It’s been weeks now since the “stay at home” orders began.
When they started in California I was in a mad rush to pack my earthly belongings, get my car repaired to pass the smog test so I could sell it, and then get across the border to Mexico before it closed. The orders followed in Mexico soon after I arrived.
Stay at home. Don’t go out. Don’t risk infection, yours or anyone’s.
(I have to say, people seem fairly casual about this here in San Miguel, or they did the last time I was out and about, which, let me see … counts on fingers … was actually about a week ago.)
All across the world, people are meme-ing about their difficulties with isolation. And I know isolation is difficult. Studies show that people stay healthier when they regularly see other people and maintain friendships.
But for me, isolation is life as usual. I’ve pretty much always been sort of a recluse.
Oh, I’ve had friends. I am naturally gregarious in many situations. But I like my alone time. I’ve always been this way.
Growing up, my idea of a great day was an afternoon curled up on my bed with two or three cats and a good book.
As an adult, I treasured time spent with my children: reading stories from our huge library of Waldorf-style books, going on our daily walk (with a stop at the bakery for a free butter cookie), tending our summer vegetable garden, building cool train track layouts with Nathaniel’s Brio track for his Thomas trains, baking something yummy, or just playing silly games together. Together, we were alone.
Sometimes I imagined becoming a nun. Not for any religious reason, but for the solitude.
And now I have moved to a new city, in a new country. I moved here alone.
I sit now in the bedroom of my rented AirBnb apartment looking out at trees, the surrounding hills, and the occasional butterfly. I hear birds and chickens and sometimes dogs barking. I have Netflix and Hulu and Facebook, and I have a fat turquoise journal to fill with my thoughts, fears, hopes, and musings.
Sometimes I feel the ache of loneliness. At those times I tell myself the story that no one will ever like me, that I will never have friends. I know while I’m telling it that the story is a lie but I know it is also a potential truth. I fear it will become THE truth.
For many years, I did not like myself. I was given constant messages that I should be different, better, more. The messages told me that who I was — my essential ME — was not good enough. They made me doubt everything I ever knew about myself and to crave the company of the messenger. I believed those messages for so long and so strongly that eventually I wanted my essential ME to no longer exist. I wanted to die and I tried to make it happen.
One day I was shown a metaphorical door, and I walked through it. I am safely on the other side now.
On this side of the door, I see myself for who I am. I am not perfect and will never be so, but I like who I am. If I make changes, they will be for me and not for any other reason.
This time of isolation is my opportunity to spend a lot of time with myself, to heal, to dream, to just BE. I own the recluse in me.