Home Alone During the Coronavirus Pandemic: It’s Really Not That Bad

27 Apr

Home AloneDespite what that depressing Boston Globe article said this weekend, I didn’t choose to live alone.

Not recently, anyway.

When I first moved to Boston in March 1997, nearly a year after I graduated from college, I found myself a one-bedroom apartment. There was no grand plan or strategy involved; the timing was such that I needed to find a place relatively quickly, and I didn’t want to move in with strangers.

While I’ve moved multiple times since then, I’ve always lived by myself in a one-bedroom apartment. Sure, I thought I’d have moved in with someone else by now — someone I was in a relationship with, that is — but the stars haven’t aligned yet, so here I am.

My point is this: I’ve lived on my own for a while, and I’m used to it — and all the pros and cons that come with this kind of arrangement. I don’t regret living by myself, and most days, I’m perfectly comfortable still doing it.

I have a great community of friends, but for better and for worse, I’ve also become comfortable doing things on my own — traveling, going out to eat, seeing movies, going to shows and concerts, shopping, etc. At the same time, being single gives me the option to stay home on a Friday or Saturday night — or weekend afternoon —  when I’d rather not do anything, or I have no plans with other people.

You might say I’m a true Gemini: half introvert and half extrovert. An independent soul who also likes to be around — and with — other people. Like nearly every dating profile I’ve ever read has said, I’m as comfortable being out and about as I am being home on the couch.

So, when the coronavirus pandemic started to get serious in March, and we were all told to work from and stay home, the adjustment wasn’t all that difficult for me. Sure, I had to cook a bit more (alright, fine: much more), and that meant I had to do some legit grocery shopping. But otherwise, it wasn’t a shock to the system to be home.

Staying connected

Today, nearly two months into this “new” existence, I can report that living alone during a pandemic really isn’t so bad. Actually, there are a number of advantages.

To wit: I can bake a cake and eat it all by myself. (Yum!) I can watch whatever I want on TV — bad shows like Love Is Blind or Too Hot to Handle, for example, or good ones like The Good Fight or What We Do in the Shadows — without having to argue over the remote. I can stay up later every night and sleep till 10 a.m. on weekends. No one else is depleting my toilet-paper supply. I’m in control of what and who comes in to my living space, if anyone, and how clean it is. I don’t have any distractions when I’m trying to work. The only person I’m annoying with my bad habits is myself, and I’m not annoyed by someone else’s bad habits. If I decide not to fold my clean laundry, I can leave it in the dryer and keep picking from it until I’m ready to put it all away.

Oh, and it’s peaceful and quiet.

And, it’s worth noting, even though I live by myself, I’m not necessarily alone.

USY on Wheels reunionI’m very lucky to have some great friends who look out for me and who, for example, made me food for Passover so I would eat well and wouldn’t necessarily have to cook for myself. Friends I normally tweet with have picked up the phone to chat offline. Thanks to FaceTime and Zoom, and the fact that everyone else is home, too, I’ve been able to have meals “with” people. I participated in a 30-year reunion of my USY on Wheels bus, with more than half the group on the call, from all around the world. I’ve had Zoom hangouts with other friends who I wouldn’t ordinarily have gotten to see or spend time with. My sister and I FaceTime every single night — and many of those nights, I get to see and talk with my niece and nephews, too. And I have meetings (both formal and informal ones) with coworkers on Zoom all week long.

Of course, there’s also Twitter and all those (less personal, but still intimate) live-streams on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Are Zoom meetings and meetups getting excessive and exhausting? Indeed. Would I rather these online interactions be in person? Definitely. But it’s nice that the current circumstances have cleared everyone’s calendars, and that the technology exists so we can connect with — and see! — folks more easily.

Resetting the countdown clock

That all said, a pandemic like this one, and the preventive measures involved in slowing the spread, have meant avoiding those things that previously provided balance to my solitary living.

For example, even though I live alone, I’m usually around people, whether that’s at the office or on the T or just walking down the street. Despite my annoyances with people’s lack of courtesy, I still prefer seeing movies in a theater to watching them at home. And I may go to restaurants and eat by myself at the bar or counter, but I still get to interact with the waitstaff — many of whom I’ve developed a rapport with over the years since I go to the same places all the time.

