Isolation has been a predicted social epidemic for a while now. Younger generations don’t know a world before apps and social networks, and our large population of beloved boomers will face increasing challenges of loss and solitude. Then last week happened.
I have had this itchy need to write something about this for a while, but now it is impossible to ignore. The things I write often demand to be let out. I didn’t want to seem like a doom spreader, because I’m actually an optimistic realist, and I know nobody wants just another seemingly negative thing in their feed.
However, I feel uniquely qualified to express this.
I cannot deny I have a blessed life. I have a roof over my head, a successful business (for now), two quirky pets, good friends and a loving family, but I am alone most of the time. Solo entrepreneurship and, let’s call them ‘a series of unfortunate events’, led me to being alone more since last summer than I have ever been. For the first time ever, I felt the negative effects of it.
It’s been awful.
I’ve always been a lone wolf, fiercely independent, and comfortable in my own company. I felt I was prepared to handle whatever came my way. With all of its ups and downs, I thought I was as likely as anyone else to continue to handle life’s many lessons. I’m a strong person. I’m resilient. I’m a fighter.
I was wrong.
Like all things, dealing with a challenge is a process. The pity party portion of the program lasted four months. I spent most of that time alone. I focused on the things knew how to do, like running my business, but there were also some pretty major changes in the workisphere, and even that didn’t feel familiar.
“…In the midst of this, I experienced something else. A peripheral ‘noise’ detox of sorts…”
Around Christmas I hit my breaking point. I usually love getting together with friends, sharing the fudge I make, exchanging gifts, and spreading the cheer and joy of the season, but aside from a few people who lovingly stood by me and knew what I was going through, I suffered mostly in silence.
Many of the people usually present in my life were not there. To be fair, some of them died, which were some of the unfortunate events. Other people I care about were also struggling, for which I have endless compassion. Some just disappeared. I still have two undelivered Christmas gifts in my closet, lovingly tagged for close friends I haven’t seen in months. I hope I will still get the chance to give them. It has been a very unusual time.
The pity party involved endless tears, wine, unspeakable sadness and a trip into a place I didn’t like. A place of agonizing isolation. The second phase of the process is still ongoing. It involves accepting the friendship of those who still choose to be in my life, guitar lessons, long overdue trauma counselling for my chronic pain, yoga, group training sessions, eating better, reading more, and no wine. I even saw a medium. Apparently, even in isolation, I’m not idle.
In the midst of this, I experienced something else. A peripheral ‘noise’ detox of sorts. It gets really strange when things grind to a halt. I describe it as what I imagine it might feel like to blaze through the earth’s atmosphere as a meteor. You feel hot, and it’s like you’re about to explode, or implode, or both. It is a fiery ball of chaos, until you break through. It feels foreign to shed the ‘too much of everything’ our world constantly throws at us. The cycle of too many meetings, phone calls, deadlines, texts and commitments. Take solace in this pause. I actually think that part is healthy. Once the detox is done, I promise it feels better.
“…My advice is to be kind with other people’s pain and struggles…”
The reason I’m writing this now is I feel a strange sense of community forming around the isolation that is being imposed on the collective “us.” I’ve lived alone and worked alone for many of my 18 years as an entrepreneur, but this recent experience has been different. It has gutted me, tested me, and brought me to my knees. It made me dig deep inside for the strength to get up. My mum says, “you’re like me. We get knocked down, but we get back up again.” I hope she’s right. I think she’s right. I’m trying.
This has not been easy. It’s not comfortable to admit things like, I’m hurting, I’m struggling, I’m lonely. I need help. I’ve found expressing this kind of truth doesn’t sit well with most other people. There have been a lot of blank stares, interjections that it can’t be that bad, some unreturned phone calls, and texts that went into the abyss.
Being alone can be wonderful, but being lonely is another thing. It can be devastating. I fear many more people will soon understand how it feels and that worries me. I want others to be okay, so maybe I can help, even just a little. My advice is even if you’re struggling and even if at first people don’t seem to understand, don’t let go of the ones you care about. Let them stay tethered to you. We need each other. Don’t let someone else’s struggle make you walk away.
I believe we are inherently social beings. We gravitate towards love, laughter, joy, congregation, sharing and caring for one another. The obstacles currently in our way are not going to make us feel good. It’s going to be really tough, but we can take some comfort in knowing we are all in it together.
