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Emails to my Therapist

Personality Changes from Staying Home?

Dear Nicholas, I think I’m getting to be more of an introvert.

My reading interrupted in earlier period of introversion.

I understand this happens with age, but staying home for seven months (excepting runs to grocery, bank drive-through, etc) seems to have speeded up the process. When I moved my office plants home in early March, I felt a little silly imagining I wouldn’t be in the next Friday to water them. I surely didn’t think my plants and I–or my husband–would have the opportunity for personality changes from staying home.

Surprise, Surprise

I would never have imagined that I could settle quite so comfortably–with the benefit of Zoom– into a very quiet routine in a somewhat limited space.If I thought I would never see friends and family in person again, I’d be grief-stricken, horrified, and enraged. But I do expect to see folks again eventually. And with the help of technology, I’ve felt well-connected throughout these seven months so far.

Before & After

Before this lock-down experience, I didn’t like even one day working at home. Now I’m comfortable almost every day.

He doesn’t love this picture but I do.

Before this experience, I was the sociable one in our marriage and Bob was the reclusive one. Once when I told a friend that I would come to her party but without Bob, she said, “He’s already been out this year.” Funny, but not an exaggeration.

Suddenly Chatty

Now Bob is having long phone conversations with friends and itching to get together with people–in person! I’m not in a huge rush as long as I know I’ll see folks eventually.

One reason for my own quiescence is that I’m being as conservative as possible in warding off the virus. I am determined that Bob is going to stay alive. If he should catch the bug, it’s not going to be from me.

That’s a serious motivator to stay home. But then there’s also the feeling of settling with startling ease into  write-read-weed-Netflix-exercise-and-technology-assisted-staying-connected-to-people.

My gardening, even in the worst heat, has been tremendously helpful. Note this weekend’s plant activity: cascades of beautyberry, the autumn orange-ing of the Jerusalem artichoke.  This










comfortable situation is possible for me because Bob and I are living together. If I were living alone and having to stay home, I’d be quite plainly bonkers by now. If I were having to stay indoors? I don’t even want to think about it.

Definite Personality Changes from Staying Home

With the situation as it is, Bob and I have changed roles, though our relationship hasn’t changed. We’ve been getting along fine, though I gripe more about clutter than I did when I wasn’t here as much.

For years, I’d been thinking I was a clear-cut ambivert– right slam in the middle between intro- and extro-.

That’s pretty much what those cute personality tests would always tell me. Now I’m slipping-sliding in the intro direction–except for another startling change: I keep having fantasies about entertaining, parties, having people over for dinner, which we have done very little of because it requires cleaning up the house. Maybe I just want people to come and look at my improved garden patch. I don’t know. Makes no sense.

Are lots of people having personality changes? Are you?


#quarantinepersonality #covidlife














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  • September 8, 2020 at 3:54 pm Reply

    For me this period of staying at home has given me more permission to feel okay about it. I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, but now it’s sanctioned! It would be different without the technology to stay connected with family and friends, though. We just had our son and daughter-in-law (and their Belgian Malinois Aria) here for 6 days – hadn’t seen them since January. We’ve all been quarantined so it felt safe, and we got an RV camper back in March and have renovated it to be good space for them when they visit. It was so good to see them, and I’m glad all of us have the ability to stay home, stay safe, and make this kind of visit possible. We still aren’t visiting my mom though, and I’m sad about that, but we have regular long phone calls and I send her photos of everything going on! 🙂

    Like you, I’m very grateful for our outdoor space and all the things there are to do in it that keep us busy. I have a pretty good routine going most days. Remote writing workshop/group has kept me focused with writing, and two of my writing retreat friends and I do a monthly virtual retreat – we pick a fantastical location, I find “lodging” on AirBnB or VRBO, send the photos, and we pretend we’re there for the weekend while we actually Zoom for meals and a critique session the last night. Amazingly, this has really kept all of us working through all this.

    I’m glad you and Bob are well, and I sure hope we all come through this with lots to celebrate when we shift back toward a more normal existence!

    • Peggy Payne
      September 8, 2020 at 4:01 pm Reply

      Yes, hurrah for outdoors, Billie. I’m glad we still have it! Your virtual retreat sounds like a novel in itself. Very imaginative. I mostly haven’t had trouble keeping working, but I did take Labor Day off and now it’s a little hard to get back to it. Maybe I’ll imagine myself on a writing retreat in Sardinia….

  • Judy Carrino
    September 8, 2020 at 4:53 pm Reply

    No changes that I’m aware of, although Jim might have a differing opinion! I am staying home all he time, except for haircuts once a month, a massage yesterday (and scheduled for one per month) and a few visits to the grocery for things I forgot to order through Instacart. If my children and grandchildren didn’t come to visit often (always wearing masks) I would truly go crazy. I miss hugging so much I dream about it.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 8, 2020 at 4:58 pm Reply

      I envy you the haircuts, Judy. Last had mine well before Christmas. Starting to get a little witch-y, in the Halloween sense. But it’s on my list of have-to-wait-a-bit activities. I’m glad you have the children and grandchildren visits. I guess dreams are better than nothing.

