Social Isolation Has Been A Surprising Cure For Loneliness
It's been more than a month now, but if anything social isolation has made me feel less lonely.
When I first heard about the self-isolation measures, I started to wonder how long it would take for me to have my ‘here’s Johnny’ scene just like Jack in The Shining.
It's true that (almost) all work and no play has very much made me feel like a dull lady, but I haven’t descended into madness yet.
Instead, social isolation has been good for me. It feels like it’s been a cure for my loneliness.
I don’t know about you, but beforehand this was my average day ... and when I write it down it sounds very depressing.
- Wake up alone as my partner had already gone to work.
- Have my morning coffee in my yard, look at social media but rarely interact with anyone on there, hear neighbours talking but don’t make any effort to say hello.
- Walk to the bus stop, get on the bus and pretend I’m the only one on it. Definitely do not make eye contact with anyone and stay as quiet as possible to keep the peace (avoid being the subject of an embarrassing viral video) during the trip. If anyone tries to talk to me, they are clearly weird.
- Get off the bus. Arrive at the gym. Pick a machine that is far away from anyone else working out. Make sure not to make eye contact with anyone as gym time is for exercise, not chatting.
- Get back on the bus, repeat no contact rule.
- Walk home, try to avoid bumping into neighbours as usually running late, if it happens wave politely but look away as quickly as possible.
- Log onto Uni lecture, alone.
- Get ready for work, maybe text a friend, family asking how they are but never call without checking first. They’re likely too busy, so am I, I just want to know they’re alive.
- Get on the light rail, the same rule as the bus. Try to get a seat facing forward and avoid the four-seaters at all costs.
- Start work, too busy to make small talk with anyone. It’s easy to go a whole day without having a conversation that doesn't pertain to work these days.
- Get back on the light rail, try not to fall asleep on the shoulder of seat neighbour. We’re both tired so definitely no talking.
- Get home late, see partner about an hour before he wants to go to sleep. Say goodnight and watch Netflix until I can sleep.
I read that and I want to give myself a hug. It’s so bloody depressing.
The fact is, I never wanted to feel lonely but I really was. What’s sadder is that I had gotten so used to it to the point that being sociable with strangers felt weird.
Part of me is dreading going back to that life.
It's one that’s full of anti-social quiet carriages, streets where it’s rare to see a neighbour using the local park or enjoying their garden, gyms where the unspoken policy is eyes down and a bit of shush and many days where I’m far too busy to have time worry about my loneliness.
Before Iso, almost everything had been automated or able to do online, so there was no reason to talk to anyone if you didn't have to -- but is that really good for us?
On top of this, most people I wanted to reach out to before Iso seemed too busy -- just like me -- to have the quality conversation I was looking for.
The times we did have to chat, it felt like I no longer knew how to do it as I was so out of practice.
Now we’re supposedly more isolated than ever before and while I’m following the rules, I so far feel far less lonely.
- When I wake up my partner is there! We also get to have breakfast and lunch together almost every day and I love it.
- I go outside, smile and wave at my neighbours and feel happy to hear them yell at me from afar that they’re doing OK and that they have enough toilet paper.
- I look forward to seeing people when I’m exercising around my area and I’m happy to share the clear air with strangers who appear to be enjoying it too.
- I’ve gotten used to calling my friends and family out of the blue again and it’s no longer weird, it feels great. They seem happier to hear from me nowadays and have the time to talk too. It feels like we're closer now than before.
- I’m proud that I’ve learnt most of the names of the shop attendants and regular faces on my local shopping strip and am more willing to shop locally because it feels like a scene out of Cheers where we know each other's names.
It feels strange finding enjoyment in this bizarre time in the world, but my life feels more like an episode of Neighbours and less Redrum than it has in years.
I don’t know about you, but before Iso I became a bit too complacent with being alone because that’s the way the world was going – a bunch of lone wolves getting by avoiding each other.
When we get out of this, I hope that changes.
While there’s plenty to be sad about right now, I’m happy that iso-life has restored my appreciation of community and made me realise how much I missed the art of conversation.