Archives for category: loneliness

My news feeds have blown up with pandemic stories of the shock and outrage variety. Apparently, quite a lot of people do not actually “get” that social distancing means… wait for it… maintaining social distance. You know. From other people. I would have thought that was so basic as to be unavoidably understandable, but no… there are apparently a notable number of people who think that if the group of people is smaller than 5… and they stay away from other groups of people that size, you know, by about 6 feet, that’s “good enough”. It just isn’t. Seriously. Stay home. Try solitude. It’s not that scary.

If you’re “going for a walk”, but bringing along 4 or 5 family members (or worse yet, strangers off the internet from nearby communities), you’re really not helping.

Stay home.

Seriously. Mostly just stay home. It’s not that complicated. (Seriously – how can you be bored already??)

I’ve been finding a variety of mindfulness practices helpful, myself, and, admittedly, I’m fortunate to be in a relationship with someone I actually enjoy spending time with. No kids to distract or entertain. A fondness for reading has been helpful, too. I don’t think we ever turned on the TV yesterday, at all, choosing to spend our day, instead, working on various individual projects, and reading quietly. I spent more than one delightful hour just watching the fish swim.

Every bit as entertaining as broadcast media.

I get that with various hits to the way our economy works, it’s getting complicated to order things for delivery (already), and maybe you don’t have all the things on hand to easily do some particular task or hobby. It may be hard to get parts, tools, supplies – but the nearly-infinite inventiveness of human primates has kept the species going for quite awhile. I bet you’ll think of something, if you give yourself a chance, and stay open to the possibilities. 🙂

Just stay home, though.

I’m not saying that “life in the time of pandemic” is easy. Clearly not. I’m just saying some small details aren’t that damned hard, and we can all choose more wisely, and show greater care and consideration for our fellow human beings, with improvements in our decision-making. I’m not pointing a judgmental finger, either; I could do better, myself. The once or twice I’ve gone out for things could likely have been wrapped up in a single trip out and back, with some foresight. Less interaction face-to-face with other human beings in the community is the literal goal, here.

I finish off my morning coffee with a sigh. Another day at home, and I’m over the head cold I had last week. It’s a routine workday, and lacking the morning commute, time easily gets away from me…but… there’s also very little pressure (for me) to comply rigidly with a specific start or end time (in my role, currently). This first cup of coffee was delicious… and, it’s already time for work, a new day ahead of me, and time to begin again. My lovely “stay-cation” that turned into “staying home sick” morphs into “working from home”… and all of it feels fairly similar, right now.

…That’s even okay. I’m content with it, working, living, loving, within the confines of social distancing is okay, too. It just takes practice. 😉

 

Well, I must say, I’m already a bit “over” the continuous 24/7, all-channels, all-topics, doorbell-to-deck, coverage of COVID-19, pandemic or not. Seriously. There still remains so much else to also observe, discuss, and yes, enjoy. Having said that, I am staying home, working from home on work days, and doing only those things that can be done in that context. I’m fortunate to enjoy a comfortably merry, loving, and emotionally connected relationship (this partnership certainly reduces the potential loneliness of “social distancing”). I am reaching out to friends over text message (I gave up most social media some while ago, and kept only Instagram). Friends I haven’t heard from in a while are regularly surprising me with text messages, too. It’s fine. Limiting, but generally not a big deal.

I went to the grocery store, yesterday. The aisle that usually has paper products such as facial tissue, toilet paper, and paper towels looks like an old photo of soviet era shortages in iron curtain countries. The parking lot of the grocery store was nearly full, but the store was weirdly empty; people who do go out seem to be doing so alone. The streets are quiet. No “traffic”, even during “rush hour”, which no longer seems to exist (here). The trip to the store felt almost exciting – an “outing”! I got the staples I needed, stayed well back from the cashier as I paid, used hand sanitizer frequently, and did not converse with passers-by. Mostly fairly typical for me, except the additional distance, and the hand sanitizer.

I filled the gas tank of the car, while I was out, and chuckled to myself about “how long will this tank last?” knowing I am not going out much. Then I felt a bit of anxiety and a re-thinking on that; how long will gas stations be able to stay open, and resupplied? I took a breath, and exhaled with care. It’s not helpful to borrow panic from future such concerns, presently. I think about the panic-buying of toilet paper, and the impact on people who did not succumb to panic in that moment, who now struggle just to buy what they actually do need, while others sit on vast hoards of toilet paper that will likely last them into next year. I frown, to myself, aware that there is already identifiable profiteering going on, for products such as toilet paper, on eBay. We could do better, as a society, and as human beings.

