Q&A | Living Alone in Lockdown

Friday, June 5, 2020


"As millions of people grapple with isolation in a pandemic, those who live alone face a particular kind of solitude." (Source)

I've written many entries about quarantine recently. Last week I put out a call on Instagram for questions on what it's like to be living alone these days. So today, I address them.

To keep you up to speed, I've been a solo dweller for a little over two years now. I will say, though, that living alone at 18, then 19, then 20, are all different experiences. But by now, my third year in Melbourne, I've been well accustomed to the solitude. There is plenty to love: The indulgent amount of personal space, having full control over everything, the peace and quiet. 

I enjoy it. In fact, I still do. Until suddenly, that's all I'm left with.

Homebody sentiments aside, living alone during a pandemic is far from the comfort it would otherwise be. Blissful "solitude" slowly morphs into more fitting terms: Seclusion, isolation. Having your own space to occupy is no longer all that liberating.

So what would come of us, you ask? How do we keep ourselves intact?

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1. How do you deal with loneliness?

To me, "alone doesn't mean lonely" has been far too overplayed. There is an unspoken shame that talking about loneliness makes you sound pitiful, or lovesick. I don't like that. I think it's time we de-stigmatise what loneliness is.

I like to think of it as hunger. It's a signal that there is an unmet need, which we need to remedy. That's it. A human need. Nothing more, nothing less. 

It's universal. And much like hunger: never permanent. The difference is while hunger is a physical need for food, loneliness is an emotional need for connection. I have definitely experienced feeling lonely in a crowded room, too. So it's not the absence of people that prompts this, but the absence of connection. 

Loneliness hits me when the Internet is failing as I'm trying to talk to my mother. Or in the silence that follows the second I end a phone call, or leave a Zoom meeting.

Much like how hunger reminds me I need food, loneliness reminds me I need people.

So to answer your question: Do you get lonely? I do. And I don't believe it would've been different if I had one or five other roommates to live with, either. How do I overcome loneliness? I see it as a human state, not a problem to tackle.

My obvious rule is to reach out. Friends I trust. Friends I get along with. Family members, near or distant. I reach out to them allLiving alone warrants you the right to be a little bit needy if you need to be. (It's a law now. I made it.) And if you don't have a person you can confide in, just find one good person. Write an awkward, confused text saying you need someone, and send it. Need people, then have people. Nothing catastrophic will happen, I promise.

I'm talking to you too, introverts.  Even though we thrive when being left alone, we are not designed to live that way. So even if you're not a "people person" — if you're having doubts about whether or not to call someone you're "not sure you're close enough with" — guess what? The world is burning. Nothing matters anymore. I suggest you call them anyway.

We are designed to need each other. As humans, we ought to notice how easily ego can stand between us and survival. If I had been too prideful to admit I felt lonely sometimes, I don't know if I would even be here.

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Additional note on tackling loneliness, which I think is also important: Be very careful of the thoughts that enter you when you are physically, or emotionally, isolated. It's research-proven that loneliness makes you more sensitive to negative expectations. You may be more sensitive to rejection – or mistaking that a friend "being busy" means they don't care about you. I'm just here to tell you that this happens. And to remind you there is an important distinction between "lonely" and "unloved". You are never the latter. So please look out for yourself, and try to rationalise feelings when they come, especially during this time.

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2. How do you stay entertained or mentally stimulated?

I used to like "being alone with my thoughts" but by now I've gotten very sick of it. So I'm subscribed to both Netflix and Disney+, which is a bit embarrassing to admit (but see my recommended shows while you're at it.) 

I'm neurotic by nature. A thousand hobbies, at any given moment. I have books, journals, paintbrushes, corners of my house that need cleaning. I reach for countless things in unpredictable patterns. So hobbies keep me sane — and on this, my advice would be: Find hobbies that slow you down.

We scroll our phones even while watching a movie, or listen to something while playing a game. Stimuli, after stimuli, after stimuli. The world around us is built this way, and we're feeling low, it's normal to crave for it. But I tread carefully, because too much of it harms us more than we realise. 

A good system to apply is to seek connectedness, not distraction. Distractions entertain me, but connectedness heals. So subconsciously, I keep a barometer in my head measuring whether or not I'm processing too much "junk" for the sake of filling time, or if I actually am feeling happy and content. Is this activity merely distracting me? Or am I genuinely enjoying it? Choosing activities that I delight in — rather than just stimulate me — is what's kept me going.

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3. Is there a new thing you have discovered about yourself from quarantine? / Any newly discovered pet peeves or annoyances?

I discovered that when my phone dies, I don't miss it. And that I spend more hours on Netflix than I do on books (which is a cruel imbalance I'm still working to fix.) Quarantine also made me realise how much of a non-city girl I am. Cities have their charm, but I'm noticing now a good home and nature that are my sanctuaries. I don't know if this is the quarantine blues speaking, but I don't imagine any city making me as happy as being in nature does.

(Okay, and I'm so, so annoyed when a person doesn't mute themselves on the conference call. It makes the main person's voice echo with ugly sound feedback and the unmuted person doesn't realise the mess they're making.)


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4. Dreams about the future that started coming to mind because of this?

Oh, plenty. Being rid of the everyday things I would normally have to think about, allows me to reassess what truly matters to me and what doesn't — the essential and non-essential, if you will. I don't think we should disregard the state of the world we're living in — if anything, we should be more attuned to what it desperately needs, and incorporate those to our goals accordingly.

Maybe this is because of that superstition that if you say your birthday wishes they won't come true, but I prefer keeping my "future goals" under wraps. I'm deciding what steps I can take for the time being, and really, with how the world is, there aren't many steps too far ahead I can plan for either. But what I can tell you is, I'm still somewhat hopeful.

We're less resilient than we thought we were, but also more resilient than we thought we could be.

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How are you feeling this week? What are some new things you're discovering during quarantine?

You're all in my thoughts. See you around!

Signed,
Jo

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3 comments

  1. Your analogy of hunger and loneliness is so on point. I don't think anyone has ever explained it so accurately like you did. As an introvert, I always always feel the same way. I choose to be alone most of the time and I love it because it gives me solitude, but it gets to a point where I feel the need to be connected to someone. Whenever I hangout with some of my friends and tell them I'm lonely, they always wonder how and why? I think most people fail to see that you can be lonely even when you are in a crowd of people for the exact reason you said, the absence of connection. Oftentimes, people want to be connected to social media, but they are missing the whole point of being with actual people in front of them. And I agree to your note on isolation, there are times my thoughts can be too loud for my own liking too. And that's when I realise it is impossible for us to just live on own, we need each other, or else we'll self destruct sooner or later.

    I'd love to read more about your thoughts on introversion, loneliness, mental wellbeing, etc because I can relate to this Q&A on so many levels.

    Anyway, have a great week ahead Jo! 💕

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  2. It must have been really hard to cope with lockdown whilst alone, but I do like my own company so I think it would have been nice to have some self care time xo

    Makeup Muddle

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  3. I have also been living alone for part of quarantine, and it was quite an adjustment for me. But, I think I was able to get back into things (like blogging and exercise) that I was pushing aside in my busy life.
    Jenna ♥
    Follow me back? Life of an Earth Muffin

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