No, you don’t have to learn a new skill in isolation.
Renaissance [ ren-uh-sahns]
noun: the activity, spirit, or time of the great revival of art, literature, and learning in Europe beginning in the 14th century and extending to the 17th century, marking the transition from the medieval to the modern world.
My last commute from office to home was on Wednesday, April 25. For the next ten days, I continued to work from home before receiving the dreaded but inevitable furlough phone call. I work in the events industry. I love my career. I pour everything I have into my work.
I gave myself a week to feel the feelings I needed to feel — anger, mostly. Then I shook off my wrath funk and started to come up with a plan of personal self-development. My isolation resolutions included deep-diving into leadership studies, home improvement projects, reading (So much reading!), podcasts, yoga, webinars, TED Talks, and everything else I never have time to fit into my workaholic schedule.
As hours and days disappeared into the blackhole of a time void, so did my resolve. It only took a few days to abandon my grand resolution plans. Oh, I did a few things, but mostly I was numb and immensely successful at finding low effort activities which aided in keeping me numb.
Eventually, the guilt of not-doing overwhelmed me. I had a few very dark and dangerous days.
All of us are COVID-19 coping differently. Being lulled into numbness was easy, but with it came zero focus. I was trying so hard to shut out the uncertainty and inability to plan for the next week or month that I also shut out the ability to pay attention to anything for more than five minutes at a time.
I had to consciously face four personal realities in order to quiet my raging mind. Then my Great unRenaissance began.
The Great Ego Check
In the two-week time span preceding pandemic isolation, I was passed over for a promotion and then deemed non-essential. Ouch. While I am confident in the workplace and know my value, I also know there is always more to learn. Still, this was a one-two knockout punch in an already unsure and ever-changing environment… and I had not yet dealt with it on a personal level.
The Great Grieving
Grief is one of the most studied yet still misunderstood of human emotions — and I believe most of us are in some form of grief management right now. Loss of lifestyle or employment is throwing millions into the grief process. Many must also add the literal loss of life into the equation. I was trying my best to skip this step. I don’t recommend it.
The Great Loneliness
Being an extrovert in isolation is torture. My children are grown and I live alone. My car also broke down as all this started (because, of course), so I haven’t left my apartment — even to go to the grocery store (Thank you, delivery drivers!). While I am accustomed to being alone when I am at home, I am not used to feeling lonely. My career in events means I’m usually surrounded by humanity. I am people-powered and my batteries have been drained. Don’t get me wrong, I rapid-cycle between lamenting being alone and grateful I’m not forced to share my space with anyone else — even if I love them. But, I am more than alone; I am lonely.
The Great Silence
In order to begin working through the temporary loss of my career, grief, and loneliness, I had to stop numbing every thought in my head with television or music. I don’t even sleep in silence. I rely on music or white noise to get through the night. I turned off the television. I stepped back from around-the-clock social media. I silenced the music and allowed myself to meditate or journal in order to reconcile everything happening right now.
Because I live with bipolar disorder, I also had a video-conference with my doctor. I work diligently at being self-aware and keeping my illness managed. I needed help.
Dealing with these emotions has made it possible for me to start living this “new normal.” Some of my well-intentioned resolutions have come to fruition. I aspired to relocate my personal library — so I did. I also began listening to some podcasts and reading some books on my list. Most notably, I began writing again.
Gone are the personal deadlines and pressures to do better — to BE BETTER. In their place is a naturally evolving process of healing, coping, and listening to what my mind and body need rather than forcing them into places they are not ready to go.
If you are in full pursuit of greatness during isolation and reaping the rewards of extra study, exercise, or creativity, I applaud you with all sincerity. I might also be a smidge jealous. The creators of music, theatre, art, and dance are dominating this transition as they did in the Renaissance — discovering new and innovative ways to feed our souls. I am as grateful for them as I am those on the front lines of this epidemic.
If, however, you are like me and you need a little nothing in your life — for a time — do not let the guilt of that nothingness burden you. Take pride in knowing you are doing the right thing by staying home. If you are longing for productivity and can’t seem to find it, look inward and explore unresolved emotions that may be nudging (or throwing you off the ledge) into depression. If you need it, ask for help.
Celebrate the small accomplishments of your own unRenaissance.
No one will judge you for not mastering Malbolge (Google it.).
This article was originally published April 24, 2020 on Medium. In 2020, I migrated that writing content to my personal webpage.