Living on the outskirts of Sydney, I have just finished week 7 of lockdown. As a single mum of a teenager, I have gotta say, that at times it’s been challenging. I feel fortunate, in that I was a solitary critter as a young woman, particularly between the ages of 15 and 18. I did my schoolwork by correspondence and my only outings were to specialists or admittance to hospital to have surgery. I learned to enjoy my own company and seek my own counsel, though I secretly craved communion.
My world blew apart some years back, and it has taken everything I have to reassemble a life worth living and a future worth striving for. Frequently travelling across Sydney, visiting friends left me feeling buoyant. Hugs meant the world to me. Bouncing ideas off of each other and lending an ear in times of trouble. Coming in for a cuddle… I miss it all.
When I had my daughter, I suffered complications and ended up back in hospital, requiring surgery. In the maternity wing, my daughter in the cot next to me, I watched families come in to see their newest member. I have never forgotten the nurse who came and sat with me, keeping me company. She brushed my long hair and plaited it, so it wouldn’t get knotted. I felt loved. I felt safe. She will never know what a gift she gave me, nor how I still treasure it.
I miss having dinner or watching a movie with friends. I miss visitors. I miss gatherings and celebrations and being with workmates and clients. I thought I was chugging along nicely, but it hit me all at once. I don’t have a lockdown bubble, nor a partner for support. I feel bereft, not knowing what to do, nor where to turn. Friends have their family units or partners, and I feel uncomfortable, if I ask for time.
After a heavy day, you long for company; for someone to debrief with and maybe, watch something on tv, adding commentary to whatever it is. I think my teenager is coping well, and for that I am so thankful, but at her age, it is only natural that she seeks out friends online and via her phone. She can’t be my support person; it isn’t her job. Her work involves forming social bonds with her peers, and locating her footing within this world.
I know I’m not alone in feeling isolated and discombobulated at the moment. There are many of us. Of a day, life gets too busy to entertain deep thoughts. It is in the small hours, when anxiety gets the better of me. What if I get sick; who will look after my daughter? What if she and I both fall unwell? Would I be lost and forgotten, if I don’t emerge for some time? It’s all up to me; entirely up to me: the house, the bills, the education, the garden, the pets, the car, work, her extracurricular activities… What if I fail?
In a single parent household, time is a strange beast. Dreams and flashbacks have been intertwined. There’s gratitude for the extraordinary acts of love and comfort I’ve been showered with in my life, from the visitor of another patient who wet my forehead when I was vomiting and feverish, to the hugs received and the gentle kiss on the top of my head. It all means so much, and is what I crave, more than anything.
I know many are living by themselves and are bereft of the sort of bubble which sees them attached to another person. It makes this time tougher, in ways only those facing lockdown in this manner could understand. I was talking to a single lady last night and I told her I’ve been doing okay, apart from a few evenings of deep wistfulness, bordering on melancholy. You have a win? There is no other adult to share it with. Having a particularly hard day? Same. My friend remarked that she actually danced around her office and gave herself a high-5, in celebration of success, last week. Inspired, I determined that I will do the same.
I am in no hurry to partner up. I want to get to know myself and build upon the foundations, already laid. I appreciate that my solitary existence is not a punishment, nor purgatory. Rather, it is precious time, where I get to create and tune in. If a relationship happens, it would be welcomed, but not yet. I need to sit with the loneliness and feel it. I need to create a rich inner world, just as I did when I was younger. What better time than when in lockdown, without a relationship bubble?
This time is hard, so hard. We must check in with other, and await the time when we can be together again. The warm, doughy squeeze of a hand and a bear hug, shall never be taken for granted again. Twice, there has been a gentle rap on my door, and it was such an odd sound, that I didn’t respond at first. It was a bit like hearing your pet talk to you in human language! There on my doorstep, was a masked stranger, delivering a box of food from a friend. An act of kindness can sustain you for a very long time. The food, delicious as it was, didn’t nourish me as much as the intent behind it. I was told that I am loved; that I matter. That I haven’t disappeared and am remembered. As with the nurse who plaited my hair when I was a new mum, this shall never be forgotten.
I had my first FaceTime with a group of friends last night and boy, did we laugh. We shared where we are at and made plans and pledges to each other. I was the only single amongst them. I lost the monikers of ‘separated, divorced; a single mother….’ I became simply a woman, doing her best to muddle through life and a pandemic, alongside her friends. I no longer felt alone. It reiterated that I have to keep communicating; reaching out. Not shut myself away within my blanket fort, feeling as though I am a bother and a nuisance. Here is what I find helps:
- Walks in the sunshine and fresh air
- Thinking of how you would prepare for a date night in and then doing that for yourself. It may entail a movie, a takeaway, candles and flowers.
- Take a moment to celebrate where you are at. Don’t wait for something extraordinary to occur. Being here now, in the midst of this chaotic era, is enough reason to celebrate yourself!
- Arrange to meet up with friends on FaceTime, Skype or Zoom
- Determine to send messages or make calls to at least one person each day.
- Know you aren’t alone; there are many single households out there. When you share with others, you free them up to share with you too, on a very deep level.
- Tell people if you’re struggling. Your tribe will be there.
- Don’t wait for a special occasion to dress up, practice self-care or use your good stuff.