My advice is to be kind with other people’s pain and struggles. We do not know how a situation or circumstances may impact an individual. Don’t try to explain away someone’s reality as unimportant. If you don’t know how to respond, just say “I’m here for you,” “I care about you,” “you are important to me,” or “I love you.” If you can’t ask “what can I do to help?” because you have nothing left to give, that’s okay. Be honest and communicate. Don’t just walk away. We need each other now more than ever.
So, from my isolated little world to yours, I’m still here. I’m here for myself, but I can also be here for other people too. I can still do that. I want to do that. If isolation gets you down, don’t stop telling people how you’re feeling and don’t stop checking in on others. Rely on the people who want to be there for you. I promise there are people who do.
Ilan Cooley is an Edmonton based entrepreneur and writer. She is a an avid traveller, rescue dog mama and advocate of kindness and community.
And Money Flowed in the Streets….
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
Charles Dickens was a masterful writer with a superb grasp of the human psyche. In his Christmas Carol, which has been retold thousands of time since its original publication, he captured the penultimate human tragedy and richness: gratitude and thankfulness leads to an overflowing heart.
However, in this time in our world while every medical officer and professional is running the Covid 19 marathon, internet and news channel surfers are digesting every chart and update hungrily, and business men and women are looking to an uncertain future post crisis, people are discovering what is truly valuable.
We have witnessed the dismantling of sports empires worldwide-the NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS, PGA tours and other professional sports are now on pause for the 2020 season. Our entertainment industry, in addition to seeing Harvey Weinstein charged with sexual assault is also shut down worldwide. Business empires, so powerful in previous months are now powerless to resist falling sales and changing trend.
The gods of this world are now neutered, powerless, crownless and less significant everyday.
While public gatherings have been outlawed in numbers over 15, and social distancing has replaced conversation and relationships, families are spending more time together and hobbies are on the rise. I would venture to say that more people have never read so many books, or cooked so many cookies, or binged on Netflix or have been engaged with video entertainment than ever before.
On the positive side, crime rates are down. People are home so thieves are less likely to find empty homes.
The porn industry has shut down.
Houses are cleaner, and early spring cleaning is occurring.
Income tax season, while lengthened, will be less stressful for people.
Afternoon naps are now fashionable again.
People of faith can now find (or make) time to pray, read, and watch sermons and seminars online.
Music is more likely being played from all decades more often.
And then we consider the plight of the rich and entitled, when Covid 19 or any disease/condition enters their homes and robs them of health and a sense of well being…
Earlier today on whatsapp, a picture was posted with a quote from Sidhu, but it could also be from Ecclesiastes as well…
The richest people in Italy threw the money on the road and said, “This did not work in our bad times, we cannot save our loved ones, we cannot save our children, what is the use of this wealth? There is a lesson for those who value money more than humanity …. humbleness
Ecclesiastes 1: 1-4 states that, in the words of the teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem that”
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.”
In Italy, where Covid 19 has claimed thousands of victims, where a country is held hostage by something so small and insignificant, they have realized that no matter how much money they have, no matter now much power they have, that it cannot save their lives.
Their money, once a symbol of wealth and stature, now blows down empty city streets, rolling and curling in response to slight breezes and great gusts. Passers by walk by, pick up Euro every now and then and gaze upon the piles of powerless and valueless currency that pales in comparison to the greatest treasure of all: faith, humanity, health and humility.
The Red Deer Downtown Business Association opens up survey for downtown identity project.
The Red Deer Downtown Business Association (DBA) is proud to announce the launch of their survey to assist the DBA’s ongoing efforts of creating an identity for Downtown Red Deer. This survey will be used to gain feedback from citizens of Red Deer and surrounding communities on their thoughts of downtown.
The DBA is looking for 20 individuals that complete the 3 to 5-minute survey, to participate in a longer 20-minute interview in return for a $10 gift card to one of the specialty coffee shops in the core.
The Downtown Business Association has been operating in Red Deer for over 30 years, serving approximately five-hundred business owners in the Downtown area. Through partnerships and leadership in advocacy and promotion, the DBA is the catalyst for a vibrant and prosperous downtown that is the place to live, work, play and do business.
For more information, contact: Amanda Gould, Executive Director, Red Deer Downtown Businesses Association 403.340.8696
(originally published March 30, 2020)
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