’s point of view. Then at the end of June came the “heat dome,” four days of abnormally hot temperatures. All kinds of records were shattered, 600 people died in the province of British Columbia, and a small town in the interior was pretty much destroyed by fire on a day when the local temperature topped out at nearly 50 degrees C.

Weird light at sunset. Orange light due to wildfire smoke.
Weird orange sunlight because of smoke from forest fires in the BC interior, 2018

Autumn came, a time that is usually benign and associated with harvest and plenty. Not this year in BC. After a dust-dry summer, copious rain in September and October quickly saturated soils. A succession of “atmospheric river” rainstorms arrived at the end of October and into November and brought catastrophic flooding to several communities. And I really mean catastrophic–homes destroyed, farm animals drowned, lives disrupted. Between fires and floods, thousands of people in this province were forced from their homes in 2021, some permanently.

There was a small tornado–in November, in Vancouver, BC! Nothing like the truly devastating tornados in the US in December, but both of those events were unusual and suggest that fundamental change is happening. Almost every week since June, weather in western Canada has been described as “extreme,” “record-breaking,” or “unprecedented.” Including extreme cold during the week between Christmas and the new year.

I spent an hour on Christmas day moving potted pelargoniums (tender geraniums) and the garden hose into the house, because three nights of -8 or -9 degrees C (16 to 18F) were predicted. The average low temperature at this time of year is 1C (34F). On Boxing Day, the temperature did not exceed -5C (23F), and that night my max-min thermometer recorded -10C (14F). All day, I was busy rotating hummingbird feeders in and out of the house as the liquid inside began to freeze. At first I tried a trick I saw on the internet: wrapping a string of incandescent Christmas lights around the feeder. It looked pretty, and one hummingbird even visited, after he got over his nervousness, but unfortunately the lights didn’t produce enough heat. I resorted to buying a third feeder so I always had one in the house to swap out with a freezing one outside. Sadly, I suspect some hummingbirds–females or juveniles–may have perished.

Hummingbird feeder with Christmas lights December 2021
Not the best photo, but it shows the Christmas light setup and a hummingbird visiting the feeder. Too bad the lights didn’t produce enough heat.

A short period of below normal cold isn’t unusual in the course of a winter, but it usually happens in January or February, not December. Same with the occasional summer heat wave–in July or August, not June. I can’t help thinking that this period of extreme cold right after the winter solstice somehow corresponds to the abnormal heat which arrived right after the summer solstice.

Right here, right now, the weather is out of whack. It’s tempting to attribute this to climate change, rather than to normal ups and downs. Against reason, I’m hoping this has just been a year of anomalous weather for western Canada, but three anomalies in the same year indicates something more fundamental. Governments and power companies now advise everyone to put together emergency kits in case of extensive power outages or evacuation orders. (Of course, we who live on the west coast are supposed to have such kits already, in anticipation of the Big One.)

Whatever the cause, I’m now experiencing weather anxiety, even though I haven’t been affected in any serious way (yet). When sounds of rain and wind wake me at night, I get up and doom-scroll check radars and satellites on whatever device is handy. Earplugs are now standard sleeping equipment. Normal isn’t normal any more. The past can no longer predict the future. Scanning my decades of weather observations tells me only about weather of the before times. The extremes of yesterday may be the normals of tomorrow.

Weather record books

Or maybe this is only a blip (well, three blips)? Take the Blizzard of 1996, for example. A metre and a half of snow fell on Victoria, BC over several days in late December, with a grand finale that buried cars and brought the city to a standstill for a week. It was one of those extreme, record-breaking, unprecedented weather events. But nothing like it has happened in the quarter-century since. So, climate change notwithstanding, I hope 2021 has just been a year of freakish weather in my part of the world, and we can return to blissfully boring in the near future. Recognizing, of course, that for some folks in the towns of Lytton, Merritt, Princeton, and in the Fraser Valley, the road back to normal may be long and hard, no matter what the weather.

pocket watch and book

Falling Back, Staying Put, or…?

Early this Sunday morning, clocks in most places in North America fell back by one hour, to Standard Time. (Okay, so a whole lot of smart phones jumped the gun, so to speak, a week early. Maybe courtesy of a Halloween gremlin?)

Falling back and springing forward has been happening for decades. The idea was to save energy. Or to lengthen summer evenings and not have the crack of dawn arrive at 4 a.m. Until recently, the change happened every 6 months, but “since 2007, in areas of Canada and the United States of America in which it is used, daylight saving time begins on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November.” (So says Wikipedia.)