…So… Do better.

It’s a complicated time. I am grateful for, and appreciative of, those that are still on the job, still interacting with the public, still providing critical services. I am also, admittedly, harshly critical of those businesses not willing to maximize the safety net for their employees, preferring to maximize profit instead. It’s also an election year; the posturing, the spin, and the insider trading are galling in times like this. I’m grateful for honest news, where it exists, and so glad that comedy continues. Art. Science. Music. These things are still real, still going on. Creators still create. The world continues to turn.

…I think about spending time in the studio, myself…

I read, this morning, that ISPs and streaming service providers are beginning to make decisions to limit bandwidth. I cynically wonder how they will turn that to their profit when the pandemic wanes? I hit my vape. I sip my coffee. I type some words and plan the day ahead. Saturday on a (for me) long weekend. The vernal equinox, something I generally celebrate “out loud”, passed by sort of without notice this year. Fairly certain I never mentioned it, myself. I commit to enjoying the time I am sharing with my Traveling Partner, and doing what I can to make that time merry, and even productive. Bills get paid, and great care given to the budget; there are still a lot of unknowns, for all of us. It is what it is.

Today, my project is both a bit of work, and a bit of entertainment – a lot of bother; I’ll be setting the aquascaping of my aquarium right, after living with the chaotic, rather haphazard and sloppy outcome of moving the tank here, almost 3 years ago.

The day the tank arrived at the new place. This shot was taken before the water even had time to completely clear up.

The tl;dr is that the moving team that moved the tank was at the end of their work day when they finally arrived at my place with my tank. They had one more job yet to go to, and were feeling rushed… so… they rushed the work. The large river rocks that decorate my tank were not placed with care, nor were the paperweights that function as the ornaments. The plants were sort of just dropped in, without being correctly anchored at all, and where they were anchored, they were not where I wanted them. (I’d have to re-do all of it, myself, and I knew it at the time.) I settled for “good enough, now just go, please” and went on with things, expecting to have plenty of time for restoring order to that bit of chaos… once I finished getting moved in and settled.

Life happens, and change happens, and within a couple weeks of moving in, my Traveling Partner relocated for work. Then I began an almost weekly “commute” back and forth to see him each weekend (almost), which meant my only leisure time for big projects was on weekends that I did not travel (and often those were selected based on exhaustion, or illness), and in the evenings (when I could generally count on being “too tired”). The chaos got worse, and after a prolonged power outage, most of the fish died. The tank sat quietly, being little more than an aquatic garden of sorts. Over time, after the last fish finally died, I began to ignore it, and after awhile, even became rather embarrassed by it.

Yeah, it got this bad. Inadequate filtration. Lack of routine maintenance. Heater failed.

After my Traveling Partner moved back in with me last year, I started considering taking it down to reclaim the space for something else… Then, I spotted something unexpected. One solitary surviving resident.

Shy clown pleco spotted hiding behind a glass paperweight. One of my original fish, purchased in 2013.

Well, that certainly changed things for me. I got excited about my “universe in a box” all over again (and a bit peeved at myself for being such a poor care-provider). I cleaned the tank. I upgraded the filter, the heater, and the lighting. I began restocking. Today it is a vibrant little planted freshwater community, populated by shrimp, tetras, snails, a betta, and of course, my wee clown pleco, now almost 7 years old.

This morning, after so much work (over the past couple weeks), with much still left to do. 🙂

It still needs some pruning, some tidying up, and I’ve certainly got the time at home this weekend to tackle the aquascaping more seriously. So. With some trepidation, I think I shall. Part of the plan, and the timing, and the “order of operations” is also to do with moving the tank to the other side of the fireplace to make better use of the space. (And, finally, there won’t be two light switches in every photo of the tank!) The needs are different for two people living here, than for one. 🙂 So much work. So much fun. So much love. Plenty to challenge me, and stave off any potential for boredom.

My perspective on my circumstances changes when I understand how other lives may be affected by my choices. (Pictured: a much happier, still shy, clown pleco.)

This is my life in the time of pandemic. It’s not perfect. There are challenges. There are opportunities. There is “room to grow”. There is this strange moment in my lifetime that holds so much potential to become “that time when we all reconnected”, and I hope to take advantage of it. What about you? What will you do with your time at home? How will you deepen your relationships? Where are your opportunities to grow as a person? Will you make use of the time well and wisely… or… not?

It is another time to begin again. 🙂 (However bad things may become, I know I can begin again.)

