Seven months of (increasing) isolation

As hard as it seems to believe, I have been isolating at home for seven months now. Yes: seven months. And whilst I had been easing my levels of isolation from Month Four onwards, by the end of Month Six, I realised that I would have to revert to a stricter set of rules and set aside my hopes of rejoining society.

An isolation recap:
During Month One and Month Two, my isolation was just that: Isolating (but I coped)! Month Three began as a very isolating experience, but towards the end of the month, a friend and his dog came out to walk around the estate with me. And from the start of Month Four, I began to slowly venture further and further from home for walks on the beaches and hills around Midlothian and East Lothian. These walks and mini-adventures continued into Month Five with a couple of gentle woodland walks and a visit to a ruined broch. And in Month Six, I enjoyed an in-door, socially distanced visit with my friend and his dog and a surreal trip to The Real World for a doctor’s appointment.

However, as Month Six went on it was clear that things were getting worse; the virus was getting out of control again. And so, my final summer walk at the start of Month Seven marked the end of the car journeys. (And that was only a mile-long car journey.) And as Month Seven went on, my levels of (physical) isolation slowly increased and I am back to a “no cars; no one allowed in my cottage” rule. But that still allows for socially distanced walks with people who are following best COVID safety practices and who are not experiencing any symptoms of any illnesses. This is why I still managed a couple of adventure walks this past month – one to an abandoned mental hospital and one to an old graveyard and beyond.

Month Seven marked not only a reversal on my hopes to re-join society, but also a shift in my levels of frustration with the COVID pandemic and the isolation that it has brought. During my first 5+ months of isolation, I felt quite happy and settled with the situation. I was perfectly happy to not be going into town, in part because there was still a big push for staying home so I wasn’t alone in my isolation. But then the world started to open again, and I began to feel a sense of loss; I began to feel that I was missing out on The Real World. And then I had a taste of The Real World when I went to the hospital for my kidney check-up. Towards the end of Month Six and throughout Month Seven, I have felt a sense of frustration with it all – not helped by the tightening up of my isolation practices.

The difference between the first six months and Month Seven is that I missed The Real World in those early months, but now I yearn for it. I miss museums and art galleries and real-life public lectures (I have been attending lectures via Zoom most weeks, which has been nice). I miss going into the city centre on the weekends for urban adventures. I miss popping into a pub for a wee pint and a burger before going home. I miss weekends away and fancy cocktails with friends.

Yes, those first few months were easy enough, but this past month I’ve really wanted to re-join society – especially as I see that others are already getting back to (some form of) normal. And that leaves me feeling slightly frustrated and more isolated because I am not a part of society; I am experiencing things differently than most people. And I admit that those feelings of frustration are likely maybe heightened by knowing I’ll be stuck here into the new year – or longer – and I am missing my parents and my family and friends, which only makes the expat struggle that much more challenging.

My shadow is my companion.

As time has gone on, I have become aware that several of my “normal” activities at home have become harder to do. For example, I used to write letters every couple of weeks but now I just tell myself I’m going to write a letter, but I rarely do. (If my pen pal “PM” is reading this, I really will try to write this month!) I am also not drawing swirls right now and I’m not doing crafts and quirky/fun little projects and I am not reading for leisure. I feel that because I am home all the time, anything I do at home now feels like a chore, instead of like a relaxing hobby. It’s weird because I don’t feel depressed or negative or anything like that, I just feel bored. I feel like I am in a rut and I need to find my way out of it.

However, during this seventh month of my COVID19 isolation, I have begun to find a little more balance in my life. And I hope that by doing so I will be able to pick up on those hobbies again with a bit more passion. One of the keys to this is that I have started to work on improving my morning and evening routines so that I can better mark the division between my working life and my non-working life. I hope that by strengthening these routines (and adding new ones where necessary) I will be able to thrive despite the potentially harsh (mental and emotional) winter ahead. I have even recruited a couple of friends to “join me” for my morning and evening “commutes” by chatting on the phone whilst we walk a mile or so before and after the working day begins. This will be extremely important as the days get darker!

Please note that I do feel emotionally and mentally strong. I am not down, and I am not without enjoyment and hope each day. I am just bored. That said, I am steeling myself for the long winter ahead when I am sure to find my levels of isolation increasing as there will be fewer opportunities for socially distanced walks with friends because of a decrease in daylight hours and a (likely) increase in colds and flu for friends who are still interacting with The Real World for work and grocery shopping. And I am doing my best to ensure that I have everything I need to remain strong and confident throughout the darkness of the winter!

Thankfully, I am well-versed in living a life with limited (and at times no) real-life human interaction for days on end. That means that the next few months will be easier to manage. And I feel confident that I will be able to enjoy socially distanced walks most weekends – along with plenty of solo walks when there’s no one available to (safely) enjoy a walk with.

And so, Month Eight starts here. I am hopeful that I will find a good balance between work and home this month so that I can pick up on some of those missed hobbies. And I will aim to spend a bit more time on some fun COVID crafting, too. I hope that all of you are coping well with your own paths through this storm.

Keep safe and stay healthy!! (And wear your masks!)

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