This pandemic has taken a toll on me. I have a constant ache in my chest that consists of lots of fear and worry and a longing to connect. I find myself lonely a lot, despite being surrounded by a million people in the California Bay Area and living in close contact with my immediate family with friends and family near and far.
Overall, my main interaction with people onside my home has been limited since this pandemic began with outings (often solo) consisting mainly of walks around my neighborhood, errands, various small outings and occasional trips over to the Santa Cruz beaches or to hike in the Redwoods. It’s opened up for us more since my son was able to get vaccinated in late November and even more this month since my son’s Little League team started practicing. Many Bay Area people have been out and about for awhile now but since I tend to be more risk adverse than most my circle that I involve myself with is pretty small.
Three times now in the last two years my family of three ventured out of the state: once in our cross country trip in our van, once driving to Oregon and more recently flying to Florida. Upon exiting California it became very clear that much of the country is not carrying on as many people are here in the Bay Area. On our trip to Florida last month to visit my family it was hard to even know that Omicron was surging and as far as I could tell the deaths rates and case rate of Covid in Florida and California were not far different from each other. All the confusion of what to do about masking or not masking and distancing or not distancing is just so very confusing.
My husband and I had a long discussion (OK rather a fight turned into a discussion) a couple of nights ago over an upcoming trip he is planning with his group of friends to Las Vegas. I’m having trouble with it and in a not so loving way let him hear it. He in turn accused me of keeping him from his friends which was not at all my intention. After much back and forth we were able to see each other for what was really going on which is that we are both in different comfort zones with all of this and he is ready to begin living again and proceeding as usual and I’m…well…not quite there yet.
To try to alleviate the fear and loneliness I’ve been doing my best to meditate daily since the start of the year which has me regularly observing my feelings. They are so BIG and painful and sit in my chest surrounding my heart. It’s hard to not want to wish the feelings away like I want to do but I know I need to accept them for what they are and observe them. It aches so badly! I somewhat jokingly asked one of my friends the other day if anyone ever DIED from meditation?
I realize in the end how I choose to react to anything going on in life is my choice and my choice only. So I’ve made a conscience decision to really work on letting go of my fear. It is not an easy thing for me to do as I’ve always been a cautious person by nature. I’ve had trouble having faith, unlike another friend of mine, my so called “atheist” friend who somehow has a ton of it. I wish I too were that way. I am doing what I can to actively try to change.
The other day I took a hike with a friend into the green hills of California. We both basically willed each other to go out exploring beyond the safety of our small worlds. After catching up a bit in the beginning of our hike we decided to try an experiment with a silent hike together for the remainder of our hike. We’d be walking alone but together silently, and so began our mini retreat.
The thing both of us noticed right away in our silence was that we were noticing our surroundings whereas moments before we were caught up in our chatter and blind to our world. It was interesting and at times uncomfortable walking with her for so long in silence. We noticed our heart rates and footsteps (she walks faster than me going downhill, I walk faster than her going uphill); we observed the sounds in nature and saw animals at a farm; we waited patiently while a wild turkey we saw crossed onto our trail moved out of the way; we hiked while breathing in fresh air. It was a nice calm transition from feeling so alone to spending quality time with a friend who knows and supports me yet isn’t afraid to be with me without talking. Silent together.
When our hike had us pass through a working farm we saw many animals and I realized, like my friend and I, the animals were also together but silent. They were near each other but not communicating. In fact the only sounds I heard at all from all of them was noise over chickens fighting for food. They say that what separates us from some animals is that we are social creatures who need each other socially. But being social isn’t only talking with each other. Perhaps talking with each other is not even the most important part of socialization but rather having another person who cares in close proximity. I believe that’s what I’ve been lacking most over these last two years – the closeness of people. Being near my friend without talking was just as healing (if not more so) than chatting with her because I could still be near her, feel her support, and notice what was going on around me.
Getting out on hikes like this with a friend is definitely a step toward helping me move forward past my loneliness and fear. It was peaceful and beautiful, just what I needed. The heaviness that is sitting on my chest feels a little less achy today, less lonely and less raw.