Five days ago, on my Facebook page I posted, “Single people who live alone and don’t have pets (even if you are a normally content self-styled hermit introvert): what the HELL are you gonna do to get through this? Ideas please.”
I thought I would update you on what I’ve learned in the meantime. Five days ago – it seems like a month, at least! Anyway, here are a few things that have helped me this week. In no particular order:
Go Outside. This is a great one. If your local physical distancing mandates allow, get together with a friend. Make sure you follow the ten-foot buffer zone. Boating in separate kayaks or other small craft works really well. Having live conversation with a person who is physically nearby helps so much. But a solo walk, ski, hike, row, or bike ride does wonders, too. Breathe that fresh air!
Back to the Roots. You probably already knew what you needed to stay happy and healthy as a solo person before any of this started, right? This winter, in lieu of a New Year’s resolution, I wrote down a list to remind myself. It has eleven things on it! So, it’s impossible to do them all in a day, but I reckon if I get 4 or 5 of them done, it’s all to the good. I might do different ones the next day. Here are my eleven things. You probably have your own unique ones. (Write 1,000 words; stretch/yoga; foot bath; meditate; cook regular dinner; 30 minutes cardio exercise or 10,000 steps; two drinks max (none is better); minimize screen time; reduce caffeine; study; no more than one activist comment letter per week.)
Time Travel. My very good friend Kat, who is a nurse in Michigan and also highly skilled at enjoying solitude, came up with this one. You have the power to use your memories as a form of time travel. Try it. Just think about other places and times, experiences that made you happy or satisfied. It may help to look at photos or read old journals you kept while you were roaming around. Suddenly, you aren’t even in your cell of one at all anymore, are you?
Self-Medicate. This is a tough one. Especially if you are struggling with addiction or substance abuse issues… I am certainly not recommending drugs or alcohol. Usually that stuff only makes everything worse. But, sometimes it sure makes things better. Having a virtual cocktail hour with a friend can break that cycle of self-pity and sadness, get you to relax and have a good time. Taking an anti-anxiety med might do the same for you. Don’t abuse it, though. You know your limits. Honor yourself by not crossing that line.
Allow Joy and Inspiration. I have started writing down “Amazing Things That Happened Today,” because it seems that every day during this crisis, there are extraordinary moments that normally wouldn’t occur. When we are in times of huge stress, I believe that the veil between worlds gets thinner. You can call this phenomenon what you will: being closer to God, the spirit world, the supernatural. The usual hard-shell protective layer we carry around with us gets broken a bit, and through the cracks we can let the light shine in. It’s ok to be happy, even if you are grieving and freaked out. It’s ok to recognize and experience beauty, joy, and moments of peace.
Ask For (and Accept) Help. This one is very difficult for me, as I suspect it probably is for lots of independent solo people. Just do it.
Laugh and Play. More important now than ever. Music and dancing have worked the best for me, plus watching funny stuff on YouTube or wherever. And talking to friends who make me laugh.
Release Yourself from Obligations to Be Creative. Human beings are creating incredible works of art right now. It’s inspiring to witness, and certainly helps move things along. But it has a flip side. If you are a creative person, try not to beat yourself up if you aren’t creating a whole bunch of amazing new work right now. It’s hard to shine and connect with your creative self (at least it is for me) when you’re stressed out. Let it rest. You STILL ARE a creative person. Give yourself permission to step back and do what you need to do right now. Maybe it isn’t your art. But this experience will make us better and stronger artists later.
Use the Collective. Social media is awesome for this. Here is an example: I sent out a request for people to post photos or videos of frogs and toads to me. Lots of people sent me stuff! I get great delight out of hearing the sounds of springtime from around the different parts of the world; at the same time, my friends had a goal or task to accomplish that would help me, and that gave them a sense of purpose. Bonus that they had to go outside and look at nature.
Respect Your Screen Time Limits. All this technology is a blessing and a curse. Spending virtual time with distant friends and family (even if they are in the same town, but physically distancing in their own separate cell) can provide a semblance of the human contact that we all need. But there’s a limit to how much time you can spend on the phone or computer each day. Figure out your boundaries. See “self-medicate” above.
Channel Your Anger in Constructive Ways. There’s a lot to be angry about right now. For me, it’s watching the failure of our leaders to take the actions I think they should. And seeing folks not take social distancing and self-quarantine seriously. Chopping kindling and firewood helps me tremendously. It starts out as violence – hitting something hard and breaking it! – but eventually morphs into a meditative, calming practice. Working with the grain, focusing and aiming martial arts style… it’s pretty cool. Figure out what you can do to blow off steam without hurting yourself or anyone else.
Use Your Superpower. As a Cell of One, you are in a unique position. You do not have to worry about bringing the virus to your family or housemates. Certainly, make sure you follow physical distancing rules and decontamination protocols, to help flatten the curve. But also realize that you are a solo flyer; you have the freedom to go where others can’t. This brings opportunity, and maybe responsibility, too. If you’re healthy and in a low-risk category, you can be of service. Offer to deliver groceries to people who are at higher risk. Volunteer to drive the ambulance. Figure out what your community needs, and do it.