I am a walker, and in some ways this new world is a walker’s paradise: quiet, practically traffic free, and kind of mysterious and a little scary, especially when it gets grey out. This morning I noticed people going out of their way to pass each other with lots of space, but also to positively acknowledge the other person’s presence.
As a writer and a single man without children, I am not only used to solitude, but require it. However, I realize it is an acquired taste, and one that is being forced on many, as we socially distance ourselves. I think it is important to distinguish between being alone and being lonely. They really have no shared meaning. We can be alone in a crowd and lonely in the heart of the busy world.
Loneliness is going to be an issue for many. Social outlets we take for granted have disappeared overnight: bars, cafes, family and friend gatherings, the office or work space, the gym…virtually every social gathering place. It could be easy to find oneself becoming an island.
I am already seeing alternative solutions appear. My friends, many of whom fit in the over sixty vulnerable age group, are making an effort to call each other daily. I have been spending time with one friend, not isolating ourselves, but keeping our group contact limited and sharing space while working, making meals, and talking through this craziness. We feel like we can handle this contact without endangering each other.
The message, especially in social media, must be mutual support and compassion, not divisive rumor-mongering. This thing is real and knows no boundaries. Money cannot protect you and, unlike many dystopian sci-fi stories, there will be no sanctuaries to exclude or defend with violence or social ostracizing. Drop the paranoid fantasies and think about us as a global community, in this together.
One thing I hope does not arise: attempts by the authorities to limit people being outside walking, jogging, or simply going to buy food. This will not help and outside is a much safer place than any enclosed space. But it is also very important to mental health when the world seems to be conspiring to place us in solitude. We are a community.