Note: this post is adapted from the Solo podcast episode: Solo Thoughts 3: A Remarkable Pandemic
I recently had the obligatory Covid-19 meltdown — after I realized how far away “normal” is.
You are probably thinking, “What took you so long?” In my defense, when the quarantine hit, I took off for to Joshua Tree desert for a couple months. I called it my sabbatical from my sabbatical. So, the headache and heartache was delayed.
After my meltdown, I ran a poll on Twitter asking, “At what point did you realize that “normal” is a long way away? Here are the results:
Here are three observations made by wise friends as I discussed my reckoning — that we have six months to a year of a tumultuous, uncertain world:
Observation #1: “The first is the cavalry is not coming.”
My friend, Darwyn, said this to me on a call.
Why isn’t the cavalry coming? Well, the United State’s strength is also its weakness. Personal freedom. Independence. We are rule breakers. Good luck getting everyone on the same page, especially with the current political climate.
Moreover, most institutions aren’t well suited to deal with a pandemic. Government, corporations, small businesses, schools, and universities are struggling to deal with this. Most organizations thrive by doing the same thing over and over again. Many companies are simply trying to survive and thus foregoing what would normally be their focus on customer service. For example, my apartment building has been pulling back amenities. Yet they haven’t lowered rents. They’re in survival mode.
The cavalry is not coming. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we’ll be pleasantly surprised if the cavalry shows up.
Until, there is a vaccine/herd immunity, figure things out for yourself.
Observation #2: “It’s a rainy day.”
My friend Steven made this observation as I was chatting with him about the cavalry not coming. You know how we are supposed to save money for a rainy day?
Well, it’s a rainy day.
If you’ve taken care of business in your life and saved money for an emergency, this may be it.
This is a once in a lifetime situation — thankfully one with with a hazy end date (next year). Can you throw money at this problem? Whatever problems you’re facing, whatever challenges that you’re having now, can you buy your way out of it (e.g., take off to the desert for a couple of months).
Maybe double up on your sessions with your mental health professional. Perhaps help out someone in need. I don’t know what it might be. What I’m saying is if you’ve done the hard work, made the sacrifices, saved the money, this might be time to use it to solve some problems.
If not money, perhaps you can throw some time at the problem. What are the (now) unimportant things filling up your schedule and getting in the way of you taking care of yourself or taking care of this situation? Things have changed and we might not be wanting to stay on the same path that we were 4 or 5 months ago.
Looks more like it’s a rainy year.
Observation #3: “Stop trying to make things normal.”
I host a monthly live Zoom call for the Solo community. During a recent one, my comedian friend Shane made the quip, “Stop trying to make things normal.”
There is nothing normal about this situation.
Another participant on the call mentioned how trying to make things normal was like the orchestra, the band on the Titanic playing as the ship was sinking.
I agree that it is a bad idea to try to keep being normal. I had this experience with my gym. When the gyms opened back up, I went back to the gym and I was disappointed because it wasn’t the same gym I used to go. I wanted normal, but it was nowhere to be found. (Of course, the gym is closed again.)
Like it or not, we’re part of a grand experiment. We’re living in what’s called a liminal space, a transition between a world that was and a world that will be. This can be unsettling, but there are opportunities in liminal spaces — opportunities to see things in new ways, create new habits, and reinvent.
My experience suggests that nowadays single people are often making big decisions because — unlike families — singles have optionality. They are thinking, “I don’t want to live where I live. I don’t want to work for this company anymore. I want to live in a place that’s sunnier. I want to live in a place that has more mountains,” whatever that might be. Whatever those dreams, hopes, ideas, and ideals that people have can still be reckoned with.
So, stop trying to make things normal. Embrace that abnormality. Think about what might you do with your abnormal life.
These three observations have had a profound effect on me. I can’t tell you what to do, but here are a few ideas.
First, I suggest you start to journal. Write down what’s happening, how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what’s going on. That will serve you in two ways. It will be fantastic to look back on this at some period of time when things do go back to a new normal and be able to recreate these moments. Moreover, the act of writing is going to help you think about it. It’s going to help you clarify your options.
Second, think about how you can make your situation more tractable. Uncertainty is very unpleasant. If we knew that six months from now everything will be fine, you could deal. But who knows when it will be? The way I’ve been thinking about it is, how do I get through the end of the month? How do I get through the Fall (and the election)? How do I make it to Spring?
The most immediate is, what are my next 30 days going to look like in terms of my health, well-being, relationships, and creative work? What must I accomplish during this abnormal time? What can I let go?
The last thing is to consider how you may do more than survive during these tumultuous times. Might there be options to try to live more remarkably? For me, that is doubling down on my podcast — perhaps start a book. I can’t travel. I can’t go out much. Might as well do some creative work. It’s better than binging Indian Matchmaking.
For me, I am throwing myself further into my desire to remove the stigma of being single. I am going to push this as a meaning related endeavor. This seems like an especially good time to release some achievement-related goals (check out the excellent Medium article Are Your Goals Holding You Back?).
Might there be something that you can lean into during this time that would be a fit?
-Is it time to write that book that you’ve always talked about writing?
-Is it time to start working on that secret project that you’ve been considering?
-Is it a time to reconnect and reconcile with important friends and family in your life that you may have lost track of or have been feuding with?
Good luck. Onwards!
For more about living single and living well, please check out my not-so-secret project Solo — The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life.