As someone who is single and lives alone (well, with my two cats), these past nine months of quarantine have been a true testament to my strength and resilience, and I’ll start with that. I don’t think I ever realized, as a single person, how important my weekly dinners and drinks with friends really meant to me and to my overall happiness. These moments were my love, my affection, my laughter, and that’s all taken away now. And while I do truly feel empathy for people who have families, significant others, and spouses driving them crazy during quarantine (and OMG the single, working moms — how the hell are you even functioning?), I also always think to myself, “at least you’re not in total solitude.”
There’s a reason why solitary confinement is a punishment in prison; we are social creatures who require touch and attention, and I think many people would be shocked to find out how many of us singles would just love to listen to a screaming toddler right about now (well, okay, maybe not love, but it could be a nice break from the deafening silence).
So, when friends and family members ask me over the phone or via a text how I’m doing, or the dreaded “How are you?” (eye-roll), I always reply with the fact that I’m taking coronavirus one day at a time. Some days are really hard, some days are really, really hard and then other days I’m…okay. Okay is about as good as it gets when you haven’t been touched since February.
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I should also mention that I lost my dad very suddenly in May of 2019, just three years after my only sibling, my 29-year old sister Melissa, accidentally overdosed on prescription opioids. The isolation from this pandemic brings out grief like you would not believe, but that’s the thing… we are all grieving right now, some more than others of course but, essentially, those of us who came into coronavirus with our own loss, loneliness, and sadness have basically been hit with an F5 tornado.
On top of the feelings of isolation and sadness, yes, I’m single at 37 and I want to find a partner and have at least one child and, yes, I’m anxious and scared about the fact that this pandemic is delaying that process for me. There’s a weird stigma around admitting that out loud and I’m sick of it, quite frankly. I know a lot of you reading this feel the exact same way and you shouldn’t feel any shame in it. It’s okay to admit that you don’t want to be single for the rest of your life, just as much I empower women who don’t want to get married (or those who don’t want children) to embrace that.
So, what am I doing about this mess?
It might not sound this way from what you’ve read so far, but I can Irish exit myself from my own pity party reaaaal fast, and I’ve actually always been pretty good at that, even before COVID (“EBC,” as I now call it).
Here’s how I do it: Am I healthy? Yes. Is my family healthy? Yes. Do I still have a job, unlike millions of Americans? Yes. Could I add “for now” after all of those answers? Yes, but I try not to think about that…and for the past few months (really since around August when I came to terms with the fact that this vaccine isn’t coming any time soon), I decided that I’m going to, of course, still be sad, still mourn and still be angry, but I’m also going to focus more on me.
I’ve shifted my mindset (most days at least) from “I’m so lonely and sad and I’m probably going to die childless and single” to “I’m still lonely and sad, but what can I do today to grow as a person and use this time wisely to better myself?” It’s all about me (and not about finding someone else) right now and, honestly, it’s been a huge feeling of relief to finally decide to put the focus on myself.
It is not easy, and some days I fail hard at this new revelation of a mindset. But then when it does work, I find myself doing all these “loving actions” for myself, as my grief counselor calls it. Most recently I started bullet journaling, which always sounded really tedious to me, but I’m finding it to be oddly therapeutic in making me feel more in control of my daily life. I’ve also started taking tennis lessons again, something I did back in 2018 and really enjoyed. And most recently, I signed up for Ryan Holiday’s 11-Day Taming Your Temper Stoic Guide to Controlling Your Anger course. I’ve always been a little bit angry (I’m basically a female Larry David), and given the current state of the world, it’s hard not to be angry, but this pandemic has taught me that there are ways that I can change my perspective on things, sometimes little things, that make my day just easier.
Unlike me, Stephanie O’Quigley, beauty publicist and podcaster living in New York City, is actively dating and she’s doing so with a fresh perspective. “I’ve found that I have had more time to date during COVID,” she tells me. “To date and think about what I would like and need in a partner. I used to be ‘too busy’ to consider taking dating seriously, so I have been using this time wisely.”
She says she’s used the pandemic to spend the time on herself, a time she never found before and may not have in the future. “I’ve discovered so much about myself – what I truly need, want and love,” says O’Quigley. “I don’t think I would’ve spent the last few months the same way had I been living with a partner or family.”
Calming Your Inner Critic
Anxiety and sadness are still very real for singles during COVID, and Amy Dresner, author, speaker, and recovery advocate based out of Los Angeles agrees. “Suddenly I could go for days without seeing anybody. I slept much more,” Dresner tells me. “I really struggled with self-care, like my skin routine and hair washing. I mean, let’s be honest, showering was a struggle.” This is something that I also dealt with, as I know many of us to have during bouts of COVID depression. It can feel pointless to spend time getting ready when no one will see you. Dresner reminds herself that this will not be forever when she’s feeling down and it also helps her to take drives and play loud music. “I’ll get my hair colored, and that does wonders even if only my cat can appreciate it.”
Same girl, same.
Can we talk about the negative self-talk that also will come for anyone who is feeling sad about being so isolated and single right now? Be aware of it. It’s a tricky little bitch. Dresner noticed it right away and realized that getting out and interacting with people, even briefly at the grocery store or while recording her podcast, really helped with that. “I feel a huge lift. I’m reminded of who I am, which is different than who my mean brain tells me that I am.”
We all have to really dig deep, especially us singles living alone, to get through this quarantine time but, as Dresden says, “with anything hard, you can come out stronger” and remember you are not truly alone. You can always drop me a DM.