The Loneliest Year of my Life

2020 has not been the hardest year of my life (cancer card), but it has certainly been the loneliest. It’s very likely been that way for a lot of people across the board.

I’ve had multiple friends stay really low-key and quarantined, which for them means taking their spouse and children on family road trips and not seeing anyone else. Or they’ve bubbled with their parents nearby.
What’s the equivalent for a single person who doesn’t have roommates and all her family lives in different states? I quarantine/do “bubbled” household vacations with…Netflix? That’s coming from someone split on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, so I can only imagine the pain and deep loneliness for single, roommate-less people without family nearby who are also high extroverts.

Before anyone gets upset and thinks this is an indictment of them (gosh, 2020 is exhausting), it’s not. Also, I’m not looking for a trophy or medal for “you had it the hardest” pity. I don’t think I’ve had it the hardest by ANY means. It’s just been uniquely challenging with its isolation.

I’ve actually had my core group in CA invite me over—and more importantly—IN to their lives in this season. Because truly, that’s what others isolating themselves with their family unit feels like: a closed door to their lives from my place of already-deep loneliness before covid hit.

It’s been a long season of having friends who are cautious saying, “Hey, we’re just kind of isolating with our household” which is great and admirable and I GET it. We’re literally being told to do that. But then I start to wonder, “Am I just really selfish for wanting to see people and not caring about covid deaths?” until I realize that for some friends, isolating with their household means family vacations in a bubble or road trips with the 4-6 people of their immediate family unit. Again, does isolating with my household or bubble vacationing for me mean more time on my iPad but in a new location?

I genuinely know that people are being cautious and NOT callous by isolating or insulating, but over time, it starts to feel like closed doors. I know we have to be cautious, but there’s also a cost in that.

Again, this is not an indictment of anyone and not meant to shame anyone. It’s just to share a perspective that, at least among my friends, is somewhat unique since most of my friends and acquaintances are married, have kids, and/or live near family.

This season has genuinely made me grateful for those who, instead of hunkering down and shutting doors, have reached out and invited me in. I’m so grateful for people like Jerri and Stephen Middleton—both of whom have been really cautious and covid-safe—and yet, they have invited me into their world amidst that caution because they see the cost and toll. They have been a lifeline and gift. Where others are closing doors—100% understandably!— the Middletons have opened their door despite their own caution with the virus, and that’s been a gift.

Or take my core friend group which has been cautious and covid-safe overall. None of us has thrown caution to the wind and been crazy, but what would seem wrong and unsafe to others has been a lifeline in a suffocating season. They’ve said, “Hannah, get in the car and come see and spend the night with us.” Again, they’ve opened doors in a world where there’s been a lot of insulating and closing of doors. My friend group and the Middletons may have done it just because it’s who they are, but I also think they’ve been very intentional about saying, “Hey, let’s take care of our friend.”

My parents were a lifeline in May, letting me crash with them for a month during the first stay at home order after 6 weeks alone in my 1 bedroom apartment; my small group has been an encouragement out of the depths; my cousin and her husband inviting me on their trip in October was life-giving and a breath of fresh air; my sister and brother in law rescued me for Easter; my boss called early on recognizing that I’m in a uniquely isolated situation; and these friends above have been a lifeline locally.

This is going to sound really dramatic, but let me tell you: masks may well save lives, but so have these friends’ actions.

Cancer was severely isolating in some ways, though I’ve written about how people rallied around me and I felt such an incredible sense of community. It’s isolating in the sense that few people around you truly get what’s going on and what you’re going through. Even if you’re surrounded by people, you’re the one getting filled with chemo at the end of the day; you’re the one losing your hair.

But this season has been isolating on a whole other level. During cancer people tried to understand and they rallied around me, and I so appreciate that. During Covid, people are intentionally closing doors—which I know is what we’re being told and mandated to do, and it’s probably wise for public physical health—but hopefully you can see the challenge.

All of this when I’d like to consider myself well-adjusted with some good community (and I see a psychiatrist every month—not actually for counseling, but every time I know I could bring it up when my doc asks how life is going). So if that’s how I’m feeling, I just can’t imagine what it’s like out there. It’s been challenging and there’s really no better word for it than utterly lonely.

On top of all of the other ways the world has felt stalled in covid, it also feels like I’m sitting out another year of my life as the clock ticks, while my friends continue to build their families and I continue to sit alone under stay at home guidelines and orders in my apartment, watching some of my hopes slip even further out of view.

I know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and that being stuck with a spouse and kids has had its own challenges. I’m 100% sure I would be so sick of a spouse or kids or roommate or family after 9 months at home with them. I’m not saying it’s been a walk in the park for others because I’m sure it would drive me crazy, and I don’t know a single person who’s coming out of 2020 unscathed in some or multiple ways. I’m saying that at end of the day, most people I know are isolating or at home with someone who either chose them or is stuck with them, and I’ve got lots of streaming apps.

I try to have a point to what I write, a “complete thought” of sorts. There’s not really one today.

I have friends whom I love arguing with me about the need for stay at home orders as I sit alone in my apartment, writing in the dark, feeling suffocated by another stay at home order that will go through Christmas. Travel is now “restricted” (though the state said they know they can’t enforce that, lol), and I know I will be judged by friends I love dearly and one-time acquaintances who follow me for some reason (honored, but nothing to see here) for traveling over Christmas. I also know that the pervading weight on my chest in view of 3 weeks of isolation even more strict than what I’ve been experiencing for 8 months since the last stay at home order means if I don’t travel to see loved ones for Christmas, the odds of me keeping my head above water for these next 3 weeks are not in my favor.

In May, I wrote a post which I haven’t yet shared because it’s probably the most honest and vulnerable thing I’ve written over the years. It feels too much—maybe too raw or just too honest. This one’s a close second. But I keep coming back to it and thinking I should share because I know there are others out there feeling as I am.

So maybe that’s the point of this post: to put words to what I know some of my other single, roommateless, and sometimes family-less friends are feeling, too. And if you read this and can be the Middletons or the “Wildcats 4ever” text thread or my parents, cousin, and small group to someone out there struggling under intensified isolation, be the lifeline, the open door they may be desperate for.

Jesus is my Rock, this I know. And I have spent some intense time with Him and had some raw and frequent, guttural conversations with Him this year (I know that’s not really the right use of guttural, but words escape how to describe some of my prayers from the depths). He has reached down from on high to sustain me despite the isolation—something He knows more deeply and profoundly than I do. He has also extended these few lifelines to me this year, and I am profoundly grateful. If I ever recover enough of myself out of this, I hope to repay them in kind.

One thought on “The Loneliest Year of my Life

  1. Hi Hannah. I enjoyed reading your post, but felt sad that it has been so difficult for you. Who would have thought we would see a pandemic in our country and the whole world. Every single one of us has been affected in some way. For me, it’s been rather lonely too. John was in the hospital 5 times and in skilled nursing/rehab 3 times. I can tell you that I think I have finally learned to live one day at a time! I’m blessed to be back at work at an elementary school. It’s my 25th year and it’s been truly different with Covid contact tracing added to my plate. I know God will see us through this and one day we can spent time with family and friends! I’m longing for that day. Please take care of yourself and keep writing. Sending love your way.

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