Sick degrees of separation


Splendid isolation

‘We’re all in this together.’

How many times has these been the mantra of those in charge, from their very important yet comfortably appointed platforms, during difficult times?

We’re all in this alone. Some of us are more alone than others. Some of us are frightened. Some of us aren’t alone but feel beleaguered, since they’re banged up in a cramped flat with small children. I’m glad I just have the two cats looking to me for guidance.

This is Week 3 of total isolation. Husband’s had to remove to Somerset to lock down with his mother who needs care. We’ve decided that our 120-miles of separation will be the making of our faded 30-year marriage. We send a daily email and I am writing letters with ink on paper, because I like doing that.

To date, isolation has been splendid. I’ve cherished the daily ‘exercise outdoors’ allowance and been out on solitary runs, bike rides and walks. I’ve tended my garden. I’ve done some work because deadlines haven’t gone away. And I’ve entertained myself with WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.

That last activity, however, has been a qualified pleasure. Social media is safely physically distanced, but can be dangerously socially stifling. It brings all manner of pressures to bear on those humans without a trusted friend close by to bring some reason into the mix. Already I’m angsting about other people being so much more creative with their time than I am. The witty videos, podcasts, thoughtful, pithy twittering of others is being liked and shared and found inspiring.  My easily roused green-eyed monster starts to stir and dig its claws into my ego.

Even my friends, innocently telling me during Zoom and Houseparty chats, that they’re getting on with their book/practising violin/redecorating their house cause a minor crisis of self-esteem.

When the fever of dangerous introspection like this threatens to cause a breakdown of rationality, it’s time to turn off the devices and look up, and out. How privileged I am to be in a house that has a garden. Space is not an issue. I can go outside and watch the rosebuds fatten and the sparrows mob the buds on the grapevine. I go for a run every other day and greet people I pass (keeping a wide, wide berth), while I run across the greensward of local parks. Staying on the paths risks incurring fearful glances from the other physical distancers out there, so it makes sense to keep on the grass. Running on grass is harder work and requires more concentration. All the time I’m making sure I don’t turn an ankle on divots and tuffets I’m not caring about anything else.

Digging deeper into the runner’s armoury of perfect displacement activities, I give more thought to running technique. Working up from the foot placement, to ankle mobility, to knee height, to hip extension, to core stability, to forward lean and arm swing, to neck flexibility, to relaxed and unforced face forward stance. Then it’s time to smile and breathe and enjoy the simple pleasures of being outdoors in spring time.

On other days it’s online yoga with my friend Carrie. I’ve never been able to go to her classes as they’re too far away. Now is the perfect time to catch a load of her wisdom and kindness as I Zoom in to her sessions. If you’re advised often enough to concentrate on your breathing, the negative thoughts  get crowded out by inhalations and exhalations and the focus on grounded feet, soft knees, mobile hips, spacious chest, loosened jaw and all the other body bits that need unknotting and releasing. There’s no time to fret about inadequacies and, with all this going on in the comfort of your own study, no young, lithe, Lululemon-clad beauties to compare yourself with.

I do it in my pyjamas and then go out to hanami (the ancient Japanese art of flower viewing). All on my own.


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