Quick question, did anyone have Murder Hornets on their End of the World 2020 BINGO card? No?
Since the world is just… *gestures vaguely at everything,* I’d thought it might be a good time to talk about loneliness. Loneliness is an interesting feeling. For a word that means an absence of something, being lonely is quite a heavy, oppressive place to be. And I think a lot of us are feeling lonelier than usual with the shelter in place orders. Even if you’re quarantining with family or roommates, being in isolation can still leave you feeling, well, isolated.
And I think that’s a huge reason why so many people are disregarding the severity of the pandemic and fighting for their “right,” to go to beaches or malls or get a haircut or whatever other stupid fucking thing they are protesting we open back up for. This prolonged period of isolation is one of the scariest situations for modern history, and the fear and chaos is compounded by the fact that staying safe and isolated also means putting ourselves in that scary place of being alone with our thoughts. We all tend to be afraid of the pesky feelings that rise up within us when we are forced to stop and listen to what our mind has to say. Despite our ability to constantly be plugged in with others, there’s still so much vulnerability in having to sit with ourselves and actually see what’s in the ignored corners of our minds.
Being trapped in the four walls of your home can drudge up all the things we work so hard to keep buried. In our normal lives, we can sprint from thing to thing, person to person, place to place, and interact without having to face ourselves. But when we have nowhere left to go but the circuit of wherever we’re staying, things come up. Things like past traumas done to you, or traumas you’ve done to someone else. You think of happy memories and sad ones. Mistakes and accomplishments. You think of the relationships that sustained you when it was too challenging to have one with yourself. The past and the future both swarm in and make us think when we are this alone. And we don’t always see things we like.
We are being forced to look at our lives in the most stripped down versions of what they are: the relationships we have, the ones we lack, the things on the outside we usually turn towards to numb the reality we don’t like. I think what also creates another layer to the loneliness is how all of our social structures are crumbling around us. Things that often seemed so vital and important have been proven to be obsolete. We are seeing the extent from which industries can work from home, we are watching our government disintegrate, our economy crash. It’s terrifying.
So, instead of enduring these periods of forced introspection, people choose to run from themselves and go out into the world during this dangerous time. (Please note, I do not condone any behavior that violates the shelter in place. This is serious, and it’s vile to me that people could be so selfish as to risk the lives of people and the well-being of healthcare workers and those that can’t shelter in place. Believe me, I would rip out my own fingernails at this point for a yard I could go sit in instead of my 600 sqft. apartment, but I’m still keeping my ass inside).
One thing that keeps coming up for me is the loneliness I feel in my careers. I’m a dentist (in training) and a writer, and the two have minimal overlap. As a dental student, I don’t have strong bonds with my classmates. Which is hard as hell. It’s extremely difficult to go through the stress and pressure of becoming a doctor and lacking a sense of network and support through it. It can feel like I’m floundering alone in a sea and need some life support. As a writer, I don’t really know anyone. I have so many friends in the reading community, which is what inspired me to take the leap to writing, but I don’t have personal connections with other writers. And I’d like to make those connections! I really would. I just don’t know how. I have so many questions and thoughts and concerns and just THINGS I want to talk to other writers about, but it often feels like sitting at the edges of the fringe, waiting until I become successful enough to be let into that inner circle. (Could I be more melodramatic? hahaha).
And being on submission right now adds an extra element of loneliness. I just kind of feel like I’m floating in this state of unknowing and it’s challenging for me to sit with. As a person that likes control, not having any is a challenge for me. I just wish I had someone to talk to that’s been through it, that can talk me through the (many) lows, and celebrate with me on the highs.
But these are all things I’m learning about myself during this time. I’m being forced to look at where that loneliness comes from, and the power I have to change it, if I’m brave enough to take the steps.
Maybe I’m naively optimistic, but I do hope that good can come from these dark times. It will take work, hard fucking work, but maybe we can know ourselves a bit better after this, if we are willing to stop and be fully alone with our thoughts. Maybe we can find pieces of ourselves that have been buried beneath the rushing of normal life, and learn to nurture those gifts so they can shine. We all have the potential to heal and learn and grow if we’re brave enough to look at the scary bits inside.