Journaling the Virus: A Crisis of Belonging — Together in Isolation

Journaling the Virus: A Crisis of Belonging — Together in Isolation

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

My grandmother was fond of adages, partly because of her absolutist personality and partly because she had to embroider them by hand on a sampler when she was a child. As a result, I ended up with many of them in my own vocabulary, including the one about clouds always having silver linings. That was a tough one for a child to accept. It seemed to me then that bad things were just plain bad and trying to pretend they weren’t was just a form of denial rather than clairvoyance. Yet now, I’m amazed to find there are some positives woven in with all the horror this virus has brought. The good things pertain to me personally, while the effects are specifically wrought upon us all. How odd. It’s the fact that this virus has leveled the playing field so effectively that I find strangely soothing.

I’ve long had an aversion to any sense of abandonment. I’m sure it stems from being ‘left behind’ so often as the youngest child in my family, older siblings and adults in our lives always trying to run off and ‘dump the kid’ who would only slow them down. I grew up with a sense that everyone was always going somewhere without me on purpose.

After my husband died, I had years of feeling that ‘everyone else’ except me had someone to be with, others to ‘party’ with, events that didn’t include me to be enjoyed with friends; someone special to go home to at the end of the day. It was the most fundamental sense of abandonment I’d experienced since early childhood. Yet now, suddenly, no one in the world has anywhere else to go with anyone else, and nothing else to do but live their own life. No amount of running to, from, or away, will change how the whole planet of humans must engage (or disengage) with each other. We are all the same, all just as scared and unprepared, all basically alone. And most importantly, everyone knows it. There is no denial that can change that and nowhere to run. 

It’s the truth of that fact that’s helped me most during this period. I don’t have to feel left out, or abandoned, or even guilty at not wanting to join in a community of some kind when I’d rather be alone. And in truth, isn’t it interesting to have days with no pressure to ‘do something’ on a schedule? That really does open a lot of possibilities. Oh, I know this is only one stage of adjustment and everything will shift again. Not only is the ‘news’ constantly changing, but our emotions are, too. But in an environment of unpreparedness where everything is so frightening and the panic is contagious, I’m surprised to find these few odd benefits. Even my diet is cleaning itself up by necessity and my extra weight is coming off in tandem. Most of all, I hope I can hold onto this belonging even after we’ve found a happier way past the health crisis. It’s such a relief to know what everyone else is and is not doing. I’ve never felt so connected in my life.

A friend just reminded me that our earth is also getting a rest from the havoc we’ve been dealing it, too. I feel as if the air is already better and I know the Co2 levels have dropped way off. It happens fast, and the longer the planes aren’t flying, the better our atmosphere will be, too. It’s also so much quieter everywhere. I suppose it shows we can live more as we used to if we want to. The Hopi Indians certainly thought so. And maybe we could end up with a global citizenry and governments also committed to preservation at the end of this latest challenge.

Then in addition to all this, I’m also finding my new lifestyle very rewarding. I’m living in the same house with my children and grandchildren, yet in a separate apartment with separate entrances. All of us having just come from the virus’s epicenter in this country, we’re observing strict quarantine rules voluntarily and keeping totally separate for the sake of me, the old grandmother, as well as everyone else. Unlike our president, we do believe in science and responsibility. But here’s the unexpected benefit to the common isolation: I get to see children gamboling in the back yard, call pleasant greetings across the 6-10 foot distance, hear pleasantly muffled, happy family sounds from the space below where they’re living, but keep a blessed distance that allows my space to stay clean and neat and preserves my peace and integrity guilt-free! I can’t offer to ‘help’ with anything, cook their meals, do their laundry or run errands for them. I can’t babysit and don’t have to put up with hordes of little school friends and their parents invited to distract my grandchildren, so their mother doesn’t have to. I’m not alone, but I’m completely autonomous. It’s the ideal setup for someone my age, and I fear impossible to recreate without the quarantine because even in separate living spaces, there’s usually no guilt-free zone and the living is anything but easy. I sense all this is also true for my kids, who want to know I’m safe but don’t want me hovering in their peripheral vision all the time, creating life’s equivalent of floaters in the eye and, yes, more guilt. Who would have guessed how perfect this would be? Certainly not me.

It’s truly a time for introspection with only good to come from the thought process. I’m sitting on my porch right now just seeing the birds dancing about, catching little insects to their hearts content in the lawn. I’m not wasting time. There’s nothing else to do, and nature is pleased that I’m watching. That’s what time is for: bearing witness.

13 Responses to Journaling the Virus: A Crisis of Belonging — Together in Isolation

  1. Just catching up to some of these Sidney. This does sound like the perfect set-up – having your family close, but not too close, especially with young children. Not everyone talks about the dual pressures of loneliness and the need for peace and quiet. Can’t one solve both at once? I love it. We’ve been holed up in Washington, Ct and have now come to realize – even as we’ve been bursting in our sweet, small house – how much we’ve all evolved since March. Everyone appreciates each other more, but we also know it’s ok for one of us to retreat and just relax on our own. Plus it’s so nice just to sit and read a book unbothered and guilt free! Hope you’re well and looking forward to reading more of your writing.

    • I couldn’t agree more. The removal of guilt over things unaccomplished and schedules avoided is wonderful. Have we learned not to fill our lives with all that stuff for the future? I hope so. It’s another silver lining! Thanks for writing. Always good to hear from you.

  2. Bravo Sid! Such a different way to “see” the coronavirus! We zoomed for Easter and our children are shopping for us. We feel overprotected but appreciate their anxious attentions.Who knew that a virus could bring us closer and appreciate each other more?

    • Ah yes! That’s one of the silver linings I noticed first. Now that we’re further into it all, I’m not sure I can claim to be appreciated more, but there is definitely a lot of comfort and acceptance of each other. A very welcome change if ever there was one! Thanks for sharing that silver lining with us!!

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