Honestly, before COVID-19 I was (I suppose I still am for the time being) a very solitary individual. I live alone, work from home full-time as the standard for me, am quite the introvert socially, and tend to forego travel, vacations, and events due to a various number of justifications I conjure up for myself.
Having this time to “shelter at home” I thought to myself, “AH! This is just the thing I have been training for my whole life!” But seriously, I didn’t expect it to have too much of an impact on me personally and I sailed through the first several weeks on habit and muscle memory. But now, as month four settles in and I face more solitude than I could ever have dreamed of being provided, I am noticing a number of what I call, interesting “side effects of solitude” as follows:
- Boredom: Previously boredom rarely darkened my doorway, but now I struggle with this daily.
- Obsessive hobby start-ups: Directly related to boredom. I find myself in search of a hobby to fill the time. The problem here is there is SO much time to fill. In an attempt to quell my boredom, I dive headfirst into a hobby, spend crazy amounts of money on supplies, and hobby myself into boredom of that particular endeavor, then I start the cycle over with a new hobby, rinse and repeat. psst: Anyone need a mandala-dot-painted rock or 12? Maybe 10 or 20 propagated succulent plants?
- Spending: Being in my house SO much now, well of course there are hundreds of projects and changes that now must be made immediately. How could I NOT have seen these things before? That wall needs sprucing up, that rug looks old, the backyard needs to be completely re-landscaped – you know – little things. This has led to an exponential increase in my financial outgo.
- Binge-watching: The total hours of TV I have watched since the beginning of March is nothing short of astounding. I think I finished the totality of the catalogue of cinematic offerings from NetFlix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video combined.
- My dogs are fat now: There aren’t many places I can take them anymore and living in Florida, it’s too hot to go on long walks, so their boredom seems to be easily quelled with treats.
Then there are the ones that aren’t quite as amusing…
- Difficulty focusing: Focusing on tasks – work or otherwise – is difficult. I don’t know why because I literally have nothing else to do.
- Sadness out of nowhere: Sometimes on a Saturday morning as I sip my coffee, I just start to cry. Not the adorable Demi Moore single tear on the cheek kind of cry. I mean a full-on ugly cry; the kind from which it takes your face hours to recover. I am NOT a crier. Normally it takes something of significant magnitude to cry. But now – nope – I just cry for no reason. That’s me now.
- Getting stuck in my head (once you’re in there – it’s like an escape room): I tend to overthink everything, rerun conversations and tasks over and over in my head which results in…
- Questioning everything I do: No matter what it is – in my mind I have done it wrong. Whether it is a project at work, a conversation with a friend (OMG! Did I say the color was red? IDIOT! It was maroon!), or simply the laundry – I just know I used too many dryer sheets … I am very hard on myself and all that I do. Then – well – I cry of course!
- Time warp: Even though for me, my work schedule is the same, I still sometimes forget what day it is.
- Feeling left out: Most of the resources for coping that are advertised are generally geared toward families, especially those with children. Being single and living alone, this sometimes makes me feel not just alone during the pandemic – but like a forgotten, unimportant demographic altogether.
As a result of all this, there are two potentially life-changing areas I have been thinking about now:
- Is my choice to remain single really what I want or simply an aversion to the process of finding the right person. Yes, I do love me my alone time – but now after having so much of it, is this what I want forever? So, this is something I will be re-evaluating.
- For me, I realize that the years I have spent keeping to myself, avoiding life really, were largely quite a waste and I plan to get out of my shell quite a bit more once “all this” passes.
I don’t write all this to say that I have all (or any) answers on how to get through this alone, I write this to say HEY! YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE! Much of this is normal and will pass and we all need to find our own ways to get through it for ourselves. A few things I have found to take the edge off a bit are:
- Video chat with friends
- Virtual happy hours
- Using your company’s Employee Assistance Program to find a counselor to talk with. Even if it’s just once.
- Movie watching with friends via video chat
- Making sure I get enough sleep
- Learning how to meditate
- Taking long walks
- Limiting how much news I watch/read – giving myself permission to take a break from it all once in a while
- Limiting time on social media
- Finding a hobby (Even though mine have been many, they DO help!)
- Get a change of scenery! Take a short road trip that starts and ends at home; blast the radio or listen to an audio book as you drive.
- If you have pets and don’t do it already, talk to them. It really does help.
- If you don’t have a pet and want one – get one! Just remember they are a commitment not just during the pandemic and don’t forget: Adopt Don’t Shop!
- Above all, there is a lot of “talk” out there about using this time to learn a new language or skill. During this time, we are all experiencing a type of trauma and we are all experiencing it in different ways. Simply making it through is an accomplishment. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself!
When this all passes, and we all tentatively emerge from our homes, much like the Munchkins did when Glinda the Good Witch summoned them upon Dorothy’s arrival, I have made a promise to myself to not take my freedom of movement for granted any longer. I promise to travel in the way I have always dreamed. I promise to attend those events I allowed to pass me by. I promise to live a life of eventful and purposeful movement. When the days come where I am old, and again limited in my freedom to wander, I will have wonderful memories from which to draw rather than regret of time spent behind the windows and doors of my home. Is this a skill or a quality? I’m not sure… But it is living, and I intend to get to it.