Confession: For years, I suffered with an insidious disease the name of which I didn’t even know. It’s FOMO, an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out. The term was coined way back in 1996 and is classified as a real psychological disorder suffered by millions of people of all ages and stages of life.
One symptom of FOMO is the pervasive belief that others are having more fun or own nicer things or are living happier lives than you are. Victims are filled with anxiety that exciting or interesting events may be happening elsewhere that they either weren’t invited to or, for whatever reason, can’t attend. Not surprisingly, the number of people suffering with FOMO increased exponentially as the use of social media became widespread. Now it’s rampant.
My FOMO symptoms aren’t exactly like that. I never was all that interested in keeping up with the Joneses, a phrase I learned as a child because my parents repeatedly warned me against it. I don’t covet fancy cars or designer clothes or the latest, greatest technology. Stuff is just stuff and a lot of it I can do without.
What I’ve always feared missing out on isn’t things. It’s get-togethers. And not just parties, though I adore parties. I’m talking about ball games. I’m talking about club meetings and committee meetings and board meetings. Hikes and bike rides. Camping trips and sightseeing trips. Dance recitals and piano recitals and school plays and graduations and weddings. Whenever a handful of people or a roomful of people get together to do something, I like to be in the big middle of it.
I guess that makes me an extrovert, which some would contend is unusual for a writer. Writers are supposed to be reclusive and introspective and brooding. Just look at Emily Dickinson, right? Wrong. Maybe that kind of existence was perfect for a nineteenth century poet, but it’s not for a modern-day newspaper columnist. If I’m not out in the thick of things, what would I find to write about?
As an extrovert who seems to never have enough time for all the reading and writing I want to do, I’m trying to look at social isolation as a blessing rather than a problem. My calendar is clear. Absolutely, positively clear. No table tennis. No book discussions. No Sunday School or church, except online. No meeting my friends for lunch. No travel. No dental appointment. No haircut.
Heck, I live alone. I don’t have to cook a meal or even take a shower if I don’t want to.
So how best to take advantage of these vast swaths of empty time? For the first few shelter-at-home days, I was in something of a stupor. I wandered about the house and yard. I wrung my hands more often than I washed them (which was a lot). I watched too much news. I scrolled through Facebook too often. Sometimes I got up early and went to bed late. Or got up late and went to bed early. Other times, I barely slept at all.
And then I had an epiphany.
Coronavirus has cured me of FOMO, at least for the time being. I’m not missing out on anything. If I’m ever going to read and write all the things I want to read and write, the time is now. Every excuse is gone. So I’ve put myself on a schedule. Regular bedtime, regular getting up time. Mornings, I write for markets that pay. I take a break mid-day for lunch and chores. Or guilt-free piddling. In the afternoons, I work on my novel-in-progress that’s been sitting unfinished for more years than I care to admit. At night, I read.
It’s the new normal. And I’m jumping in with both feet.
(April 12, 2020)