Isolated Impact

I’m thinking about ways isolation has chipped away at my social graces. Last week, I stepped into the elevator and met an adorable dog. I’ve never seen him before, and I was instantly charmed. He was kind of a beagle/Jack Russell/something, with the prettiest eyes! I immediately began talking to him through his people, two men I’ve never seen before, so I think they must be new/sort-of-new to the building. We parted as we came off the elevator, and only a couple of blocks later did I realize that I never actually spoke to the men, only to the dog. I didn’t introduce myself or try to interact with them in any way. I was just so focused on that sweet dog.

Today, I left for work and met the dog and his people again. I reintroduced myself to the dog and petted him for a minute or so, telling him how cute he is and how happy I was to see him again.

At least this time, I wished the men a nice day as I walked off.

I understand my focus on the dog — I love dogs — but usually I talk to the people, too. At least a little, even if it’s just to ask the dog’s name or breed. But I was so focused on that cute little guy that his people almost disappeared. I was happy to use them in my conversation with the dog, but talk? To them? Clearly not.

As I said above, I blame this on Covid, on the isolation of the last 2+ years. I haven’t had to maintain a regular practice in the social graces, haven’t had to remember how to behave with strangers. I’ve just puttered around tending to my own needs and maintaining a safe distance from everyone else.

This isn’t my behavior in every interaction with strangers these days. I still have some of my old niceties left, but my easier default definitely seems to be keeping interactions to a minimum. In my defense, I’ll add that neither of the dog’s people were wearing masks. I was wearing a mask. So maybe part of my behavior can be chalked up to not wanting their uncovered faces any closer to mine than they had to be? I’d lean into that as an excuse, but I know that’s not it, not the primary reason for my behavior. It’s really about me not being inclined to make nice with people.

I’m choosing to believe (hope against hope?) that all is not lost, that I’ll be able to relearn how to be “normal” with folks again, but it’s distressing to see how completely uninterested in connecting I am, how quickly I turn away from new people. One of my favorite things about living in this city has always been the random-and-fabulous encounters to be had with strangers. I don’t want that to be one more thing Covid has taken from me.


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10 thoughts on “Isolated Impact

  1. If it makes you feel slightly better most dog owners, especially of cute dogs, are quite accustomed to people interacting with their fur babies and not them.

    I find your disinterest to interact with most people as a result of Covid isolation interesting. I feel the isolation has made me more gregarious with people. Perhaps more than I was pre-Covid.

    I don’t feel all is lost for you. Now that you’ve seen it in yourself, you can work on it, if you choose to. It took a bit to learn how to now be with people, it’s going to take a bit to get to what will be your norm.

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    1. When I do talk to people, I’m as gregarious as I used to be … but getting to the point of wanting to step out of my isolation is the issue. Of course, being home for two weeks straight post surgery hasn’t really helped with my hermit tendencies!

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  2. You are not alone in learning how reenter society. We have been isolated for so long with Zoom being our major means of social interaction that interacting face-to-face is a skill we all need to relearn.

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    1. Definitely a skill we need to relearn, and it’s a slow process for me. As of Monday, my job will be bumping up to 70% in-person work schedules, which whould help me start to sweep out the cobwebs around social interaction!

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  3. I am also more hesitant to get to know new people as a result of covid isolation, but I think it’s because I’ve learned to value the relationships that are truly important and not stress out by having too many social obligations. However, you make a good point that I don’t need to ignore people all together. I can still be friendly! We’ll figure it out someday (sooner, hopefully, than later).

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  4. The Pandemic, which sadly appears to be ramping up yet again, has indeed impacted our lives in so many ways. Our social graces are most definitely not what they once were or what they should be. We don’t live in the city, but in a tiny town in Massachusetts. We have an open farmer’s porch on the front of our house and it’s been our safe bubble boundary to say hello to neighbors and other passersby, many with dogs. Dogs help break the ice. We’ll get there.

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    1. I love the idea of sitting on a porch (with dogs!) and waving to passersby. In a way, I guess that’s what my new neighbors and their cute dog have been doing when they’re sitting on the little wall outside of our building. 🙂

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  5. Terje

    Keeping the distance voluntarily seems to be an unexpected side-effect of isolation. Like with many side-effects it hopefully will pass and you return to be the person you’d like to be and enjoy the random encounters.

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