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Not So Fast!

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“Hello. I am Jon Owen, and I am an extrovert.”  

The above is quite an understatement. Years ago I took a personality test and my score for extroversion was 97%. I don’t know where that 3% of introversion fits into my life, but I assume it comes out when I am sick.

Words, phrases, and emojis; each year dictionaries will present their “Word of the Year,” and I am positive quarantine will be on a list this year. It already tops the list for “my people” the extroverts. But the cry of “my people” has been heard and someday we will gather in crowds again.

When guilt-free assemblies resume, people will assemble like there’s no tomorrow. That’s the way they have felt for weeks. Restaurants, stores, churches, you name it. I predict all will have larger numbers than pre-quarantine numbers. Even with financial losses, people will simply need to be somewhere…else. The boom will eventually dwindle back to normal, but I am convinced the boom will happen.

But I have a word of advice for you. “Not so fast.”

After reconstructive knee surgery in high school and a hard cast for 6 weeks I came to understand ‘atrophy.’ If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Over the last week, I am realizing that many are experiencing “social atrophy.” You may be with family, children, roommates, and have had some tense moments. This is frustrating, but there’s also some sort of blood tie, covenant relationship or lease agreement that has you together, for now, so even in frustration you bear it.

But what about when we get back together? Some of those social skills are experiencing atrophy. Dealing with annoying co-workers. Navigating lines and crowds with patience. Expressing empathy for someone who has a completely different set of struggles than you. Showing patience to a person who walks up and brazenly interrupts your conversation. 

People are difficult and lack self-awareness. Sometimes people don’t realize they are inserting themselves into serious or even private conversation. We may have handled that with a little more finesse in January than we possibly handle the same person and same scenario after weeks of no practice. 

The words “no so fast” aren’t to discourage us from interaction but expectation. We hear the phrases, “a new normal” and “social distancing.” That normal became a harsh reality almost overnight. Don’t be so quick with expectations that everyone will return to normal without some type of social atrophy.

Atrophy. Losing the “muscle” when you don’t use it. There are listening skills that haven’t been flexed in a while. Patience and understanding not just for the masses, but in the masses haven’t been flexed regularly. 

I want a global group hug where we all eat tacos. But I know for me, and I’ll guess for you too, our people skills may have experienced some atrophy and expectations could take a hit. 

Unmet expectations always lead to disappointment. And disappointment at a time like this could make us wonder was it worth it? “Why would we even care about the health of others since they’re all jerks anyway?” That’s not at all true, but expecting the masses to be understanding, or understanding them could take a little longer while our social muscles rebuild.

Three quick tips to make re-entry from isolation better.

Don’t expect too much from others.
Nobody behaved exactly the way you wanted them to before everything changed, so don’t get your hopes up they have changed to your liking after being on a break.

Don’t expect too much from yourself.
There’s a possibility you’ll act like a jerk. Forgiving yourself is hard to do. So is apologizing. But both of those rebuild muscle in our character. 

Take baby steps together.
Pray. Talk to a counselor. Talk to a friend. Take small steps. Don’t settle for frustration when you want connection.

We miss normal. Extroverts miss all the things with all the people. But let’s use the same patience we’re having to use to see those people…when we see those people.

See you soon. Expect a hug

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