Solitude or solitary confinement?
For me, the energy of being alone has been the primary reality of my adult life. Except for an eight-year period where I was married (don’t ask), I have spent much of my adult life living alone. Dating has been a rare and infrequent experience, so I have learned the art and craft of living alone. Generally, I love it and I relish all the time I have to myself to cultivate my inner world.
Heck, I have even begun to build a brand around the energies of being alone. My personal website is “Table For One, Please” and my YouTube channel focuses almost entirely on solo dining, solo travel, and cooking for one. My social media channels are all about those things. So, being in quarantine during this current crisis should be just fine for me, right?
One of the facts of my life alone is that I always have the option to be social when I want to be. If being alone feels somehow disempowering to me in a moment, I can always go to the gym for a good workout or visit one of my favorite bars or restaurants or head downtown to the Art Institute. Chicago offers endless opportunities for socialization. Well – until now.
Yesterday, my job sent us all home and told us to work remotely, most likely until at least mid-April. So today is what I consider to be day #1 of solitary confinement. Ok, ok. Maybe that sounds dramatic. It’s just that I feel so helpless and isolated today. Most of my friends have families or at least pets living with them. I have none of that. I am totally and utterly alone in a physical sense.
Last night, I had a strange meltdown. I rarely feel myself spiraling into darkness, but last night I felt it happening. Luckily, I was brave enough to take a deep breath and write about it on Facebook. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from my friends all over the world. Today, I had six different people call me to chat and make sure I was ok. I have friends who have set up Facetime dates for later in the week, and another who is going to doing a phone date with me tomorrow night while we both cook and drink wine together – virtually.
Today was bizarre. I worked from home for the first time not because I wanted to but because I had no choice. I was unfocused and never even got dressed. I managed to get some work done, but it was sporadic. Tonight, as I type this, I am feeling far better. Of course, the wine I have been drinking may be helping – but really, I think I needed to just have a day of being totally lost in order to stop, take a deep breath, and decide to refocus.
Here’s what I realized today. First, I cannot change what’s happening in the world. It’s not about me, not even remotely. I am just one of billions who are caught up in this strange, dystopian nightmare. Second, working from home is something I have often asked for and now I am finally getting to try it out. We will see how it goes. Third, I am reconnecting with friends I haven’t talked to in decades. This new reality is allowing me to remember just how many excuses I have made – for years – not to stay in touch. Now, when I have no other distractions, I realize that these friends have been there all along and we have never taken the time to reach out and connect by voice or video. The technology was always there, but we all have made excuses over and over. Now, we are all being reminded that we have the ability at any moment to reach out and reconnect.
Finally, I realize that I am only alone if I choose to be alone. Yes, I am ‘stuck’ in my apartment while the weather sucks (it’s cold and rainy), but I can get out when the weather improves. I can enjoy nature; I can focus on those things that are good in my life. I am grateful that I can sit here right now and type this post. So many people are more isolated than me, not even able to reach out like this.
So, I choose to think about a funny meme a friend sent me yesterday, knowing that I am a wine lover. It goes like this,
“It’s not really quarantine unless it comes from the Quarantine region of France. Otherwise it is just sparkling isolation.”
So, that’s my assessment of my Sparkling Isolation – Day 1.