I remember back in early 2020 of those early warnings; signals; rumours and fears of the prospect of moving into lockdown. It’s March 23rd 2020 – and Scotland takes a new paradigm shift – Pandemic Lockdown. How would we react in this new normal? A close friend mentioned “You’ll love this” – not sure at the time if it was supposed to be a compliment or not. But, it certainly threw me back. However, I felt the unspoken emphasis was implicitly there – anxiety, fear of being alone with oneself or was it loneliness.
I know I like my own company – needing space to recharge before re-engaging (remembering those labels people like to give – as a sense of knowing or categorising others – before it would be loner, then new labelling – the list goes on). I love the company of others, the connection and relational depth of family and close friends. It is an effort to step from the comfort zone but I know and remind myself that is part of who I am. That helps bring me closer to those I love and care for. Allowing me to be more aware to hearing those uniquely individual stories – of struggles survived and travelled many distances carrying fear, trauma, love and losses, then finding hope and love again.
So what jumped out – was there a fear of loneliness – during this pandemic and how do we overcome this? It certainly wasn’t the first time I have heard the heart ache – come from within the human soul – the fear and cry – yearning for connection and relationship. Yet, seemingly afraid, helpless to do anything.
This pierced me with such clarity recently – with my uncle who had laid to rest his wife and hearing his cry with such loss and emptiness – we all knew her in our own connected ways – yet to quote my uncle “the emptiness, loneliness is sometimes too much to bear”.
We yearn for connection and intimacy in relationship with others – that inter-relatedness of being valued by family and friends alike whether in community or corporate settings these connections do matter.
This loneliness can have such a debilitating impact on us as social beings, it is when we lose/or feel the loss of those we were connected, that the impact can become unbearable.
On the one-hand we want to reconnect to get away from this isolation and disconnection. Yet, we are pulled towards protecting, numbing and defensive reactions, leading to poorly regulated sleep fuelling the loneliness that reinforces the fear to reach out.
In Brene Brown’s book Atlas of the Heart she highlights a number of important facets regarding loneliness that the research of Julianne Holt-Lumstad; Timothy B. Smith and Bradley Layton showed an increase in morbidity by 48%. Also, that the connection between loneliness and physical health impacts not only the physical and emotional but also at the same time negates our capacity for creativity; reasoning and decision making.
So where does that leaves us, as the flags go up post pandemic restrictions? Do we bolt from the stalls and join as many clubs, groups and events as possible – in the frantic search of those meaningful connections.
Or do we realise (after two years) that our bodies; minds and souls yearn for fewer yet deeper relationships and connections which in themselves gives us value meaning and purpose in life and our collective need for connection with our own self and others.
This would have been so eagerly anticipated throughout communities, villages, nations – from young and old. However, 20 days ago we find ourselves between the rock and hard place – as we moved from the internal fears and disconnection to the external reality of “Putin’s War” and its impact upon sovereign nations of Ukraine and beyond. Facing the trauma of violence – experienced and witnessed – those feelings of helplessness and disconnection make themselves known. As we grappled with Covid now with War – the Fear of Death and extinction – how do we sustain and nurture life in this moment?
How can we possibly find our own meaning of life when we are stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place?
Brene Brown, “Atlas of the Heart “(Mapping Meaning for connection and language of Human Experience); Penguin Random House; UK; 2021.
Dr Vivek Murphy, “Together: The Healing Power of the Human connection in a sometimes lonely World”, Harper Collins; NY; 2020.