You are not alone.
However you’re feeling right now I want you to know that you’re not alone.
Since shelter in places have taken effect, it feels as though living alone and living independently has been placed under a microscope. I’ve heard from a lot of my followers on Instagram and my readers asking how I’m handling living alone during this time. Many of you have reached out to share that my content has been comforting or they’ve reached out to say “any ideas on dealing doing this single? I’m finding it really hard.”
During the day I am largely fine. I am one of those people who wants to keep busy. I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder so keeping busy and keeping distracted is one of the best ways to help me minimize the racing thoughts that can lead to panic-filled spirals. But as my work has dwindled (pushed out and paused contracts; cancelled contracts) my days have filled up less. I’m someone who really enjoys what they do so each day doing my jobs thankfully feels more like a gift for the past few years. But as that work has minimized I find myself being less occupied and therefore with more time to dwell in thinking about life’s current uncertainties. I think feeing overwhelmed, sad, upset, hardened, unsure, fearful and anxious are such real emotional realities of this trial we are being put through.
One of the ways I am personally using to cope is pursuing things I never really made the time for previously. Researching SEO, taking webinars on topics of interest, studying my analytics, reading the stack of magazines I’ve let pile up, doing more meditation, etc. I’m also minimizing any reading materials or television programming that makes me feel more anxious. I am doing my very best every day to show up with a positive attitude and I am one of those people who is choosing to try and be productive right now – not because I necessarily want to but more so because it is how I am getting by.
But if being “productive” isn’t for you right now, that’s ok. Doing nothing is fine right now, too. What I feel deeply right now is that however you’re managing to cope during this is OK. We’re all entitled to manage our stress, our anxiety and our fears in the way that makes us feel best moment to moment. We don’t need to shame others for how they’re choosing to spend their time. (I’ve seen it happening…) Now is the time to give extra grace to ourselves and grace to all others.
The other week I needed to cry. I had something unkind said to me that left me reeling into a spiral of fear and anxiety – a place I had largely (gloriously) avoided up until that moment. Then I read this article on Harvard Business Review and the tears just wouldn’t stop. The faucet had been turned on and I took that afternoon to really feel the grief. The article really resonated with me as I do truly feel I am mourning the loss of my normalcy, the loss of my social calendar, the loss of my comfort zone, the loss of my plans. And the uncertainty we all feel right now is easily magnified when you’re single and living alone.
The nights seem to be the hardest because it is when the busy-ness stops. Typically my nights are spent going to a workout class or attending an event or having dinner with friends. But I find once I finish dinner and there’s that endless space of three hours to fill up before sleep – that’s when I feel lonely. And I’m a person who up until now really loved living alone! I have always really valued my independence and I haven’t looked back once since I moved to an apartment by myself in 2017. I have cherished it every day. Would I want roommates right now? Probably not. Would I want companionship of some sort? Probably.
I’ve seen mothers say on Instagram how much easier it would be to quarantine without children. While I’ve silently thought how nice it would be to have children to keep busy and distracted with. Companionship or lack there of is in the eye of the beholder and now more than ever right now; to each their own…
There’s so much power in human connection but it’s harder to come by when you’re living alone in isolation. And it’s harder to be real and vulnerable and speak our feelings over Zoom calls and FaceTimes vs. in person. Not to mention the internal struggle of feeling like you’re complaining about feeling lonely when so many others have it worse right now – illness, loss of loved ones, loss of employment, unsafe homes…
I know not every one is like me in where they typically thrive off of social interactions. I have been outgoing my whole life. Both of my jobs are inherently social – demanding a lot of in person time. And while I’ve worked from home since 2016 when I became self employed, even that couldn’t prepare for me all this time constrained to my studio’s four walls. And I used to really, truly cherish my alone time. (I am an ambivert meaning I cherish both social time and alone time).
I heard on a podcast the other week that “now is the time to be exceedingly kind to yourself.” And I couldn’t agree more. We need to all grant ourselves permission to feel the feelings. To do what we feel we need and to cope how we want to cope. But it’s hard work right now, isn’t it?
