Like many people who live alone, I wake up every moment thinking this must be all a bad dream.
That the Will Smith I am Legend feel of my entire existence, where I roam with a German Shepherd by my side in a ruined city that has been taken over by nature, desperate for a sign of life from others, is all a big mistake.
And in a sense, yes; It is different.
Because if I am willing to live by the Corona regulations, and lower my expectations of how much fun we’re going to have, and the amazing things we’re going to do, spontaneously;
And if I am not intimidated by the fact that if the person I see tests positive within the upcoming ten days; I am requested to stay home, get tested, turn my agenda upside down and report everybody I have been into contact with?
Well, then yes!
Then my current situation IS entirely different to living alone in a world that has been destroyed by a virus to which I am immune.
Aside from a few friends and my family, I don’t see anybody.
I haven’t done any group things, not even when it was allowed. And from the three times I went to the movies, when the theaters were still open, I felt completely apocalyptic the first time, being in an almost empty theater.
One movie I walked out of because it was too violent, even more so given all the things I had to conquer or risked by even being there.
And the movie I successfully watched consisted entirely of cat videos.
In the summer many people I knew went on holidays. But aside from the fact that I would never share a hotel room with someone now, the thought going on holiday would also mean I would then have to leave my address with every restaurant three meals a day, made my stomach turn.
After I got home, it would take ten days before I could no longer be called by health services, sentencing me to quarantine.
The Netherlands are excited that the loosening of the measures seems inevitable. We will be able to sit at terraces, and go to the cinema and on holidays soon.
But I don’t think much will change for me.
As long as the test and trace policy is in place, and it also applies to those who have been vaccinated (which I will), nothing will change for me personally.
I will still be freaked out by the threat of 10 days of isolation.
The price is just too high.
Yes I like going to the movies. Yes I like doing things in groups. Yes I like coming over for dinner or going out to dinner.
But if the price tag is having a pending threat of isolation, I m not going to do it.
I’d rather wake up every morning for the rest of my life feeling like Will Smith in I Am Legend, than to pick up my social life under the current circumstances.
“A loneliness so thick you could make slices of it.”
“I am Legend.”
Still in bed I try to find words to describe it, to get a sense of control.
And sometimes I feel the loneliness has taken over my body while I was asleep. Like a parasite. And it immobilizes me. I have no idea how to take it out, even though obviously it does disappear enough to get up.
I have not spend a day in bed because of mental health reasons.
Not counting the days I had migraines, which I have had six times since Covid began, and none prior to that.
Migraine is when the demon has won. Usually on day two or three after a normal, relaxed social activity.
A “normal relaxed” social activity that I could still end up in Covid test, trace and isolation hell house for that is.
To me social life has become like one of those American haunted attractions, from Steven King novels or the movie Us.
I can already hear the eerie carnival tune.
Every moment I wake up I wonder how long I can keep this up. How long before I lose my sanity. How long before I break.
Am I even alive?
Because I am clearly, obviously, for the past 12 months and counting, not living!
When do you become undead, like the zombies also present in the movie I am Legend?
Or like the ring lords, the Nazgul, in Lord of The Rings.
When does the loneliness virus turn you into a creature neither living nor dead?
And then I saw that the city where I live, is documenting testimonies about what loneliness does to us, and I knew this was my call.
I had so much to say about loneliness. Like any lonely person I would be able to talk about it for hours.
That was precisely why I didn’t want to talk about it.
The thought that the interaction I had with the outside world would contain any reference to the challenges of living alone, with my social phobias as I usually call them, was simply unacceptable.
I would never break.
I would never give this demon the honor of even being mentioned in conversations. He would not be written about, he would not be talked about.
He could infest my body and my mind, and take my life from the inside out;
But he would never be known to the outside world.
I know my purpose, my work, who I am and what my values are.
And Covid or no Covid; There is no scenario where I am ever going to give power to loneliness by talking about it in a way that doesn’t directly contribute to my work, is in line with my values and so on.
I don’t care how often I have to wake up in fetal position in the bathtub, holding on to my gun, the way Will Smith’s character does in I Am Legend.
So I had already made my decision I wasn’t going to give this thing power over me, when I read this:
find the pain you can fall in love with for life and nothing can stop you
And I knew I had found my answer.
Because I CAN fall in love with loneliness.
It has been with me my whole life. I don’t just have an unnaturally high tolerance for it, I actually crave it. I need whole chunks of it, in order to function healthily. Even though I have made resolutions to never be home alone for even one more day for the rest of my life, after Covid;
I know I will still need more alone time than others.
In the 80s a similar situation existed when I developed what I can now see was a social phobia. AIDS was part of our sex lives and in my case also part of my sexual education because I was so young.
I ended up totally freaked out by the fear of contracting AIDS but ultimately (in hindsight) I can see it was fear of being expelled from society if I caught it.
It was fear of being rejected for my sexuality.
It cost me 20+ years to get rid of it. The first 20 were dedicated to avoiding situations that were either physically risky or, more importantly, socially risky. I felt if I would get it from the dentist through dirty needles I would not be socially expelled. But if I got it from sex with a man who was not my boyfriend, even if I had used condoms, that I would be.
And after the first 20 years of avoidance, I overcame it. I accepted the risk of being expelled for my sexuality.
I accepted the risk of being alone.
Fear of loneliness stands for fear of rejection, fear of death, fear of being laughed at, fear of social exclusion.
That’s why it’s hitting us so hard.
That’s why we wake up every morning like Will Smith in I Am Legend.
But it’s also why social situations, where both the Covid virus but even more so Covid etiquette can jump out like a Jack-in-the-box, have the unpredictability of a haunted maze at the carnaval.
Covid brings us socially in a catch 22:
Or the horror maze.
And it has been that way for over a year.
And some people choose the maze!
They go headfirst into the madness and will just see where that leads them.
They seem to be without fear, because they have decided they are not going to let Covid stand in their way.
Just like I refuse to give attention to the loneliness, they refuse to give attention to all the social forces pulling at them from different sides.
Shrieking at them, from the darkness.
They just keep pushing forward.
But it really doesn’t matter which pain you choose:
The pain of loneliness, I Am Legend.
Or the mayhem of the haunted house of Us or novels from Steven King.
Because once you’ve fallen in love with one pain?
You can bear them all.
Suzanne L. Beenackers
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