Mixed Feelings Part 2
I have mixed feelings. Still.
I posted about this recently in an attempt to say that having mixed feelings is a reality worth acknowledging. This is a time of strong feelings and strong feelings aimed in the right direction are necessary and good. But mixed feelings are not the opposite of that. For example, when I have been at my bravest, I was also afraid. I have been overwhelmed with grief and gratitude at the same time. Saying you have mixed feelings isn’t saying you’re not going to boldly fight for what is right and just. It is admitting that you are not one thing or one thought. It’s ok. Really.
A few people “suggested” that I’m wrong about that, and that’s ok too. This isn’t meant as a defense.
What I really wanted to write about today (at the suggestion of my lovely wife) is my mixed feelings about quarantine. Relax. This is not going to be a rant about masks, social distancing, health guidelines, politics or any of the other things you’ve been reading about. And to be clear, I don’t have mixed feelings about the pandemic. It is devastatingly bad…of course. So, this post isn’t meant to be a “here’s the good thing about Carona post.” Please do not take it that way. Instead, it is mostly about human connection and H-O-R-S-E…or rather P-I-G.
The truth is that as tough as the quarantine and social distancing has been, there have also been some unexpected blessings. Not everyone connects in the same way, but we all need to connect. Some would rather have a conversation. Some need a hug. Some would rather watch a movie with someone. Others would rather have a party. The world has more or less been set up by and for extroverts and people who can freely and comfortably move about, but one sneaky positive outcome of the quarantine is that it has actually been freeing to certain people. For example, church gatherings used to be impossible to access for those without reliable transportation or people who had health conditions that don’t allow them to leave their homes. Now those people are not a special case or project, but can be equal participants in Zoom church gatherings everywhere. While some are bemoaning the lack of physical togetherness, others might be secretly, quietly thankful for their expanded opportunities for participation…and connection.
To be transparent, I have a tenuous relationship with relationships. I like people and generally think human connection is the most important thing we do in the world. But that connection and the people required to have it often completely exhaust me. Some people get worn down and lose energy if they go for too long without human interaction. I’m the opposite. I enjoy human interaction, but it wears me down and saps my energy. It’s kind of like basketball in that way. I love that game more than any person should and I still play it despite the fact that my now lame attempts to move about the court regularly result in audible laughter from the other players. I love playing and wish I could play for hours and hours, but I can’t because….it makes me tired.
So it is with people for me. I love the conversation and the meals and the gatherings and the camping and the games and on and on, but no matter how much I enjoy it, it makes me tired and so I can only do so much of it before I have to retreat to solitude so I can sit alone eating Tostitos and ranch dip and drinking diet Mt. Dew and recharge my batteries writing Facebook posts that are at least 60% longer than anyone would want and at least 70% less profound than they seem as I write them. (whoa, that was a serious run on sentence) It’s just how I roll.
A few years ago I learned that this makes me an “introvert.” Until then, I had assumed I was an anti-social extrovert because I love public speaking, am whatever the opposite of shy is and genuinely love lots of different kinds of social interaction but also find many kinds very very hard. But I was wrong. I’m not a terrible extrovert, I’m just a basic introvert. And that’s ok.
So that brings me back to the Covid quarantine. The reason I have mixed feelings about it is that it has completely removed some of the more difficult kinds of social interaction from my dance card…including all actual dance cards which, if you’ve seen me dance you know is a good thing. It has also provided me with some amazing points of human connection I never would have had without it. The reason I am writing about that is because I know I am not the only one who feels this way. And frankly, I want other people to read this and for a few of them to think…”oh yeah, I get that, maybe I’m not just a total jerk for not hating quarantine, or at least if I am there’s this other jerk like me with a bunch of cool Facebook friends.” That’s my end game here.
And that brings me to P-I-G. P-I-G is a basketball game and a sort of trimmed down version of the popular game H-O-R-S-E. The basic idea of the game is that Player 1 takes any kind of basketball shot. If he makes it, Player 2 then has to do the exact same shot. If he misses the shot, he gets a letter and so on until one player spells out HORSE or PIG and loses that game.
My friend Sean sent me a text one day that was just a short video of him in his garage with a small basketball and nerf-style hoop on the wall. It came with a message that said, “OK, pass off the wall, catch and half spin, little fade-away from about 12 feet.” Then the video was him executing that shot flawlessly and looking into the camera and saying, “your shot.”
That was it. No set up, no explanation beyond that. But I knew exactly what he meant. He was challenging me to a game. I don’t have an inside mini hoop at the moment since the last one got ripped off the wall as the result of a thunderous dunk by my 16 year old. So I went outside to the hoop in my drive way, bounced the ball off my garage door, caught it, did a half spin and took a fade-away from about 12 feet and missed horribly.
I got P.
That was June 3. I think we are now on our 7th game. Sometimes we finish a game in a couple days. More often schedule, work, weather, etc stretches games out to more like a week. Before quarantine, it had been months, maybe more than a year since Sean and I had played basketball (our favorite way to connect as friends). But because of the quarantine and Sean’s initiative, here we were connecting all over the place.
Not long ago, I had to travel for work to Texas. That interrupted our game until I visited an old college friend. As I was touring the house, I noticed that his young son had a mini-hoop up in his room. So, I handed my phone to the bewildered child and asked him to film me taking a shot on his hoop. My explanation of the game I was playing seemed to make as much sense as when Trump….oh wait, no sorry, I said not political…um, as much sense as when my son tries to explain the steps required to level up a particular weapon in some FPS video game he’s playing. I recognize the words, but their particular combination leaves me puzzled.
So it was with my friend’s son who gamely agreed to be my videographer as I sought to match Sean’s last shot on this new bedroom court. Not knowing the right angles on this hoop combined with a surprising amount of wind for a completely enclosed room resulted in a miss and another letter for me, but somehow taking our little game on the road was one of the best moments in a string of months running a bit low on great moments.
The quarantine is needed but hard on a lot of people. I’ve been fortunate enough that is mostly an annoyance rather than truly life changing for me. I don’t want to make light of that for people who can’t say the same. But as an introvert, if I’m being completely honest, I’ve kind of liked certain aspects of quarantine. My awkward small talk has dropped by 500%. My command performances at networking functions have been reduced to Zoom which is 1000 times better….for me. But even more than that, it has provided for some really fun new types of human interaction.
Like P-I-G. And living room concerts from
and mid-week pre-recorded sermons from
I can watch whenever it’s convenient, and I’m now having zoom or video calls with friends and family I haven’t talked to in years just because it’s as if video conferencing technology was just invented.
So here is my point. Sometimes it’s ok to have mixed feelings because it is part of the human condition and some element of doubt or complexity of thought and emotion often leads to better judgement. And sometimes it is ok to have mixed feelings because it allows you to find laughter in tears and something beautiful in something ugly.
Accepting that apparent paradox allowed my friends Sean and Stephanie and Aaron and others to keep connecting even with people like me who are hard to connect with. I want the quarantine to end when it is safe for it to because it is hurting a lot of people. But I have mixed feelings about the experience. I bet some of you feel the same way. And even if you don’t, I strongly recommend you get a basketball hoop or maybe even just a trash can and a balled up piece of paper and challenge someone to P-I-G. You might find something positive begin to mix in with all your strong feelings. I have.
Just a thought.