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. Sidney, what a blessed gift you’ve inherited from your grandmother. You’ve made a delicious lemonade out of your quarantine!

    Each day, more and more, I feel panic and paranoia from strangers as well as tenants in my building. The silver lining is that I’ve been disciplining my thinking to tame my fears, trying to listen to the wisdom of my higher nature.

    Your attitude is inspiring. Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

    • The longer this has gone on, the more I see that we should give ourselves permission not to look to discipline anymore. Our responsibility is to enjoy ourselves and be grateful for what we really do have that’s special. It all shines through the heavy darkness now. Funny how it’s never quite what you thought you had, though!! Thanks for joining in on these thoughts. They all come together in the best, most supportive way.

  2. Indeed, this crisis is surreal and in many ways an abandonment for all of us in the ways we normally live. Your essay represents how all of us have had to look at our lives from a different vantage point and maybe even re-evaluate what’s valuable and especially what isn’t.

    Yesterday I was fortunate to have a friendly robin follow me as I walked in my backyard. I wonder if I would have paid her so much attention if not for being in a moment of reflection, nor would have prized her individuality. Thus this lock up has activated a flood of emotions and new realizations and re-evaluations.

    Thanks for reflecting back a snapshot of your musings.

    • Exactly. And isn’t it wonderful to have all the time in our world to reflect on those special things and not be rushed to complete tasks and make appointments? Oh these silver linings are truly most wonderful. Thanks for sharing your friendly robin with us!!

    • Another silver lining, Jack. We’re all truly connected now, and we know it literally, not just intellectually!! Thanks for being there, for eveyrone.

  3. You are a very perceptive and talented writer Sidney and I thank you for your wonderful insights! And so as you beautifully describe, this isolation creates a welcome solitude. And If it weren’t for the fear this would be a very welcome “retreat”. And if it weren’t for all the jagged rocks and inequality, this would be a level playing field. The truth is this is just another yin yang moment in humanity’s short history where all the “centers of the universe” are faced with the same invisible threat to our fictitious immortality that we have been facing all our lives. But now we are all facing it at the same time.

    • Many thanks for the compliment and joining in with your thoughts. Yes, it’s very much that sense of ‘the same time’ that ties the bonds so tightly. There are so many really special and neat things we can get out of this, both personally and as a society, and although I know many are worried we’ll slip right back into all our old bad habits at some point in the future, I don’t think it will be so. There will be changes–at least some, and the silver linings will have brought their power to bear. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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