Coronavirus Diaries: From Isolation to Solitude

     Quarantine Day 50: What happened to April? It felt like March lasted for 3 months, but we blinked and April is gone. As we move into warmer weather, it is becoming harder to stay inside. I feel the collective energy around me as everyone is eager to be free and enjoy the warm weather and to begin having some semblance of the life we once knew.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the coronavirus and the economic toll of shutting down the government. But as millions of people all over the world have sheltered in place, it is our mental health that has suffered and will suffer in the future. So many people are dealing with sickness, death, uncertainty, and financial hardships. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I always valued my time alone, but what happens when all my time is spent alone? I never realized how much human contact has meant to me. Not just physical contact, but basic interactions.

I was watching a Quibi episode of Sexology with Shan Boodram, who is an intimacy educator. For those of us who are going through this pandemic as a single person, she advised thinking about it as solitude instead of isolation. And I thought that was so beautiful. Solitude is when you take the necessary time away from everyone to work on yourself, while isolation implies that you are being shunned by society. Even though it feels like a period of isolation, I believe that we can come out of this stronger than when we went in. Even though many states have opened back up, I have some tips for dealing with the loneliness that solitude can bring.

  1. Become reacquainted with yourself: Life can be busy and repetitive. So many of us spend our days surviving, but not thriving. Slowing down allows you to see the ways that you are not growing. What desires have you forced down telling yourself that you don’t have the time? But now that you do have the time, what are you doing about them? How have you changed over the years? What is no longer serving you?
  2. Don’t go through solitude alone: We’ve all probably had more virtual meetings in the last 6 weeks than we’ve ever had in our lives. It is truly comforting to still see our loved ones even though we’re so far apart. I am so grateful that I am alive at a time when video calls are available. Over this past weekend, I had two zoom calls with my family and friends and I can honestly say that it made me feel so much better to laugh with them and see their smiling faces. I miss them, but until I can give them a hug, this will have to do. My one warning to my fellow introverts is to limit the number of calls and events you attend. You might soon find yourself overwhelmed ( I did this the first couple of weeks, and soon discovered my mistake).
  3. Accept the present, but be hopeful for the future: This too shall pass. At times, it can feel like this will last forever. How long will we have to wear masks? How long can we stay 6 feet away from each other? While I don’t have the answers to these questions, I can tell you that one-day picnics in the park will happen again. We will be able to go to brunch and have weddings again. It might look different than it did before, but they will happen again. Being hopeful for the future is not futile. It’s literally what helps us to go on.

I am trying to embrace this period for as long as possible. I don’t know when I will ever have this much time to myself again. Often to grow, you need a period of solitude.  It’s often painful, but necessary. Growth is found outside of our comfort zone.

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