As you read this, keep in mind that the tilt of the Earth relative to the Sun, and the consequent changes in day length in different places, is real and unchangeable (at least by us humans). Clock time, on the other hand, is a human construct. Until the past couple of centuries, humans managed their sleeping and waking by the sun. Now most of us are governed by clocks and artificial light.

For the past decade or so, there has been a lot of grumbling about the semiannual clock change, especially in spring, when suddenly you’re late or sleep deprived, or both. Serious proposals have been made to just stop this nonsense already. The province of British Columbia and a handful of US western states were working out a plan for permanent Daylight Saving Time just before the Covid pandemic began. The rationale was, we’re on DST for 8 months of the year already; why not just keep it year round? Like many other things, the plan was derailed by the virus.

One Canadian jurisdiction, the Yukon Territory, actually changed to permanent DST in 2020. I haven’t been able to find out how that went for people who live there, but a proposition for permanent DST was recently voted down by a narrow margin in the province of Alberta. This article addressed some of the pros and cons.

Recently, I’ve heard and read arguments against permanent DST and in favour of permanent Standard Time. Experts on sleep (not cats, but people who study sleep scientifically) say that year round DST would diverge too much from the natural sleep-wake cycle baked into our physiology. Especially in northern latitudes, sunrise in winter would happen as late as 10 a.m., which would mess us up as much as the twice a year clock change, only the effect would be of longer duration. So we’d experience more grumpiness, accidents, heart attacks, etc.

It seems that morning light has all kinds of benefits, both mental and physical. Forcing people to get up and out while their brain and body think they should still be asleep has bad effects such as depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and even obesity. Standard Time synchs clocks with sunrise better than Daylight Time would if the latter were maintained in winter. The later sunrises and lingering evenings of Daylight Time in summer are not shown to have those fundamental benefits.

These arguments do make sense to me, now that I’ve heard them expressed by different experts and thought about them for a while. To be truthful, the clock changes didn’t bother me that much when I was working, but then I’m lucky to have few problems getting to sleep and staying that way for at least 7 hours. And now that I’m retired, being on time isn’t as important. I lived in the province of Saskatchewan for twelve years (1980 to 1992), where permanent Standard Time is in place, with no plans to change, as far as I know. The only inconvenience there was figuring out what time it was in other places before making a phone call.

What do you think of the semiannual clock change? Are you okay with “Spring forward, fall back,” or do you want it done away with?

And here are a few garden sights from October…

Featured image from Pixabay

Rubber plant left outside by shed, 2021

Dead Plant Growing

This rubber plant (Ficus elastica) is on Death Row. It was there all summer, but didn’t know it. The plant thought it was on a holiday, but nights are cooler now. In a month or two, there will be a clear night with frost, and the rubber plant will die.

Rubber plant left outside by shed, 2021
Doomed rubber plant awaiting a killing frost.

The plant has a history. It is a clone (via many cuttings and air layering) of one acquired by my mother at least sixty years ago, maybe more. Every house she lived in (and my parents moved a lot) had a rubber tree in the living room. Mom liked the leaves, which could grow to two feet long while remaining relatively narrow. Maybe that’s why she put up with the plant’s growth habit in suboptimal conditions–a single stem that eventually threatened to scrape the ceiling, or acquired an ungainly lean. At that point it would be decapitated, and the cut off piece would be rooted to make a new plant. Meanwhile, the original put out a branch at right angles to the stem, which made it look like a gibbet with leaves.

Rubber plants grown in their preferred conditions look much better. (Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com)

Eventually, Mom got rid of her rubber tree. By that time she lived in a small apartment and had also acquired a fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), which she liked better than the rubber plant. It certainly looked better. But by then I also had a clone of the rubber plant. It wasn’t welcome in our living room, which at the time hosted two big weeping figs (Ficus benjamina), so it was relegated to what became my writing room in the basement. It’s a low-ceilinged room, and while it’s south-facing, there really isn’t enough sun for the rubber plant. So said plant ended up looking like a gibbet for gnomes. Mind you, it was present while I wrote my first novel and several others.

My mother died in October of 2018. Although I was tired of the rubber plant, which was not doing well, I felt obliged to keep it going in her memory. By this summer, the plant really was a thing of ugly. I decided that rather than watch its slow decline, I would put it outside and let the first frost kill it decisively.

