I miss hugs. It’s been a while since I’ve been in an intimate relationship, and much longer since I’ve lived with someone. But I’m not talking about the caresses of romantic affection. I miss hugs with friends, with family, some human contact, even a face-to-face rather than online conversation. The warmth of a shared smile, the sparkle of a friendly eye, a touch on the arm or pat on the back, a kiss on the cheek, the embrace of a caring being. I do have Zoom meetings and Skype conversations, but it’s not the same.
This is week six of my confinement, month two. I’m doing my part: staying at home, washing hands, wearing a mask and keeping my distance when I go out to the grocery market once a week or pick up a take-out dinner from a local restaurant. I know I have the easy part. I am one who spends hours most days at home in front of my laptop anyway, so the isolation may not be as difficult an adjustment as others have experienced. Retired from the world of work, I have a steady income that suffices—I don’t need to stress about losing a paycheck, a lifeline, a job that I may not be able to return to, a purpose in life that gives me reason to get up in the morning. And living in a small mountain town, I have natural places to walk just outside my door.
But, although I would like to be out there helping in some way, I’m in an aging tier of those who are more vulnerable, so I will continue to hide out for months or more, however long the doctors and scientists (not the politicians) recommend, to avoid that wonderful human contact. Usually I am an optimist, but now, at times, there is a dark fear at the edges of my vision, a dread of grave illness, an attempt to content myself with my lonely life, a redefining of what constitutes life itself.
I am in mourning. For the loss of life of thousands and suffering for many who survive with damaged organs, the stories I read online about families coping and in need, the people who are picking up the food boxes donated by local organizations and trying so hard to get by and be positive for their children, the friends who are awaiting checks to help them pay their rent and ones who are in danger of losing their small businesses that struggled to stay afloat even before the pandemic, elderly relatives of friends and family (my parents are already gone) confined to facilities meant to assist them and give them a comfortable lifestyle but are now one of the most dangerous places susceptible to the rampant spread of disease, and of course medical heroes working long hours without adequate protective equipment and who witness so much death despite their valiant efforts. And having been a victims’ assistance volunteer for many years, my heart goes out to those who are victims of domestic violence and are now in stressful close quarters with their abusers. I think of you all daily.
Last month, a few times, anxiety engulfed me in the middle of the night; those waking hours in midnight darkness found me in tears, hopeful and hopeless. I dreamt, a few nights ago, that an old boyfriend from long ago came to my door. I looked out through the window that faces the entrance in an “L” to see his warm smile as he gestured to me to open the door. But how could I? We are quarantined; we are isolated; we are alone. I reach for a book or a distraction on my phone (never news, social media, or email in those wee hours), until I can push the sadness away.
I’m doing fine in spite of it all—keeping busy and centering on creative work. Writing, working on my web page, reading, watching movies, listening to novels, podcasts, digital lessons and music, walking, exercising, cuddling with my cat, practicing guitar, phoning friends and relatives. Flattening the curve but not my figure—with restaurant take-outs, comfort food, and even some cooking. This will not be a traveling year; I’ve let go of a couple of interesting international explorations I had planned. Will the world feel safe enough to make those journeys in a year or two?
Just a few months ago, the year 2020 sounded like the exciting beginning of a new decade, but has become a year to hit pause, one of self-reflection and hopefully growth, if I can keep a sense of purpose. A time to consider what the world will look like if we can continue to consume less and care for the earth more. A time to care for each other, even if not in person.
I know many of these thoughts are in your mind, too, no matter where you are on this spinning globe, whether you are awake during my night or just across town. We are all in this together. Will hugs come back? Maybe down the road in our future. I hope so.
This blog entry will appear in History Colorado Journal, accepted for publication May 2020.