So… maybe you’re “stuck at home” practicing “social distancing” during this pandemic, and potentially feeling a bit bored or restless or feeling cut off? That seems entirely within the norms of human experience, doesn’t it? Are you there, yet?

Not me. I mostly don’t expect to be. Succumbing to boredom isn’t a major concern for me. I could say “because I have an internet connection”, and while that’s definitely helpful (games, news, entertainment, and even shopping… all right there), it’s not actually what my contentment rests upon, where avoiding boredom is concerned. For me, that’s about something so “old school” that it rather amusingly escapes many people’s attention as an option. I’m talking about the humble book.

You heard me right, People. I said it. Read a book. Read several. Become immersed in worlds you never previously imagined. Tackle those “hard” books you’ve dodged for years. Slog through something you’ve always felt you “should” read, but just… haven’t. Read out loud to each other, if you are “stuck at home” with a loved one, or a room-mate. Seriously, though? If that’s not enough – write one. You heard me right, People. Reading doesn’t interest you? How about writing your story? Yes, you, Human. Why not? Got a story in your head? Head over to the computer, sit down, and begin typing it out to share with the world. Self-publish on Amazon. How quickly can you call yourself an author while you’re socially distancing yourself during this pandemic?

No, I’m not joking. I’m just pointing out how silly boredom actually is, if  you haven’t read all the books, if you haven’t taken time to write your memoirs, or a story you made up in your head that you just keep coming back to, or even a cookbook of those family recipes you cherish. Seriously.

I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just saying, you have options. Don’t want to read? How about tidying up? Work off some of the tasks on that to-do list that’s laying around. Fix that drawer that sticks. Clean the garage. Get the spring garden started. There is a lot to living life that doesn’t require constant companionship or crowds. 😉

Well, damn, look at the time! Already time to begin again. 😀

I enjoy the thought that my Traveling Partner and I are sharing this journey, walking a shared path. Now and then I am reminded that it is, however pleasant, an illusion. We are each having our own experience. We walk our own path. Survive our own hard mile. We endure our own dark night of the soul. We, each, alone care for our innermost heart, and nurture our tenderest wounds. The reminder was powerful, and I am so grateful I was merely a bystander to two paths that suddenly diverged on a Saturday morning. I don’t know if this is a sad story or not, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t – certainly it is a story of change.

I was having coffee with a friend. We get together now and then, on a Saturday morning, and catch up on life and things. A couple, strangers, came in shortly after we sat down, and sat near us, sort of off to the side, definitely within our view, and close enough we could not avoid hearing their conversation, which I’ll share as accurately as memory permits…

He held her chair. This ordinary looking man of apparent middle-class means, allowed his companion to get seated, and they ordered. She thanked him for picking her up from the airport, and for taking her to breakfast. How thoughtful. She smiled. He shifted uncomfortably before speaking.

“So… welcome back..?” He laughed uneasily. His smile was fleeting, and somewhat nervous.

“Are you okay?” she asked, without looking up from her phone. This seemed somehow significant to her companion, and his posture straightened, and the look on his face became resolute, and more sure of himself.

“Yeah. So, about that. I’ve decided to end our relationship.” She laughed with a bit of disbelief, then looked into his eyes and her face sort of… froze. “I wasn’t sure how you’d take this, so… the least I could do was take you to breakfast…”

“You wanted to be in a public place so I couldn’t make a scene!” she hissed, leaning in close. Her face was tight with tears she was fighting. He… was still calm.

He inhaled deeply and sighed. “You’re right of course. I’m sorry. I needed to feel… safe. This is hard. Hard for me, too.”

“Why?” she demanded with a quivering voice, “someone else…?”

“No.” He sounded sad, and lost. “I just… there’s a lot I want to do for myself, to explore on my own. I just… I want to be myself, no compromise, no obstacles, no negotiation, and I haven’t felt able to. I’m sorry.”

They both sat quietly for some time, just drinking their coffee. My friend and I sat drinking ours. Occasionally looking at each other in a soft, sad, “what the fuck?” sort of way, each in our own thoughts, about our own partners, our own paths, our own lives.

Eventually, the man at the nearby table busy quietly breaking up with his partner spoke again. “So… I’ll need the keys to the apartment before I go. I … um… I had your stuff packed up and put in storage while you were out of town, and… um… yeah. I don’t want you to come back to my place, at all. I packed your clothes and things and they’re in your car… I’ll… I’ll just pay the check and take a car service home… is… what I planned.”

She sat looking astonished, helpless… I sensed that it might turn to frustrated fury at some point, and hoped that everyone would keep their heads, and find that calm center in their storms. “Is this happening?” she said quietly, in a child-like voice, as if disbelieving. “Five years, and then… this?”

