Sometimes life resembles the two ants floating downstream on a log, thinking they’re steering. We rarely have as much control over life as we think. The past year was proof.
In the song “Big Yellow Taxi,” Joni Mitchel sang; “Don’t it always seem to go,that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.”
We can relate!
For a fortunate few, the pandemic offered the opportunity to work at home and spend more time with family. For others, it was forced isolation.
When lonely, we feel trapped. The walls close in on us. Loneliness feels like an injustice we don’t deserve.
Coming up on the first anniversary of the lock-down, I’ve been reflecting on isolation and loneliness:
My grandmother lived alone in a small town for thirty-eight years. She never mentioned being lonely. With a big lawn, vegetable garden, and quilting, she claimed she didn’t have time to be lonely. Grandma didn’t even have internet. I could never comprehend how she wasn’t lonely.
An ancient oak tree stands in the nursing home lawn where my parents spent their final days. The nursing home is located on a noisy four-lane thoroughfare in suburban St. Louis. Arborists from The University of Missouri took a core sample of the trunk. They determined the tree is four-hundred and fifty years old.
It’s unimaginable to think this tree stood in a quiet forest for two-hundred years before the Revolutionary War. Would have an indigenous person felt lonely leaning against its trunk? Big cities can feel lonely to me. I never feel lonely in a forest.
One of my favorite singer-songwriters is Paul Simon. In the song “Street Angel,” Simon sings about an exchange he has with a homeless person. “Nobody talks to me much,” the street person says, to which Simon replies, “Nobody talks to me much!”
Different people, different circumstances, same “dis-ease.”
Loneliness is an absence of connection. The pandemic severed social connections, but I don’t believe it’s the sole cause of loneliness. In some respects, loneliness is a form of blindness.
The naturalist John Muir wrote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
When we look carefully, we find connections everywhere.
My grandmother found a connection in the quilts she made for her grandchildren. Trees are members of a forest community. Paul Simon plays to sold-out venues. Loneliness survives only for as long as we are blind to life’s connections.
Covid disrupted our lives, leaving us to find new connections or suffer loneliness. That challenge reminds me of something my mother used to say. Whenever I said I was bored, she would reply, “Only boring people are bored! Get out of the house and do something!”
That felt harsh, but mom was right!
Separation and loss are hallmarks of the past year. We aren’t wired for social isolation. Covid forced us to be creative in how we connect. I am thankful for the connections this letter helped re-establish with friends I no longer see regularly. Still, I can’t wait to be with friends again in person.
Thankfully, there appears to be light at the end of this tunnel.
Follow me at http://tim-coats.com