The Upside Of Spending A Year In Isolation?

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It’s March again, and I just realized that it’s been one year since COVID went global. The first case of the virus was detected in my province on January 28, 2020, and we entered our first lockdown in early March. I think. That sounds about right. The weather matches, so that’s gotta be right.

Is time really is an illusion? This year has been a lump of sameness, and I can’t believe that we’re back here again. Are you sure we’re not still in March? That’s a pretty big distinction. Still. That’s the keyword but, no, you’re sure this is a brand new month. Time has actually kept moving in a somewhat linear fashion.

Well, damn.

One year. 365 days. 8760 minutes. 31,536,000 seconds and, yes, I Googled that because math is not my bestie. All of that time has come, gone, and here we are looking out our windows at, what will hopefully be, the restart of our lives. Yay science, modern medicine, and vaccines!

Oh, but that’s in the future, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the past. The present feels a lot like both dimensions have warped into one. One year. Seriously?

Where were you when this whole thing started? Were you shocked that something so seemingly obscure had come so close to home? Were you afraid or, did you feel more pragmatic? Did you refuse to believe it was real or, did you enthusiastically embrace the efforts to minimize the spread? Did you think it would be over in two weeks if everyone did what they were told? Or, did you buy copious amounts of toilet paper and activate your doomsday protocols?

At first, I felt a jolt of fear because I’m immunocompromised and, this is the worst-case scenario for people like me. My first reaction was, “Well, I’m fucked. Are my affairs in order?”

Then I looked at the numbers, and they seemed so small. What are the odds that this thing explodes into a true global pandemic? It’s probably going to be like H1N1, the Pig flu or any other viral contagion over the last fifteen years. A big deal, yes. A lot of people got horribly ill, and that was awful. I don’t want to downplay the effects and the toll those diseases took. 

But overall, in the grand scheme of everyday life, it didn’t change anything for most of us. It was in the news for a few weeks, and then it went away. We never heard about it again. Poof, it was gone and forgotten.

That’s what I thought COVID would be. It would suck for a few months, and I would have to take extra precautions, but it would blow over. We would get back to our lives, and everything would be okay. I guess I chose denial with a hefty dose of pragmatism as my initial response.

Ah, to be naive and blinded by foolish optimism.

By the time my province went on lockdown, I was already in isolation. I’d come in contact with someone who had been in contact with a confirmed case. Wow, awkward sentence structure. My bad.

Anyhoo, I developed the now-familiar flu-like symptoms, and I had to lock myself in a bubble until we knew what I had it. It turned out that I had a viral lung infection, but it was my annual case of bronchitis. 

Yay, I wasn’t the outbreak monkey… Yet.

When I came out of the bubble, it felt like I was walking out into a new world. Vancouver is a busy city full of cars, tourists, and locals competing for valuable concrete real-estate. It’s noisy and crowded. It’s a city! If you’ve visited one, you know what I’m talking about. But in two short weeks, it had become a ghost town.

I drove around eerily quiet, empty, streets and all I could hear were seagulls yelling. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve assumed that the aliens had finally come. They’d taken everyone away. I was the last person on earth. I knew this would happen. Oh, of course, they would take everyone else and leave me behind. Typical! It’s elementary school all over again. 

I drove around the empty streets in a state of shock. A city without people, noise, or the usual signs of human habitation? It was a sight that I just couldn’t compute. It tickled my brain, but I could scratch it. It all looked and felt so bizarre.

But it was only for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, and then we would go back to normal. There’s no way this thing lasts longer than six months. I mean, that would be absurd. Right? Right. Why are you laughing at me?

A few weeks turned into a few months, and then we ran right past the halfway point without stopping. My hopeful naïveté turned sour as the reality of this situation became blatantly apparent. This wasn’t something that would just go away. We’d have to sacrifice a lot and work together to get through this. Damn, this thing’s really gonna change us, isn’t it?

Let me stop right here and tell you how grateful I am for everything you’ve sacrificed. You might be healthy and strong but, you put your life on hold for those of us who aren’t. That’s an incredibly selfless thing to do, and you haven’t been properly thanked. I don’t know how to express the depths of my gratitude. All I can say is, with every beat of my heart and cell in my body, thank you for everything you’ve done.

This chronically ill, immunocompromised individual appreciates you more than you will ever know.

Enough with the mushy stuff? Okay, I’ll move on.

It’s been a year! How is that possible? Clearly, they’re right and time is an illusion, but this is taking it a bit far, don’t you think? I can’t separate yesterday from six months ago. It all feels the same. It feels like no time has passed at all but, at the same time, it feels like we’ve lived an eternity plus one day.