“Yeah.” he said, “It’s happening. I’m going to go now. Please don’t call, I’d like this to just be… over.” He hands her an envelope, and her numb hands accept it.

“What is this?” she asked.

“It’s an inventory of your things. Please email me if I missed anything. Also… I, uh, paid off your car. I mean… I bought it, but, um… it’s yours.”

“You’re not taking it?” she accused, almost snarling the question.

“No. Why would I?” he asked patiently, “I don’t hate you. I’m just… done. Okay? I mean… I hope we’ve over this really fast, and we both move on with better… other things. …I’ve got to go.” He put his jacket on, and looked around as if he did not expect to see the place again, ever, and left.

The woman sat quietly, staring into her coffee. The other customers seemed also uneasy. Conversations seemed quiet, muted, as with a respectful silence. I know I was, myself, uneasy. I sat with my friend, each of us taking a turn at small talk, both of us thinking about two people – any two people – at any airport, seeing each other again, after some time apart, and suddenly, one path takes a sharp turn for a very different destination. Now and then I glanced her way, although I don’t know what I was trying to see.

My friend and I finished our coffee. We hug and agree to “do this again soon”. We both know we don’t really want it quite as it was, this time… I walk away feeling introspective, and a little bit blue. What if it had happened to me? What about you? What would that be like…? What would you do? I sigh, as I unlock the door of my car, ready – so ready – to return home to see my Traveling Partner, again…

…My “Traveling Partner”… nonetheless, we each walk our own path. We’re fortunate, any of us, to share the journey for a while, aren’t we? It’s not likely we’ll share the journey “forever” (that’s a child’s fantasy, I suspect). I spend the drive home contemplating love, thinking about what it takes to build, maintain, sustain, and nurture love. Thinking about what I’m good at love-wise, and what I still need so much work on. I think about all the things in the world I would like to see and do and be and experience along the way… and I think about sharing it with my Traveling Partner. I think about not sharing it with him. Would I love life any less if our paths diverged? I like to think not…but it would be so painful to find out. I put myself in her shoes, imagine myself sitting with my coffee, alone unexpectedly, no plan, no place,… I breathe, exhale, and relax, grateful that my path, for now, is different. No assumptions. No expectations. Aware that change is a thing that can happen unexpectedly, to anyone, at any time. Firmly, studiously, I am not taking love – this love – for granted. There are verbs involved. Choices. No map.

I took comfort in arriving home to welcoming arms, and a chance to begin again.

I sat. Then I sat some more. Eventually, I noticed I hadn’t hung up my pants after changing into jeans after work. So, I did that, still feeling pretty frustrated, kind of numb, and fairly disappointed with the evening (with myself?). Even now, I’m feeling pretty raw, sorrow holding on around the edges. I sat here, awhile, fingers resting gently on the home row of the keyboard, just staring at the monitor, not moving, just breathing. Suppressing my agitation and distress with pure will, heavy, stoic, and just barely adequate. Communication failure. Connection failure. Right now, doing “my best” does not seem enough.

So, I sit in my studio. Waiting for understanding. Waiting for peace to be restored within my core being. Waiting for my face to stop feeling frozen. Wondering, now and then, how to drag myself from here to there, and whether that takes some measure of forcefulness I don’t fathom?

Rough bit of path here. My heart aches. I mean, being real, a moment of heartache, frustration, and a resurfacing of despair is grim and exceedingly unpleasant…but… I’m breathing. I’m not in any physical danger. For most values of “I’m okay”, I am very much okay. “Move along, folks, nothing to see here…”

Still. I’m feeling a mix of unpleasant emotion, and more than anything, I’d rather not be doing that. I’d rather be hanging out with my Traveling Partner right now.

I’m fatigued, and my communication skills are reduced. Small annoying mistakes compounded by how very difficult it can be for people to talk about feelings in the first place sent the beginning of a quality evening skidding sideways in a very different direction than it seemed it might. So. I sit in my studio, unwilling to keep at earnestly (haplessly) making it worse while trying to do anything at all that might make it better so unskillfully that no good outcome could be obtained. I sit quietly. I write a thought. I sit quietly-er. Piece by piece trying to think things through and understand more clearly. I’m not doing all that well with it. It’s too early to go to bed. It’s not helpful to sit around crying.

I look around the studio and think about the things I’d like to get done, tomorrow. I guess, first, I’ll have to begin again. Right now, it’s not feeling so easy. There are going to be some verbs involved.