Of course, with more light and lots of summer heat, the rubber plant grew new leaves, which reminded me why my mom liked the plant in the first place. But its proportions haven’t improved; if anything, the extra foliage has made it even more of a hulking mess. It wouldn’t be easy to find a spot for it in its old quarters, and it would likely go into a decline again over the winter. So it’s now on Death Row.

As a gardener, I feel a certain amount of guilt about this. If the rubber plant were a cat or dog that just happened to look old and scruffy, I wouldn’t be planning its demise, would I? On the other hand, gardeners rip out and kill healthy weeds without compunction. Maybe it’s because this is a house plant, and of course there’s that connection with my mother.

I thought about propagating a new plant. Unlike animals, plants are sort of immortal in that new clones can be created through cuttings or tissue cultures. The best way to make a new rubber plant is a technique called air layering. You cut partway through a branch and wrap the cut area with sphagnum moss, making sure to keep the cut open. Wrap plastic around the moss and stem and keep the moss damp. Roots grow in several weeks, at which point the new plant may be removed and potted up. My current plant was produced this way, and its predecessor dispatched. I blogged about that HERE.

The trouble is that under the same suboptimal growing conditions that produced ugly specimens before, a new rubber plant would be no different. Watching my various rubber plants looking less than beautiful was not a happy experience, so I’ve decided it’s time to bid Ficus elastica a fond farewell.

To making mistakes

Here is some good advice from Neil Gaiman via the Parmigiana Whisperer. Writers hung up on rules, take note!

THE PARMIGIANA WHISPERER

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” – Neil Gaiman

Happy 2021 everybody! Here’s to some fantastic mistakes!

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Hubby Buns May 2020

Pandemic Ponderings

Because I’m retired and living in fortunate circumstances, I haven’t been directly affected by the pandemic. The worst effect has been the weekly grocery shop and having to cancel a week long holiday planned for the end of March. Boo-hoo.

But reading and hearing about what’s happening in the rest of the country and around the world has made me think about things. For what it’s worth, here are some of those thoughts…

  • The speed and magnitude of the lockdowns, quarantines, closures, and other measures was amazing. Maybe this will show us how to change in order to slow climate change, which is potentially a bigger threat than Covid-19.
  • The pandemic has held up a mirror to our values. In Canada, and maybe other countries, the most severe outbreaks have been in long term care homes, prisons, and meat plants. Quite different situations, but with some things in common — people in close quarters and/or workers who are poorly paid. Care home workers are kept to part time by their for-profit employers and therefore must work in more than one facility to make a decent living. Meat plant workers live in crowded conditions because they can’t afford better accommodation. Guess what happens.
  • Grocery shopping has become an improvisational absurdist play. People wearing masks dart around following arrows on the floor. If they meet someone else in an aisle, they recoil in horror, but can’t turn around without going in the wrong direction.
  • Every evening at 7 p.m., I grab whatever pot is in the dish drainer and a wooden spoon. I go out on my back porch and bang the spoon against the pot for several seconds. Then I do the same thing on the front porch. A cacophony of jingling, rapping, and banging resounds through the neighbourhood. No howling, although sometimes I hear a dog barking along. It feels like the right thing to do, but from another angle, it’s absurd.
  • Before the pandemic, most people were using reusable shopping bags. Now those bags are forbidden. Most stores here supply paper or single-use plastic bags. Paper bags are way less functional because they lack handles and get soggy if wet. But at least they really are biodegradable.
  • Vast amounts of PPE (personal protective equipment) are being used and discarded worldwide. Much of that stuff contains plastic. I don’t know how it’s disposed of, but I think incineration would be the best way, especially if it could generate energy. But I suspect the stuff gets landfilled, along with all the single-use plastic bags everyone’s using again. Masks have been washing up on beaches. Not good. On the other hand, fossil fuel consumption is way down.
  • When I read or write fiction now, I have to keep reminding myself it’s okay for those fictitious characters to go out and get close to one another.
  • I keep hearing that people are dreaming more. Some think this is Mother Nature sending us messages. I think it’s because people who are working from home or no longer working don’t have to hit the ground running any more. They can wake up slowly, which means they remember their dreams. Dreams are slippery things, quickly lost in the transition from sleep to waking.
  • Opening things up will be more complicated than shutting down was. By now, the people in charge may be getting decision fatigue. Let’s hope they don’t mess up.
  • The role of the car is being questioned. Does commuting make sense any more? Will people keep working from home, at least part of the time?
  • Even after restaurants, gyms, and spas reopen, are people really going to rush out and patronize them? Some may prefer to wait for the vaccine. Many of these businesses may disappear forever.
  • What if there is no vaccine, though? We may return to the situation that prevailed when “the plague” was an ever-present threat, like war and famine. (Or flood and fire.) In any case, there will be other viruses and therefore other pandemics.
  • Wearing masks when you have any kind of respiratory illness will become a normal practice. Designer fashion masks are probably available already.
  • On September 11th, 2001, when I arrived at work and heard that both the World Trade Center towers had collapsed, the first thing I thought was This will change the world. What’s happening now will change it even more.
  • People in the future will probably look at the late 20th century and the first couple of decades of the 21st as a lost golden age.

