A Letter to Those in Isolation for the First Time.
As COVID-19 continues to ravage our world, many of us are experiencing isolation for the first time.
Even though we recognize the necessity of staying home for everyone’s safety, being stuck inside sucks. It leaves one feeling raw and ripped open, like you’re trapped and nothing will ever change.
I write to you as someone who has lived in isolation for six years due to chronic illness. I basically only leave the house for doctor appointments (and even those have switched to Telehealth). As they say, “this is not my first rodeo.” So I’d like to offer you some wisdom about surviving isolation that I’ve learned the hard way, by not doing what I’m about to say.
I hope, dear one, that you will be able to forge an easier path through uncertainty, fear, and darkness than mine has been.
#1. Keep up your fitness. Perhaps you can’t do the forms of exercise you usually enjoy, like running outside, playing on a sports team, or going to the gym. But please don’t use that as an excuse to pause your physical activities altogether. Do yoga, stretch, do wall push-ups, work on your abs, do squats, run or jump in place — anything to keep up your muscle strength and cardio fitness.
Because believe me, fitness vanishes faster than you’d ever think possible. If you don’t exercise, you’ll gain weight, lose the strength to carry heavy weights and perform household tasks, and dig yourself into a hole it could take years to get out of. Plus, you’ll have lost the psychological benefits of exercise and maybe added depression and anxiety to the list of your problems.
Take care of your health. You don’t know how important it is until it’s gone.
#2. Practice gratitude. It’s easy to focus on what you’ve lost, but it’s vital to your psyche to keep sight of what you still have. Be grateful for your food. Be grateful for the people who love you, even if they’re far away. Be grateful for your comfortable bed. Be grateful for the walls around you, how they keep you safe from the outside world.
Place your palm on a wall and picture how close the world’s beauty is to you — just a few inches! Life is right there beneath your hand. You may think your house/apartment/bedroom is small, but look at the size of your body and consider how many of you lying side by side it would take to reach the walls. You have all the space you need.
#3. Be playful. Find things to laugh at. Make up games, roll around some Play-Doh. Behave like a child. Otherwise your mind will become bitter and hard, focused only on the bad things, and soon you won’t even recognize yourself. Smile, because if you don’t, you’ll forget how. It’s like speaking a language: if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
Please don’t lose your smile. Don’t lose your light heart. It’s a bleak world without these things, believe me.
#4. Be creative. Write, play music, sing, dance, draw, paint. If you don’t know how, google it or watch instructional YouTube videos. The arts connect you to your inner child and your full potential as a human being. They give you the power to shape your own world, even if you’re trapped inside the house. Want a reason to get up in the morning? The potential for creativity will get you excited for the day.
It’s so important to stave off bitterness, because once you’ve lost hope, you’ve lost everything.
#5. Keep the life-spark lit within yourself. What is the thing you’re made to do, the reason you were put on this earth? Do that thing, even if you can do just a fraction of it. If you can’t do it indoors or away from your workplace, write about it, then post your thoughts online to share your passion with the world.
Then, even when quarantine has taken so much from you, you will have done the one thing that is most important. You will have lit the fire in your soul.
#6. Take advantage of every opportunity to feel alive. Even if it’s just doing a tiny little thing that makes the day different, do that thing. If you don’t, your life will pass you by. You’re not meant to lie on the couch or watch TV all day. That may feel good in the moment, but as a memory it’s depressing. If this period of isolation teaches you one thing, let it be that you cannot let life slip away.
Even if it’s hard, even if it feels impossible, do things you’ll remember. A bit of exertion and determination is a small price to pay for feeling alive.
Your Sister in Isolation
Erica Olson lives in rural Montana and enjoys wearing clothes that don’t match. Her poetry has appeared in The Fable Online, The Voices Project, Haiku Journal, Haikuniverse, Failed Haiku: A Journal of English Senryu, and the anthology ‘Jumble Box’. Her favorite themes include the stars, human potential, and the divine spark within us. Erica also writes fantasy stories.