It’s a word we’ve heard a lot lately. So many people experiencing it in a magnified way during this pandemic. A widower friend was in our home a few weeks ago and commented that there are days, DAYS, he doesn’t even use his voice. It was an interesting thought. And I could see how with the world of texting and emails. I quickly told him to call us rather than talk to himself! And, vice versa, I need to be mindful to call him.
To be in a home with others probably can’t be defined as isolating. But it can be lonely. You know you can be shoulder to shoulder in a room full of people and feel alone because, for a variety of reasons, you haven’t connected with them.
A special needs family can feel isolated in many ways. Socially, physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. Somehow, often it’ll feel like you just aren’t part of a group. Or maybe you think the ‘group’ you are in can’t understand your daily, so there isn’t a connection.
For us, it seems that spur of the moment fun is rare. Spontaneity seems foreign. It isn’t unusual to have a plan that will have to change at the last minute. Having to always think through plans, have a Plan B, and explore options can be exhausting.
So many times, we (Mike and I) have taken turns when it comes to different experiences. Jacob can’t be left alone. Thankfully, when it came to most major life events, we’ve been able to line up a sitter. But not always for a simple meeting, a date night, or a weekend away. One of the hardest was when we couldn’t both travel to see our newborn granddaughter, 1200 miles away.
More recently, we had tickets to a play and were to meet three couples at a restaurant prior to the community theatre performance. At the last minute, everything fell apart when the sitter canceled. Mike pushed me to go while he stayed with Jacob. Friends were each calling offering to pick me up. Finally, I gave in and went. The three men who did attend made a point to let him know, the play wasn’t that great anyway! Those friends bent over backward to ease our frustration.
Don’t get me wrong. Family and friends have always, ALWAYS, said, ‘bring Jacob’. Whether we were invited to their homes for a special holiday or a cookout. But it isn’t that easy. Yes, we could take his wheelchair and he remains seated in it while we could try to visit. It’s truly the only way he can go because otherwise, he is worse than a toddler getting into everything. All in the name of exploring. And while he is doing that, we sure aren’t chatting but instead are trying to restore a home to the order it was in before our arrival.
I’m not trying to play the pity card. I am saying that I have felt isolated. When our friend said, ‘tell me about isolation’ he wasn’t being rude or playing his own pity card. He was just stating a fact that made me think. We have fared well during this unusual isolation because we’ve had practice.
We are hearing of how damaging social isolation is at the moment. It can and is taking a toll on people’s lives. And there are hard risks associated with it: loneliness, depression, poor sleep habits, and adverse health effects to name a few. It’s quite bothersome what feeling alone can do in the long term.
Everyone who is isolated now because of Covid will make a choice each day. If you are miserable, you can choose to wallow in your misery. But please don’t wallow long. It will not help. You will become more depressed, more sluggish, angrier at your circumstances. OR, you can choose to be thankful for another day. You can call a friend (so they can use their voice), you can surprise a neighbor, you can crank up the music and dance like no one is watching, you can tackle a project with your name on it. Do something. And, in doing so, you’ll feel better and those around you will, too.
Isolation is tough, but you are tougher. Plus, even when it feels like it, you aren’t alone. My God, the Creator of the Universe, knows your name and cares about you.
Let that sink in.