Living alone during a pandemic

Woman looking out a window

Earlier today I went on an early evening walk in Hidden Falls Regional Park. It was a gorgeous evening – unexpectedly sunny, almost no wind, and a downright balmy 52 degrees for late March in Minnesota.

There were plenty of people walking, running, and fishing in the park. Some were alone like me, many in couples and families. As I passed groups walking in the opposite direction, they moved into a single file line and balanced on the edge of the concrete path, forcing every possible inch between us to ensure safe social distancing.

Towards the end of my walk, an exceptionally cute dog came towards me, happily bouncing down the path without a care in the world.

I found myself drawn towards the dog, wanting it to come near me so I could pet it.

Instead, it did what it was trained to do and sauntered right past me. It never even made eye contact.

I was disappointed.

I am not a dog person. I don’t hate dogs, but I’m a little afraid of the big ones (or really any dog that barks and growls at me) and I don’t have much patience for dog smell, drooling, or being all up in your face and everywhere else. Puppies and cute dogs are adorable, of course – I am still human after all – but I’m not generally disappointed when a dog walks past me without making an introduction. Usually I would feel relieved.

Not today.

I realized in that moment of disappointment that I hadn’t touched a single living thing in two weeks. No hugs. No handshakes. No simple touch of the arm. Nothing.

The realization skimmed over the surface and passed by without really impacting me. I finished my walk, stopped at Lund’s to pick up a few groceries, and headed home to FaceTime with my niece for a sing-a-long and watch Grey’s Anatomy.

And then I started reading How Will The Pandemic End in The Atlantic. Studying the different scenarios and timelines plunged me deep into the knowing that it will likely be many more weeks before I touch another living thing.

That’s when the tears started. I cried on and off for what seemed like longer than a reasonable amount of time. I tried to go to bed and realized there was no point.

So now I sit here writing. With dried tears salted to my cheeks and new ones intermittently streaming down my face.

I cry because I am grieving. I cry because I am uncertain. I cry because that’s what I do when emotions overflow. Their only way out is through tears.

Tears and writing.

I write because, I’ve realized in the last several months, I might be a writer more than anything else. I write to process. I write to create out of my grief. I write to share and find connection. I write to give words to emotions that right now are only coming out in tears.

I write. And I cry. And eventually I will go to bed.

Tomorrow will be better. And, at some point, this grief will come again. It has to. We are not meant to be without human touch. We are not meant to be alone, especially in a time of crisis and change and uncertainty.

We are meant to dance and sing and hug and play and cry and grieve TOGETHER.

And despite my amazing friends and family, despite my spiritual community and entrepreneur network, despite all the incredible support that I know many are not so lucky to have – I am alone. In the most literal, physical sense.

I don’t have uplifting words to end this monologue. This is just where I’m at right now. I’m leaning into the swirl and writing from inside the mess, from inside the grief, from inside a truth I never anticipated needing to face.

That is all.