Alas, now, I can’t hang out or work with people in the same room, and I have to actively avoid people when I’m outside. When I go for walks, I try to go places that other people aren’t. (Which, sadly, means no Chestnut Hill Reservoir.) I cross the street when someone else is coming my way. I wait till someone comes up or goes down a stairway so we don’t pass too closely. I have to wear a face covering, which means people can’t see me smiling or being friendly as we pass. I can go for walks with people (and I’ve done that), but only if we keep our distance and stay far enough away from each other. In short, “social distancing” goes against so many of my natural instincts.

Living by myself right now doesn’t make me feel alone. Actively avoiding people — THAT makes me feel alone.

This kind of experience lessens the incentive for me to leave my apartment. Well, that and the fact that when I want to go outside, I have to put on actual clothes, then a face mask, then grab a disinfectant wipe to clean the doorknob(s) of my building lobby. Then, when I come back, I have to wash my hands and wipe down my phone and anything else I may have touched between the time when I left my apartment and before I washed my hands again. It’s just so much effort, and so much stress, that it makes me not want to go outside at all.

(My kingdom for a private deck/patio or backyard!)

And every time I do go outside, whether it’s for a walk in the sun or an anxiety-filled trip to the grocery store, it feels like I’ve reset the countdown clock. A week from now, will I show symptoms and be sick? I’ll have to wait and see.

You don’t have to live by yourself to have these feelings.

All of this stress is combined with the comedown I’ve felt after having such a fun and busy year in 2019, and the disappointment of all the things that have been cancelled or postponed that I was looking forward to this year — seeing two Broadway shows the weekend of my birthday, a trip to Chicago with my family to take my dad to Wrigley Field for the first time, adjusting to a brand new job and office culture, new movies from Wes Anderson and Christopher Nolan, seeing The Lone Bellow in concert again, heading to Cleveland for Content Marketing World, my niece’s bat mitzvah, a new Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band album and tour … all of that is on hold (or at risk) for now.

I can admit that these cancellations or postponements have been a real bummer. And that I haven’t been completely myself at all times these last two months. But has anyone?

Doing just fine

Martin with beardThe fact is, when I don’t think about leaving my apartment and I’m not reminded by the Boston Globe of the fact that I’m living by myself, I’m doing just fine.

I make my bed every day. I shower every day. I’m cooking for myself, which means I’m eating better than I was (relatively speaking). I’m not bored. I’ve been productive work-wise. I’ve even shaved off the beard I had grown in the first month of self-quarantine. I still talk to my friends. And yes, I do get outside at least once a week. Sometimes twice.

Need stronger evidence? I’m still keeping up with my Happiness Project, and finding one thing every single day that was good. Because every day isn’t all bad.

When I stop updating the Project, you’ll know there’s a problem.

We’ll get through this

I’m not in denial, so I need to say this: Living alone — during a pandemic or otherwise — is not always easy. But I like it. And thankfully, in spite of everything going on right now (and not going on), I haven’t lost my sense of perspective. As that Boston Globe article noted, I still have my job and my health. (Knock wood.) And I’m not working on the front lines in a hospital. So I consider myself fortunate.

Yes, I have my good days and my bad days — and even within those, I have my good times and my bad times. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say that.

I wish the Globe didn’t use such a broad brush to describe all the people who live alone right now as “lonely” or “struggling.” I know some people are. I don’t want to minimize their realities.

But if you’re wondering: I’m fine. Mostly.

I’ll get through this. We all will.

For now, I have another cake to bake for myself.

How are YOU doing right now?

5 Responses to “Home Alone During the Coronavirus Pandemic: It’s Really Not That Bad”

  1. Shelley April 27, 2020 at 11:56 am #

    Meh. It pretty much stinks. But we will get through it. It’s the only way to get to the other side. And the other side can’t be THAT far away. Right? Above all else, I can’t wait to go back to the gym. Seriously. Who knew that would be my “most missed” place? But it is.

    • Martin Lieberman April 27, 2020 at 12:15 pm #

      Hi Shelley! I think we all have our go-to “second home” kind of place that we miss. I know I do. But yes: We will get through this, and hopefully we’ll be stronger and more connected as a result. 🙂

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