The same day over and over and…Stop! I’m trying to refocus my energy into more positive spaces because the negatives are overwhelming and oddly alluring. If I keep going down this path, I’ll get lost in the weeds, and I don’t want that to happen. But are there any positives in a year of isolation?

After all, so much time has passed, and where are we?

That’s the illusion, I suppose. Time is made up of precious memories and lessons learned. It’s about the experiences we’ve had and moments we’ve shared. Time isn’t a clock on the wall or on your phone. It’s forward momentum. It’s in the moments of reflection or silliness. Time is reflected in our perceptions of life and in everything we hold dear.

This past year has brought limited experiences and very few precious memories. I don’t know if I’m moving forward, and my shared moments are few. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the things I hold close to my heart. What about the perceptions I maintain even to my own detriment? 

Those two, and here is where I’ve found the upside to this year of isolation. I’ve had a lot of time to reexamine my life, priorities, and my values. I’m asking questions and looking for answers. Who am I now? Who do I want to be tomorrow? Who do I want to be when this thing is over? What things are important to me, and what things can I get rid of? I’m asking these questions, and they’re super uncomfortable. I’m not a fan of self-reflection and personal growth.

It’s icky, sticky, and kind of itchy. But what else am I going to do with this copious amount of time alone? There’s only so much streaming content I can watch before my lazy eye goes on a walkabout. (True story). The image on the screen blurs, and my brain starts to vibrate. That’s not a pleasant sensation so, why not trade one for the other?

At least one is a bit more productive.

I’m not the only one partaking in this rediscovery of self. The one phrase I’ve been hearing a lot is, “At least I’ve discovered what’s really important to me.” And that’s so true! 

We’ve had a lot of time at home, sitting with our thoughts and clutter. We’ve been forced to stop moving, slow down, and that’s highlighted changes we want, or need, to make. Changes that will lead us to live happier, fuller lives and become the people we want to be?

Oh, that would be lovely.

Over the last year, I’ve realized how lonely I really am and how much I actually need human connection. I’ve always thought that I was a natural loner who’s happier by myself. Give me a couple of animals, and I’m peachy keen. If you asked me what I prefer, people or animals, I would’ve said animals, hands down. I still think dogs are better people than people! But now I want human companionship too.

I would go one step further and say I need people. I need a hug, and I’m not a hugger. They make me twitchy and slightly nauseous, but I could really use a good hug. Wrap me up, squeeze me tight, and hold on until my breathing levels out, kind of hug.

And that’s so weird! It’s not like me or, it’s not how I was a year ago. People exhaust me, and human interactions baffle me. The fact that I’m allowed to walk amongst civilized human beings is a travesty. It’s also a gross overestimation of my ability to put on pants. Sure, I can dress myself, but some things are harder to remember. Shirt. Shoes…Damn, I’m forgetting something. Think, Pooh, think.

After a year of only being able to see two people in person? I love these two people more than life itself. I’d do anything for them. ANYTHING. Need a ride to an appointment. Hop on in. Want a cup of tea? Coming right up. Need a body buried? My point is, I love these two people so very much, but damn, I miss random people.

Having conversations while putting gas in the car. Small talk, which I typically find vomitus, in the elevator. This weather, right? You know it! I miss that so much. Oh, going out for a drink or something to eat. I miss going to a movie and paying way too much for snacks. I miss people, and that’s not like me. 

I’m an introvert, and that’s my predominant personality trait. I’m also hyper-empathic, and maybe that’s why I’m an introvert. I feel what you’re feeling with such intensity that it hurts. I want to help but, too often, I can’t, and that’s devastating.

So, I pull away and hide from you because I can’t do anything. I’m useless, and there’s nothing I can do to make life any better. That thought makes my heart hurt, and I can’t people anymore. But, apparently, I need a human connection? That’s new. 

How do I balance the two? I don’t know. I’m still reevaluating my life, mental health, and lifestyle. I know what I want, and that’s more companionship, friendship, and shared experiences. I’m tired of going at it alone. I want to share my life, my story, with someone else. 

Correction! It’s not a want; It’s a need. My heart and soul need these things just as much as they need air to breathe, water to drink, and a dog to cuddle.

This past year, the forced isolation has brought some needs out of the shadows and put them under a bright spotlight. How I go about fulfilling these needs remains a mystery to me. I’m still adjusting to the idea that I am capable of needing human connection. 

What a strange concept? It’s a shocking idea to me, and I’m not being facetious. This is said in all seriousness. I had no idea that I needed anyone, but here I am after 31,536,000 seconds, coming to terms with this new revelation. Perhaps, once it sinks in, I’ll figure out how it fits into my life.

What about you? What discoveries have you made over the last year? What changes do you want to make or have made? Or, are you still in shock that this is a brand new March. That would be fair. I still can’t believe it myself.


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