I walk along the sidewalk, alone, hoping not to cross paths with anyone for fear of catching It. Alone is how I live now. Alone in my home. Alone in my mind. Even when blessed by family under the same roof, I feel alone. In some ways this isn’t new. This feeling of being alone, but somehow it is now more acute than before.
I realize that “before”, when I could move freely in my community, my spirit was fed by interactions with others, pleasantries in the checkout line, chats with friends in the grocery store aisle, sharing stories with friends at PTA events or at church. The natural rhythm of life allowed me to feel connected and seen. It filled a part of me I did not realize was empty, until now.
Those casual path crossings no longer happen, and in fact are avoided, in an effort to protect our physical health but at what cost to our emotional health? When I could interact with others outside my home I welcomed the silence within my home, the quiet phone or empty mailbox. Now the silence and emptiness leave me feeling sad, unseen, forgotten.
Looking up I see a runner turn the corner and start down the path toward me. Quickly, I assess the space available to us both. Can we pass safely with 6 feet of separation or should I, the walker, step aside into a driveway or lawn to created the required isolation? Simultaneously I see her make the same assessment and shift the trajectory of her journey off the sidewalk and onto the shoulder of the road. As the chasm between us narrows our eyes meet with recognition, smiles lighting our faces.
It’s so nice to see your smile, I say.
I think of you often, her reply.
And with that she is gone. I stop walking. Her words, spoken quickly through the rapid breath of a runner, ringing in my ears as loudly as if she’d shouted them next to my ear.
I think of you often….
You do? Really? Me? Why?
I wanted to follow up her statement with a hug and a ‘that’s so nice” but Covid realities and the pace of her running legs prevented it.
Her words have stayed with me for several days now. Reminding me that maybe I am not as alone as I think. But they also remind me that others are likely feeling the same isolation and sadness that I am.
Her words were a lifeline to me, as soothing as if she had wrapped me in a hug. Today I am going to extend the same kindness to someone else I have lost touch with in the last few months of forced isolation. Hopefully a call or a note saying, I think of you often, will be just the gentle reminder they need that they are not alone, or forgotten.