I’ve thought a lot recently about how I’ll feel after our lives return to some semblance of normalcy. I know I’ll take less for granted. And I’ll seek more connection than ever before. I’ll more deeply value the presence of being present with loved ones. I’ll be extremely aware of the fact that life can change in an instant. And I will continue to prioritize living a life of fulfillment and kindness and gratitude. Recognizing all the things I have to be grateful for has truly been one of my guiding lights during this time. The gratitude helps drown out some of the loneliness that can creep in.
For now, what I’ve decided is that I want to continue to use my voice for good. Use my platforms to spread some added light into people’s lives. I’ve always been a connector – it’s ingrained in my personality but as I’ve been able to connect with others in person less – I’ve leaned into connecting with my virtual community even more. I hope the content I am sharing and that my presence here on wit & whimsy brings you comfort and brings you a sense of escape and some normalcy. I know for me writing posts that I’m used to certainly has felt more cathartic of late. It’s another one of my welcomed distractions.
But outside of wit & whimsy I want you to know there’s no cap on communities. If you don’t feel you have one – know that yours are out there. Seek out Facebook groups and virtual book clubs. Start a virtual cooking club or happy hour series where everyone invites someone they know. Join or start the community you’re craving. And reach out. There is absolutely no shame in saying you’re feeling alone or lonely or disconnected. You are absolutely not alone in this. And what I do know I’ve come to realize is that Alone and Lonely are two separate things.
One of the greatest gifts we can give to one another right now is the gift of reaching out. To our friends, to our families, to strangers and to neighbors. Now is a great time to help your neighbors in particular. Leave notes under their door. If you rent, let management know you can help neighbors in need. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. One of my greatest highlights of all of this is the long catch ups I’ve had with friends where I’ve let months slip away without catching up with them.
Use apps like Zoom, House Party, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Marco Polo to reconnect. I particularly love Marco Polo because it isn’t live conversations – rather video voicemails with friends and family. I look forward to opening each and everyone I get from a friend or in my Groups that I have with friends and families. They keep me company. My family has also set up regular Friday afternoon hangouts. We’ve never done this before this time. And I won’t soon forget how easily it has turned out to be to put aside being busy and making time for our loved ones.
If you don’t have a network you feel comfortable reaching out to, there are also professional services like Talkspace and Better Help that allow you to speak with licensed therapists who can help manage emotions and assist in making sense of what we’re going through. You’re able to easily have appointments from your phone or computer.
Something I’ve learned in my 30s (that I wish I had employed earlier in life) is that the more good-feeling emotions you bring to your current circumstances, the faster things begin to work out the way you want and the faster you’ll feel better. And if right now you don’t feel you can give much – emotionally or financially, that’s ok, too. I thought this was a great read about worthiness during all of this. An affirmation I’ve always liked is I have the ability to change my circumstances. But even that feels hard given life’s current restrictions.
Can we change the need to quarantine or social distance? No. We mustn’t for the greater good. So I am changing my perception of the I have the ability to change my circumstances mantra by zeroing in more on daily gratitude and spending time seeking out joy in the small things so that less of my time is spent thinking about the negatives that Coronavirus have brought upon all of us. That’s how I’m changing my current circumstances. And remember: What you resist persists.
I have personally found comfort and calm in redirecting my focus off the negativity during these times and instead am focusing more so on the here and now (therefore mitigating the fear associated with “What does this all mean?” and “What comes next?”) and also looking at how I could serve others. Having a blog audience to connect with certainly helps with all of that. My work associated with wit & whimsy has been helping me get by as I’ve had such nice DMs and emails and comments during this time related to thanking me for the type of content I am putting out in the world right now. It helps me feel like I’m serving a purpose during this time.
As I recently read and truly aligned with, “my most cherished hope is that we not forget the lessons we learned during this time about the value of creating and sustaining meaningful connections with other people.”
That, my friends, is my hope, too. Know that I am here for each and every one of you – whether you live alone or not. None of us are alone in how we feel right now.
You are not alone.