I have been home alone, pandemic style, for nearly a month now. No one has darkened my doorstep in all that time, except to drop off items such as the groceries I got delivered for the first time in my life.
My favorite in-person experiences are lunches or dinners with friends, or walks. The last time I met up with a friend was on Monday March 9. We thought it was kind of amusing to greet each other with elbow bumps instead of our usual hugs. The 6-feet-apart rule either wasn’t out there yet, or it hadn’t pierced my consciousness or hers.
I know what I’m supposed to be doing to replace my face-to-face interactions: video chats. Maybe Zoom, maybe Skype, maybe some other such thing. I’ve already read countless articles about other people doing that.
I’m not doing any of it. I never liked it before the coronavirus outbreak, and I don’t like it now. Maybe that will change as the lock-down continues for additional weeks or maybe even months. But I’d be surprised if that happens.
I don’t initiate phone calls, either. I rarely have, even before pandemic time. When reporters get in touch, I always ask whether it is possible to answer by email instead of talking on the phone, though in those instances, it is also because I like to give answers I can think through, rather than just generate on the spot.
I’ll admit, though, that when people do call me, I usually enjoy the conversations. And when I talk to reporters instead of answering by email, I often learn things from them – for example, about how other people think about single people, what kinds of assumptions they are making, and what they are wondering about. It isn’t always what I would have predicted. But even though I hang up and think – oh, what an interesting reporter, or, that was nice catching up with this friend or that relative – I still won’t initiate a call the next time.
Are you starting to think I don’t have contact with anyone? That’s exactly wrong. In fact, like many others, I am more in touch with more different people than I was before the social distancing regulations went into effect. Mostly we email or stay in touch on social media.
I love that. It is just the right thing for me, communicating online with the people I care about, even more often than before. Sometimes in more emotional depth, too. It has been a lot of fun hearing from people I haven’t heard from in ages. I’ve even initiated some of those conversations.
Two weeks ago, I wrote the blog post, “I’m mostly fine now, but what about 2 weeks from now?”. I noted that I am one of those single-at-heart types who loves being single and cherishes her time alone. I wondered whether that would last as the imposed solitude drags on. So far, it has lasted. I realize that although I miss seeing other people in person, I would not in a million years want to be living with anyone right now. Now matter how long the lock-down continues, I feel quite sure that will never change. And I still haven’t experienced loneliness.
I also talked about the low-level anxiety that gets a little more invasive every day, especially as the unfolding horror show racks up more and more infections and deaths and gets closer and closer to home. That hasn’t changed. But I also understand that the anxiety, at least for me, has nothing whatsoever to do with being single or living alone. Single is still who I really am and living alone will always suit me best. Anxiety, I think, is just part of the human condition during a world-wide pandemic.
There is one other psychological experience I alluded to last time that is even more salient now: interest. What is happening is fascinating. We are living in a truly historic time. True, it is historically bad rather than good. Saddening and horrifying and tragic. But also intriguing. In stunningly short stretches of time, our personal lives change in fundamental ways and so does the state of the world. Pandemic life is a lot of things, but intellectually, it is never boring.