The following was written on April 13, 2020, as an FYI, and edited here for publishing clarity. Three plus weeks later, the feelings are pretty much status quo, although I’ve settled into more of a routine, which helps. Like many, I imagine I’d be in a state of acute despair without Governor Cuomo’s daily briefings or summaries.
I simply wish to bear witness to my personal experience as a Single American, Empty Nest mom staying home solo and doing my best to follow the new COVID-19 rules.
My 23-year-old son lived with me for Month 1 of ‘all this.’ Renewed bonds, his humor, mine too, all helped ease the transition to this ‘new way.’ I loved having him here, in fact, after two plus years since starting empty nest in earnest (that is, post his graduation from college when he moved into the city permanently).
It may appear at first glance that I rescued him bringing him home to the burbs after he developed mild symptoms, got diagnosed as positive with COVID-19, and recovered here, but I know the truth now.
A certain household structure of cooking and meal preparation is comforting and calming. Permission to and the ability to take care of a loved one are absolute gifts, too.
Please never take any of that for granted, ever, not for a minute.
This one is for all the single people living in what boils down to, what is amounting to, a stretch of house arrest.
But ok, without the ankle bracelet.
Yes, social media and FaceTime calls with kids, family and special friends help. It has been especially heartening to keep up with my daughter almost daily as I had been feeling we had grown apart. She has taught herself new skills, and I’m planning on blaring about them soon too, if she’ll let me.
Yes, absolutely, a Zoom meeting or the sometimes seemingly infinite number of fitness or meditation classes and musicians and entertainers and political/educational forums online breaks things up and absolutely does help with motivation or to keep spirits up.
I’d have been lost for a stretch without private stretching/exercise sessions with a therapist from New Castle Physical Therapy for a back-related issue.
Laughter has been key to so many getting through this, so trust me that all the funny online posts in goofy Facebook groups or from all the self styled comedians out there are amazing lifelines for me, too.
I marvel at all the ingenuity and entrepreneurship and ponder the transforming future of where we will all land in the realm of real time versus virtual time.
Still.. I spend a lot of time online for my work, so I look forward to getting off line… so there’s that. Ultimately, online communication is not like having humans in proximity in your home-whether it’s hearing the sound of a voice or seeing the gleam in someone’s eye. If you are a people person, which I am, by and large, the absence of ‘actual’ time together is felt deeply.
If you don’t own a pet, which I don’t anymore (a long story for another day, perhaps), yes, it’s far worse than that.
I hear a lot: “I can’t imagine not having my dog through this (or dogs, or cat, or cats).”
Well, imagine it. Many single people do not have pets for a variety of reasons. At this juncture, I don’t have a pet. Not even a fish. And that is that, too. I am not looking for leads on getting a pet, so please, dear reader, do not go there. It actually hurts for you to. I’m fully aware of the options, and let’s just say, it’s complicated.
For me, all I know is that today is Day 10 of alone during COVID-19. For many, it’s well into the 20s, 30s or even 40 plus days. I contemplate the continued impact of long-term isolation.
Whether it’s your kid’s groan when you tell him to get back to his homework, or your spouse or significant other yelling out, “What’s for dinner?”, please don’t underestimate the value and comfort of a voice that’s in proximity to you. I wonder: Will I settle into isolation? Will it get easier? Harder? Impossible to bear?
I am a person who considers my mental health as intact, stable as she goes. But anxiety is taking hold now, and I’m keeping a variety of toll-free numbers handy.
The days are much easier than the nights. I am intensely grateful to live where there are many neighbors in proximity, at least. I take my near daily walk for the people and pet visuals, for the dose of Vitamin D, too. The sun sustains me like nothing else. I appreciate even a wave from six feet away at the occasional neighbor, or even someone’s puppy or dog wagging its tail.
Neighbors’ eyes sparkle and even the wrinkles surrounding them ‘speak’ to me from above the bridge of a nose and circumference of a mask. If they are not wearing masks, I keep my distance, wave anyway, and pray they simply stay safe, too.
I like getting into my car for the reminder of the old normal as I set about to perform only the most necessary errands. I gratefully take in the ‘hum’ and ‘sounds’ of the market, or at the pharmacy, too. Those fill the soul some, too.
When night falls, a certain fear takes hold, a sense of vulnerability that’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s when all these feelings of aloneness peak. Watching TV, binge watching especially, helps a good deal. I mourn the end of any good series! When I turn the net and TV off, though, it’s me again, and… the pockets of dark space. I’ll slog through some darkness, contemplate the dishes in the sink, but usually choose to leave them for the morning. I try to reduce the night hours by going to sleep as early as possible. Sleep is a bit of a messy affair, too, also the subject of a future post.
I won’t venture too much here into the lack of touch or intimacy and the total weirdness of virtual dating, or rather, foregoing virtual dating, for the most part. For reasons also best left to another column, perhaps, I will say I don’t feel this is the time to embark on new romance, either. For personal reasons, I wasn’t necessarily ready for new romance before COVID-19, and I don’t believe that has changed. If anything, those feelings are exacerbated. Still, I’ve always been in the never say never school, too.
I don’t want pity, but compassion and understanding are great. I don’t need advice or suggestions either. Or maybe I do. I don’t know.
I understand my feelings are unique too, and not universal. An old friend, similarly alone, is not experiencing it this way at all, and even expressed a comfort level with the isolation, so go figure. She describes herself as perhaps always having been an introvert and that somehow ‘all this’ is suiting her. I would describe myself as more of an extrovert (although a shy one, too, in a way, as contradictory as that may sound), so perhaps we are hit a bit harder. Then again, I always loved my alone time, too, but by design. And choice. So, again, I don’t know.
I am not writing this to compare pain and painful situations. The tragedy is devastating and on some days, beyond all comprehension. The disease has hit terribly hard taking tens of thousands of lives across the country, hundreds of thousands across the world, and threatening the health of family members, roommates, as it devastates nursing home residences, in particular. Prison populations have also been horribly impacted. And so on. Solo in my otherwise comfortable suburban pad is certainly also better than any domestically violent situation in any socio-economic circumstance.
And yet, what I want to convey, is that pain is relative, and that the pain here is real for me, too.
Human beings are largely social creatures. Our souls are tested, and I believe shrink in any prolonged isolation. I want to erase the stigma too that anyone weathering this solo is similarly feeling. I know that I’m not alone with these feelings, and that they are widespread.
And yes, yes. I am still counting my blessings to be alive and healthy. I was never going to even share these words as I worry they may sound somewhat self indulgent or morose. But then again, if a pandemic is not the time to feel those things too, then I don’t know what is. You are welcome to search elsewhere for inspiring and uplifting right now. I have tried to keep busy sharing all the drama and news I possibly can through this press on a most limited budget. I have plenty of work to do to make sure my 17-year-old business survives COVID-19. I’ll overshare too that it can feel like wading through molasses. I go through all the steps I’m advised to take as a small business and wait for those to bear fruit. And wait. I have rooms and a garage I promised myself I could declutter now, but somehow, paralyzed to, since that feels like the ultimate solo punishment.
I write this simply to self-express (that helps me, so forgive me if my oversharing causes you any discomfort). Finally, I share also to express that I do feel empathy for everyone weathering this storm. My heart goes out to all of you, to those single and to those in semi full or very full houses (maybe we can trade places for a day?) and all your own unique challenges. And yes, I must believe that we too can get through this, #AloneTogether, and #NewYorkTough. Or when you’re not feeling so tough sometimes, too.