  • Ron perkinson
    September 9, 2020 at 3:57 pm Reply

    I am always inclined to compare the subject of your letters to my situation. I am thinking personality and reaction to isolation. As I believe you know, I was in Duke Hospital for 50 days this spring. I had not one visitor because of the virus. Since returning home on June 1 I have gone beyond the end of my driveway twice. Has this 4 month journey changed my personality? I don’t know. I think that is a decision for people who know me to decide. I am not even sure what personality means. I know that during those 50 days I had periods of depression; anger; mental abberation, etc. Were they changes in personality or behavior? All I know is when I was in college, a girl trying to get a date for me would usually describe me to the candidates by saying I had a good personality and could take the top off a can of Blue Ribbon with my teeth. I don’t believe that changed during my isolation and restrictions. You?

    • Peggy Payne
      September 9, 2020 at 6:30 pm Reply

      Well, you certainly still have a good personality, Ron! Can’t speak about the Blue Ribbon. Excellent point about others being the ones to decide about personality change. I was only thinking about changes in preferences, I guess. I think you did well to handle 50 days in the hospital –no fun, anyway–without any visitors. Anger and the rest all feel like normal healthy reactions to me. You were also, BTW, dealing with being ill, which no doubt multiplied the effect. You did well in a very tough situation.

    • September 10, 2020 at 5:06 am Reply

      I send you continued courage and compassion Ron – you’ve been through a lot. I think of personality like weather and climate – today’s psychological responses and behavior are the weather; overall trends and habits of mind, heart and behavior are the climate – both can and do change, hopefully leaning toward acceptance and forgiveness as we walk each other down the long path Home. I wish you good fortune and good friends along the way.

  • Alice Sawa
    September 9, 2020 at 4:01 pm Reply

    I was always more of an introvert with little bursts of an extrovert which do not last long !My saving grace is a small patio which gets me outside to attend to my small flower garden and watch many birds that come to eat at my feeders. The thought of winter scares me because of the cold and darkness but mostly because I can not escape it this year,Not being willing to fly or travel anywhere depresses me.I must remember to count my blessings on the daily….Good health,great children and grandchildren and my husband of 50 years.This to shall pass and the world will go on.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 9, 2020 at 6:25 pm Reply

      Your flower garden and the birds sound lovely, Alice. I’ve also been much aware of the birds in these months. I’ve had the feeling that there are more of them. And I suspect we’ll all be bundling up and not letting the cold stop our outdoor time this winter. Or maybe we’ll have a vaccine by then (I hope). When you talk about being an extrovert in bursts, it reminds me of a time in my single years when I seemed to alternate going out too much for two weeks with two weeks of solitude that I then got tired of. Never did get very good with the balance in those days.

  • Alice Sawa
    September 9, 2020 at 7:54 pm Reply

    I will force my self to bundle up this winter and take a walk or just breathe !Hopefully we get a vaccine and it is the right one for us all !I am without a doubt a homebody but do not want to become a prisoner in my own home so I will try and reach a happy medium .

    • Peggy Payne
      September 9, 2020 at 8:01 pm Reply

      I will do the same, Alice. In fact, I need to go out and take a little air today. This is a good reminder.

  • September 10, 2020 at 5:37 am Reply

    I wonder what I was focused on for that picture – I look to me very serious and/or preoccupied and tired – and I’d not say happy.
    Being in a bubble with our favorite other person’s been mostly quite good – I’m remembering why I wanted to partner with you – because indeed you are my favorite other person, and I do believe you’ve made me a better person over the decades, by osmosis.
    So yes , individual people can and do change over the decades on the continuum Intro- to Extroverted, tho the research finds these dimensions pretty stabile over time for the groups of people which’ve been studied. I don’t think I’ll ever prefer interactng with many people at once to talking deeply to 1 or 2 or 3 at a time.

    I do miss foraying out together for pleasure and travel, so I bring in weekly Neapolitan pizzas from the Napoli food truck in Carrboro – it’s not Treforni, and it’s an indulgent reminder of the comfort of good food. I am sad to postpone our December Norway coastal cruise again, chasing the northern lights, and considering what viral havock that cruise line wrecked along their coast, it’ll be a very long time before that trip’ll be safe – I expect we’ll enjoy that safely in a year or maybe two two

    • Peggy Payne
      September 10, 2020 at 1:55 pm Reply

      You were a good person to start off with, Bob. My mother said so and she had exceptionally high standards.

  • Lee Grohse
    September 10, 2020 at 9:32 pm Reply

    I would describe myself as something of an extreme introvert. Yeah, those tests say that too. I’m always quite comfortable to have long periods of time alone. In the past there have certainly been times when I’ve felt lonely in the sense that I didn’t have the right kind of connectedness, but never have I felt that I did not have enough people -time in general. It’s more been the case that after a few hours with people I am almost desperate to get away and be alone for a while. This six months of staying home more or less continually hasn’t resulted in a personality change. It has just made it clear that I do have at least a minimum requirement for socialization time. I just wasn’t aware of it because my circumstances had never allowed me to fall below it before. I’m not really alone since my husband is here as is my adult son who has autism. I have a large yard and, like you, a garden and I have four dogs, one of them a new puppy. So I’ve had plenty to do and lots of outdoor time. But the confinement to home is certainly getting to me. I just long to get out and hang out somewhere where I can watch those strange things called people. I don’t necessarily need to talk to them. And I so want to get on a plane and go somewhere-pretty much anywhere.

    • Peggy Payne
      September 10, 2020 at 9:58 pm Reply

      There’s something so wonderful about reading on a long plane flight, Lee. I look forward to doing that again. And poking around in thrift shops. In addition to the IRL absence of people, there are the highly individual preferred activities that are missing. I’ll bet everybody has their own quirky list. As I write this a desire rises for melty-cheese real Mexican food.

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