Being alone is spending time with oneself; being lonely is a state of mind.
Though the two are distinctly different, we can slip in and out between them. Many of us have probably done just that, more so this past week than any other time.
Life with the COVID-19 pandemic has meant self-imposed isolation for us here in Canada. Like most countries, we are asked to “social distance” and to isolate ourselves physically from others for fear of spreading the virus.
I believe it’s the right thing to do, and whether you are living on your own or with others, you must reconcile how to do this.
Social distancing is a misnomer, really, as we’re not being asked to socially cut ourselves off from others. A more accurate description would be physical distancing. As writers, many of us are used to a solitary existence anyway, where the only other inhabitants of our space are the characters we create in our heads.
I am often by myself in the home I share with my husband. We work independently in different parts of the house, and there are more than enough walls to keep us apart if we want to maintain that separation.
Loneliness is more difficult to explain, and I don’t want to minimize its devastating impact on those who feel it. I'm just not sure I’ve ever felt it that way.
Since my mid-twenties, I’ve attended numerous silent meditation retreats, which translate to about a year’s worth of days to myself in isolation. It was a form of self-improvement, unlike what we are experiencing now. Shutting out the world at a retreat was a relief. It allowed me precious time to look inward, and even two weeks away in isolation was a chance to renew.
But life with COVID-19 is not a self-improvement course. As a society, isolation is not the norm. We view reclusive people as odd, secretive, possibly dangerous. We deem solitary confinement as inhumane punishment. We are, after all, a social species.
So now that we are forced into a form of isolation, how do we cope?
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has ample experience with self-isolation. He famously served as commander of the International Space Station, entertaining the masses with songs such as David Bowie's "Space Oddity." Forbes considers him “the most social media savvy astronaut ever to leave Earth.”
His video outlines the key points on how to manage isolation during this difficult time.
- Understand the risks: Refer to credible sources for information. Knowledge is power!
- Set goals for yourself: Give yourself a list of things to do and keep busy. Have something to look forward to.
- Find out the constraints: Think about what might prevent you from doing what you want to do and form a plan to manage the roadblocks.
- Take action: Just do it! Have fun by learning a new skill - play an instrument, learn a new language, read a few books.
I know it’s not easy, especially when we are mired in uncertainty. By staying connected, we're looking for ways to gain control of what’s happening. And as a news junkie, it’s difficult for me to pull away from the grim reality, but I have to try.
In closing, I’ll re-iterate the words of Chris Hadfield. "Take care of yourself, take care of your family and friends, take care of your spaceship.”
If you have any tips on how to manage self-isolation, please share and let me know how you're doing. 💕🥰💕