If you’ll recall, heaven knows I do, 30 days ago I discussed how it felt not to touch anyone for 30 days. Now it’s been 60. Neat. Sometimes, just when you need it, the world throws you a little perspective. Yes, I’ve been deprived of human contact for 60 days and am teetering on embodying something anthropologists would study, but I also woke up to the news that my debit card had been stolen this morning and 30 minutes later I spilled a full tumbler of iced coffee all over the floor and myself. In that moment I wasn’t thinking about being alone. It was, in a way, nice.
A month ago, my solo state was something I could feel physically and emotionally wearing on me. I was prone to attacks of fear and anxiety, there was a sense at all times that my isolation was something I had to actively manage. Now, two months in and not so much as a hug since the beginning of March, it sort of feels like I’m used to it? The panic attacks are gone, I feel much more mellowed out, almost like I’m adjusting to this new life despite also wanting it to go back to the way things were as soon as possible. It feels weird to “settle in” to a crisis. I’m doing much better, but then I also fear that this means I’m doing much worse. When this is all over, I still want to need hugs, right?
At a high level, I’m concerned I’m losing my ability to feel. I know that’s a bit alarmist but what else have I got to freak out about on a Saturday morning? Also, it’s kind of true! Emotions and connections feel dulled and fuzzy, like a wine glass that hasn’t been cleaned properly. Typically my emotions are very potent, Cancer is my sun sign for heaven’s sake, but lately it feels like everything is watered down. It’s like my own feelings are just out of arms reach of me. Is my psyche protecting itself, or losing its grip? One wonders.
I investigated my concerns by watching one of my all-time favorite movies, and in my opinion one of the greatest achievements in cinema, ever: Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet. Typically, this movie sends me. I’m instantly a teenager again, deeply involved in the plot and absolutely devastated by two deaths I’m already 100% certain are going to happen. (Though isn’t there some secret part of you that hopes the ending will magically change one day?) When you know what’s going to happen and you still thoroughly enjoy watching the film, that is the mark of quality my friends.
I find it hard to connect with modern-day youth culture, strongly preferring my own youth culture, and finding youth having sex in the manner of Normal People quite honestly a bit weird. So back to the 90s I go. Except this time, I couldn’t feel. I enjoyed the movie, naturally, but that sense of connection to it, that pull or passionate investment, that was gone. Nothing mattered to me. It was as if I was watching the movie through some sort of barrier, like I was wearing one of those giant inflatable balls people love to run around fields in. I couldn’t reach anything, my own emotions lost in a sea of distance from everyone and everything I love. If R&J can’t snap me out of a malaise, what in holy heaven can?
I’ve invested myself in books, classic films and television, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a revisiting of my Death Cab for Cutie phase. My culinary skills have massively improved and one day, when I’m allowed, my friends have quite the dinner party to look forward to. I’ve tried all the things that usually bring me back to feeling life fully, but everything just kind of a has a melted popsicle quality to it. Not even the good brand of popsicles. The store brand.
We’re supposed to be around people. We’re supposed to be around more living things than one very surly, albeit adorable, cat. Isolating human beings is to remove them from their natural state of existence. We’re meant to look at each other’s faces (not through screens), watch each other’s body language, carry on about life in each other’s vicinity. It’s for our health, and our mental wellbeing, and for the last 60 days my only interaction has been with grocery store clerks through masks for about 90 seconds at a time. That ain’t cuttin’ it, but somehow, it’s all I get.
I don’t see myself as a failure for being alone, quite the opposite, I see myself as a Matrix-level bullet-dodger for not currently being in a relationship with literally anyone I’ve dated in the past. I’m quite comfortable being on my own, and being on my own schedule, but after 60 days in isolation I’m a little perturbed that my timeline to partnership has had so little convergence with a global pandemic.
I don’t feel pressure to partner up, I’m entirely unbothered by opinions that I’m “too old” to be single or the idea that being 37 and by myself means there’s something wrong with me. (For the record, there’s “something wrong” with all of us, that doesn’t mean we’re unworthy of love. I include you marrieds in this notion.) But this extended period of such isolation has really got me thinking about the benefits of partnership, and there is an unfamiliar urgency emerging that I’m not sure I like. I don’t want to feel pressured to partner before the next pandemic just so that I can feel a full range of human emotions and not lose my grip on what it means to exist, but I think that’s happening? Again, I don’t mean to sound alarming, I just have a lot of time on my hands, you see.
There’s a certain jealousy I feel any time someone walks behind the person I’m speaking to on a Zoom. I’m jealous that they’re not totally alone, and grateful that they have someone there with them. I know what the alternative feels like. In my mind, they’re being spared this odd rewiring of the human brain that isolation is currently treating me to. It is never a competition of who has it worse in these quarantined days. We’re all allowed to feel what we’re feeling and we’re both valid and not insulting others while we feel these things. What I’m saying is, I know your family might be driving you crazy, but honestly, they’re what’s keeping you sane.
I really hope I never write the “120 Days” version of this essay. I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it’s looking like it might. I still maintain that in the long run, everything is going to be okay, I’m just not sure how long that long run is. Stay tuned I guess? What will become of the socially distant singles who live without human contact for an infinite amount of time? Tonight, on Dateline.
Anyway, that’s where I’m at.