Isolation, separation, and distance are giving rise to a strange feeling of loneliness.
But it’s not just quarantine found in this pandemic. It’s a problem that started long before the virus even infected it’s first victim.
Loneliness is the plague that the current illness is helping us see more vividly.
We might be wearing masks. We might have different procedures. We may even feel as though we’ve taken on a different lifestyle.
But, the piece of cloth on our face only serves to make us more aware that our mouths are closed, that we haven’t been talking for years, and that we’ve had a filter in place for a long time.
We learned long ago not to talk to strangers, not to be a bother, and to never show how we’re truly feeling. Now we see faces that seem unable to talk, and wonder how long we have been hiding ourselves, protecting our identity from the discomfort of being discovered.
Our conversations are scrubbed for acceptance, cleansed of nuance, and washed of any blemish that might separate us from team we’ve chosen. And lost in that need for validation is the opportunity to learn about someone else and the dirt they are trying to remove.
Loneliness is a lack of listening. Not only the feeling of not being heard by others, but from the deafening emptiness of not being able to hear ourselves.
That silence is killing us. It’s causing us to lash out at each other. It’s exploding outside of us. And all the while it grows within us at a rate that can never be released. At least not on another.
Things only feel strange because we can’t cover those feelings with distraction, or phony smiles, or movement. The silent killer has stepped out from behind the curtain, and he’s forcing us to see ourselves and, perhaps, to consider our own strangeness.
Loneliness is thinking you are the only strange one. It does more than just keep us from talking, it keeps us from listening, which keeps us from seeing the strangeness all around us.
We didn’t need a pandemic to make us fear being sick, we needed the pandemic to realize how serious our real sickness has become. Our expressions have been hidden under protective covers of embarrassment for years and we’ve tried to disinfect ourselves of the differences we do see for generations.
Feeling normal isn’t going to come when we no longer have these masks on our face. It’s only available when we start accepting the faces under those masks. Loneliness won’t go away just because we can meet in a conference room again. It will only lessen when we treat every interaction as a chance to understand the person in front of us a little more intimately.
The cure for the disease behind the virus is community. It’s diversity. It’s vulnerability. It’s understanding. It’s expression. It’s celebration.
And it’s us. Helping others feel heard.