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I’ve always been a homebody.
A person who craves alone time and needs a lot of personal space. In fact, I’ve never had an issue with aloneness. I’ve been like this since I was a kid and it really bothered my mother that I stayed in my bedroom all the time. I’m just kind of a loner, even though I’m also very much a social butterfly at the same time. I like my home—it is my sanctuary, my safe place, my cocoon if you will. Of course, I’m not a total hermit. I venture out for shopping, groceries, and dinner with friends, ya know, but not much.
Speaking of venturing out, I can remember how excited I became after learning that my favorite grocery store at the beach where I lived offered curbside pickup.
I didn’t even have to go in! I could order online, pull up to the curb, ring the doorbell, and have them load my groceries into the trunk of my car without ever stepping foot inside the store. Spoiled—I’m spoiled! Honestly, I thought it was pure genius, so you can only imagine how I felt when home delivery became an option. I was absolutely giddy that I didn’t have ever have to be bothered with people who annoyingly took up half the aisle while they leisurely shopped their list. It allowed me to focus on other things, things that mattered to me, like this blog, for instance. As I said, I’ve never had an issue with aloneness. Well—until now.
With the emergence of COVID-19, life has changed for many of us in what can be perceived as in the blink of an eye.
Most states have now ordered shelter-in-place mandates and non-essential businesses have been closed for weeks. From the information being passed on via the CDC, most people will recover and some will never even know they had it. Others, who are immune-compromised, may not be so lucky. I don’t talk much about the fact that I have an autoimmune disease called lupus, which pretty much renders my immune system useless, but I was diagnosed at 21, so it’s been my normal for a very long time. I’ve been sick all winter with everything coming and going, and an insidious virus such as this one could take me out rather easily. It isn’t something I take lightly. I am limiting my trips out and going stir-crazy in the process because even for a homebody, self-isolating is difficult at best.
Currently, there are 4,362 cases of COVID-19 in my home state of Tennessee.
There have been 79 deaths and 449 hospitalizations. Those numbers will increase exponentially as time goes on, and we haven’t even hit the peak yet. That is frightening to me because life as we know it has permanently changed, even if this virus proves to be temporary. I never thought I’d see something like this in my lifetime and witnessing all the panic ensuing on social media amps up my anxiety level more than I ever anticipated. I’ve never been scared of a virus; in fact, I don’t take vaccines for the flu or anything else even as immune-compromised as I am, because I’ve always depended on my body to get me through whatever illness it takes on, even though that isn’t the reality for me at all. It’s especially not the reality for me right now, and that alone unsettles me to no end.
The process of isolation has changed how I see things.
My friend Brian and I were talking about how cheap gas is and he mentioned it’s sort of like being 16 and grounded with no place to go. It was a good analogy. I didn’t realize how much I took advantage of being able to meet my best friend at our favorite Mexican place for an impromptu margarita night (I miss you, Monica!). I didn’t know that I would suddenly despise curbside pickup, wishing for the opportunity to roam the aisles of the grocery store and have people get in my way. I also had no idea how much I’d miss family dinner on Sundays at the farm I’ve come to love so much—even the dog wonders why we don’t leave the house at 5 pm each week anymore. I crave things I didn’t even know I hungered for and that sudden craving for human interaction really, really surprises me.
I imagine that many of us are experiencing the restlessness that I speak of.
I made an appointment with my therapist yesterday for the first time in many weeks because I’ve been feeling so all over the place with the present situation. She likened being in the midst of a pandemic to a traumatic event—think gloves, masks, social distancing, quarantine—it’s not something that any of us have ever been through. Let the word sink in for a minute—pandemic—it’s kind of a frightening word, right? With all the misinformation being spread within news outlets and social media, it’s hard to know what to make of any of it! And while we are fortunate to have technology available at our fingertips for facetime coffee dates or virtual family togetherness, it really just isn’t the same as being able to interact with another person face to face. It’s connection, sure; but it lacks the ability to create an emotional closeness with it because it’s void of human touch.
I manage my time differently than I have in the past because now, I don’t have school to rely on to keep my mind busy.
I graduated in December and have enjoyed the break from homework and deadlines. I color—a lot. I’ve rediscovered Farm Town on Facebook. I facetime my friend in Costa Rica and pick off all my gel polish in the midst of a three-hour conversation because the nail salons are closed and I have no idea when I can get my newly-shortened sassy hair highlighted and cut again. I didn’t think about how relaxing those trips to the spa are that I make for self-care purposes, nor did I think about the fact that I’m alone in a much different kind of way than I’ve ever been before. It’s scary if I’m being completely honest and isolation in itself can be extremely disconcerting—not just for me, but for everyone who is sheltering-in-place just like I am.
Isolation and being alone has meant an increase in calls to the crisis center where I completed my internship.
People are frightened beyond belief due to all the uncertainty they’re facing regarding job loss, the fear of becoming ill, and everything in between. Some have what they need, others don’t. Panic hoarding has caused many to go without, which only increases anxiety levels to heights unknown. I’m thankful for people like Ava, Sarah, Libby, Shelly, and Marley because they answer those calls coming into the hotline, reassuring people that someone is always there to listen when they’re feeling the most alone. Crisis work takes an incredible, emotional toll on those who so willingly carry the burden for others, so saying that they are my heroes is an understatement. It’s an impactful labor of love that they are carrying out—I am honored to know them, learn from them, and call them my friends.
There are so many unknowns right now and along with the unknown comes the fear of it.
It’s unsettling, really, and sometimes, the silence is deafening. I’ve always leaned on my intuition to lead me through situations I don’t have a sureness about, but even that fails me in this moment. Sure, this virus will pass, and the upheaval is only temporary, but things may never be the same once we are on the other side of it. Businesses that once thrived won’t be able to recover; people who have lost their jobs will be in a scarier place than they are now; and sadly, some of us will lose people we know and love from this horrific pandemic; either from the virus itself or by some other means such as suicide, due to the fear and trauma people are experiencing. There is much to lose, in every aspect, and I know I’m not the only person who recognizes that.
If you’re feeling unsettled just like I am, I want you to know that it’s okay to be afraid.
We don’t yet know what the other side of this looks like, but it’s in wading through the unknown that we find out what we’re made of, what our deepest fears are, and what tools we need to have in our arsenal to deal with them. It also forces us to look at life differently and to appreciate the things we tend to take for granted. I have a friend who presented the idea that we needed a pandemic to create a new level of human awareness and compassionate decency. I’ve thought about that a lot lately, and my prayer, if I had one, would be that this passes as quickly as it emerged without taking too many casualties with it. Even one life lost, by any means, is one too many.
Until next time, be safe and stay sassy!