…It is well into isolation in 2021 & I have listened to every single song I could find with the word ‘lonely’ in the title while sitting alone in my living room. It started out fairly innocently & quickly descended into finding songs which mentioned loneliness & on to songs which simply felt lonely. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as a remedy for loneliness; at best it has cheered me up & at worst has helped me wallow to the dulcet tones of my fellow Lonely Folk.
This pandemic is HARD, for all of the reasons. It has shown all of the cracks in society more powerfully than they have been seen before, we are faced with daily death toll figures, unemployment, housing difficulties & not to mention living with the reality that we , & those we love , can (& have) contracted this virus. It’s a mess, & it is even more of a daily struggle because we don’t have our usual support systems in place for when the sh*t hits the fan…
….Pre-March 2020, I thought I already had a good understanding of loneliness. Being an only child gave me a shiny ‘I can handle being on my own!’ medal I proudly wore on my chest & a tendency to cling to those instagram posts which proclaim that all we need is ourselves. Now, don’t get me wrong, we are absolutely wonderful sources of support for ourselves & this can be utilised whenever we need it, but as this pandemic has reminded us, self-sufficiency can only do so much. We are social beings with a need to connect with others. We need smiles & hugs & in-person communication to feel human.
…Which leads me to writing this, alone in my flat, as I have been for months on end. The loneliness is physically painful, my arms feel empty from lack of human touch. I am one of the thousands of people living alone in lockdown who ache for the company of others, so if you’re one of my solo-living comrades, Hello, I see you. I have read everything about loneliness that I can get my hands on, scoured through all the tips & tricks the internet can provide. I could list them for you, tell you to keep a routine, have warm baths, find a hobby, arrange zoom calls yada yada, but truthfully none of this has really helped me so I won’t proclaim that they are a cure-all.
What has helped me is what we are all craving: social interaction. I have felt myself come alive through socially distanced walks with friends & dinners with my support bubble (my dad & his partner). It has made me see, more than ever, how truly important it is to be there for one another. In a week of tears from the crushing loneliness of January, I called one of my oldest & most trusted friends who also lives alone to confide in her how truly awful I felt. We jokingly founded the ‘Solo Livers-alone Together’ club based on a scene from About A Boy. Just the act of opening up about how I felt & having a few jokes with a friend helped me feel like the world was crumbling to pieces that little bit less.
One of the biggest perils of loneliness during this pandemic is that it can make us believe that the loneliness will never end; that we will be lonely forever. Without the normality of seeing people every day, our thoughts can bounce around the room & smack us in the face without any interference. I have had days of dramatically insisting to myself that I am The Loneliest Person In The World & I will never have a cuddle again, which can very easily spiral into blaming myself for this predicament. If this is you, if you are in that space & think it’s your fault, please believe me: it’s not your fault.
Loneliness can be caused by being all alone & by being around others who you don’t really connect with. As I’ve come to learn, you can feel lonely even when you live with people you love because you’re still separated from other people who you love & care for. Loving the people you live with doesn’t make you love the people you don’t cohabitate with any less, & being apart from them for so long is hard -really hard.
This Loneliness is painful & the pain is showing us how much we value & need each other. We live in a very individualistic society which displays a road-map for our lives to follow in which we form small cliques & fend for ourselves. We are taught to fear the ‘other’ & to keep our blessings (read: privileges) to ourselves. We are told to keep our feelings & our lives private, to never share what’s really going on or offer up our time in service of others. In my 9-5 work, I see the effects of this daily in how our elders are left on their own without the support of their community. This was all happening before the pandemic & has led to the misery of millions.
We need to change this.
We need to use our loneliness to propel us to create a world in which everyone is supported. I know how tough it is to feel like you are alone & without any gifts to offer, but by the virtue of simply being you, I can assure you that you are needed in this world. When the weight of the pandemic is crushing down on you & you can’t bear another day of this loneliness, know that it truly won’t be forever. We will see our loved ones again & we will have so many chances to build communities of care. Mutual Aid networks have shown us that we can support one another even when our government has failed us. Grassroots initiatives & the hoards of people who have donated & delivered food prove that there is such care & compassion available. We need to harness this, towards ourselves & for our fellow humans & planet.
Loneliness can feel soul destroying in its isolation, so whoever you are & whatever you’re doing right now, I want to let you know that you are not alone in your loneliness, I feel it deeply too. I am sending a big consensual hug & some hope for the future.
… You will laugh & hug & fall over drunk on the way back from seeing friends at the pub again (if that’s your kind of thing). Together, we can build a kinder, communal world & I can’t wait to see you on the other side of lockdown.