What about you, fellow bloggers? How are you weathering the pandemic? Are you looking forward to things going back to normal, or wondering if they ever will?

Image from Pixabay

Featured image: Hubby Buns baked May 2nd, 2020

Crowd and separate individual

Being an Introvert

The internet is full of reassurances that it’s okay to be an introvert — but here are ten ways to make yourself look like an extrovert. Because that’s what you must do if you want to succeed in life. And anyway, it’s good for you to get out of your comfort zone.

That was then. Things are different now.

Now that so many are having to self-isolate and work from home, introverts have the edge. It’s the extroverts who are feeling uneasy and having to resort to special techniques to ease their anxiety.

I almost wrote a mocking list of tips to help extroverts to get over their feelings of deprivation for the company of others, but then I remembered that many have no choice about being cut off right now. In “normal” times, we introverts have to do some faking performing in certain areas of our lives, but at the end of the day we can return to our preferred environments. Self-isolated or quarantined extroverts right now don’t have a choice. I acknowledge all that, but here’s my list of…

Un-serious Tips for Isolated Extroverts

Simulate your preferred environment. Gather all pets, stuffies, and dolls into a small room. Crank up the music. Add crowd noise using another device. Dance up a storm.

Find non-human crowds. Seek out places frequented by flocks of noisy crows, gulls, or starlings. Parking lot? Garbage dump? Bring bird seed or french fries. Pretend the birds are humans. Mingle.

Hug a tree. (This is a real thing. Read more here.)

Do some role-playing. (A workshop facilitator’s favourite.) Play all the roles. In costume. Make a video you can watch later. Or replay that argument you lost, this time remembering the killer line.

If all else fails, fake it ’til you make it. Gradually extend the times you’re alone in a quiet room. Eventually you may get used to it and stop wanting to scream. And hey — getting outside your comfort zone is good for you!

A Few Serious Thoughts

Until I learned that extroverts draw energy from being with other people, while introverts experience an energy drain in those situations, I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I wasn’t trying hard enough. I had a bad attitude. If I didn’t fix myself, I’d be a failure in life.

In recent years, books by authors such as Susan Cain, Laurie Helgoe, and Marti Olsen Laney have changed introversion from a pathology to an almost okay personality trait. Almost okay, still. In North America, at least, extrovert qualities are expected of those who want success in life, especially working life.

Is it possible to be successful — however one measures success — as an introvert, rather than a pseudo-extrovert? It depends. If you make the right choices and acquire skills that permit you to work mostly alone and earn enough to live decently, the answer is “Yes.” But not everyone can do that.

Some people, myself included, make the choice to apply for jobs in supervisory or managerial positions because those jobs pay better. Team players are valued more than lone wolves. Even we introverts can fake our way through a job interview. Unfortunately, by taking jobs that don’t suit our personalities, we may be setting ourselves up for a harder time at work than if we were extroverts. And if we don’t fit our jobs comfortably, we’re shortchanging the people we work for and with. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who found her true calling after retirement from a “real” job. I’ve also discovered that if there’s something I really want to achieve, and the only way I can do it is by looking like an extrovert, I’ll gladly fake and perform. For a while, anyway.

At least I’m no longer a closet introvert. And right now, we intros are having our moment.

Flock of birds with one flying away
Can you spot the intro-bird?

Are any of you introverts? How has that influenced your life? And how are you dealing with our Covid19-constricted world?

Images by Alexas Fotos and TeeFarm from Pixabay.