The importance of being alone - what might the COVID-19 pandemic teach us?

Imagine if you were catapulted into a different world. You’re placed into a pod and propelled forward at 70 miles per hour. You land. You’re startled. You look around and you can’t believe what you see. Is this really happening?

Yin Yang. Dark Bright. Hot Cold. Black White. There is an opposite for everything. Life is a balancing act. And now, more than ever many of us will be feeling the need to find that balance whilst we stay at home. A careful balance between working, eating, living, 'socialising' (virtually of course) and sleeping.

Finding balance in the irregular

Working requires us to be doing focused and productive work whilst thoughtfully arranging Zoom meetings. Turning to conversing on a platform like Skype where we would usually turn to each other in an office whilst ensuring our start and finish hours are the same. And we take a lunch hour and breaks from our screen.

Living, working, schooling, being, doing everything at home 23/7 (we're using our exercise hour to get outside) has presented itself with a myriad of stuff to think about and deal with. For single people, always being alone. For parents, there’s little or no respite from the kids. Couples have suddenly been forced to live in each other’s pockets. For those couples who get on it’s fine. For those in toxic relationships, not so fine.

How do we manage to find a balance? When our home life merges into our social life? How do we find a balance between being sociable and finding some time to be on our own? How do we make sure we look after ourselves whilst maintaining virtual contact with our family and friends?

As a single person, it’s perhaps easier to manage. People living alone are able to pick and choose when to be on their own. We get to choose when we ‘socialise’ – whether that’s a phone call, a video call or an online party, we can dip in and out as and when it suits. However, the other side of the coin is that we slip into the space where we don't make time for that call or party. Too much alone time...

For people living with others - the pressures of always being around another person, or people, can also be a challenge. I have been listening to people living with others and how they are managing the situation. What is evident is that we all need and crave our own space. Unless you're a co-dependent mess, in which case, this might be the wake up call that a bit of psychotherapy is needed.

For single people, making time to socialise whilst at home is important. For those living with others, making time to be alone is important. No matter our living situation, most of us will need space to process and figure out how to get through this period with our sanity in tact. And it could also be a time for self growth and learning about ourselves.

Solitude is peace

I have to be alone very often. I'd be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That's how I refuel." Audrey Hepburn: Many-Sided Charmer, LIFE Magazine, December 7, 1953)

There are many articles that go some way to explaining the need for solitude and how to be alone. The School of Life’s video, ‘The Need to be Aloneoffers up one such philosophical view on ‘aloneness’. It's a good watch and will use up a few minutes of all this time you suddenly have!

One quote from the video allows us to consider what solitude means in terms of selflessness, rather than viewing solitude as a selfish act: “But our solitary moments are in reality an homage to the richness of social existence. Unless we’ve had time to be alone, we can’t be who we’d like to be around our fellow humans.”

An article in the The Guardian on being alone, begins by pointing out that being sent to our room as children was some form of punishment, when in fact it ought to be seen as a reward. Sara Maitland, author of "How To Be Alone", also argues that there is "’something weird’ about a culture that encourages high self-esteem yet discourages us from spending time with the person we ought to like best.” That person, of course, being ourselves.

A Different World

We have been catapulted into a different different world. Our home is our landing spot. We're all startled by this 'new normal'. And we're all at different levels of feeling what we feel. Is this really happening? It is. And there is nothing we can do to change the situation. Except how we feel and react to it. What will allow the COVID-19 pandemic to teach us about ourselves?

The reality of the current situation is that the majority of us will live to tell the tale of the weeks we went into COVID-19 lockdown. So perhaps we need to use this time to embrace being alone.

It's something I have only really come to fully 'get' since the COVID-19 lockdown - that being alone doesn't equate to loneliness. I have used this alone time to really dig deep. To feel and understand those feelings. To si