You're home. Alone. Trying to cope with day after day of social distancing, a task that gets more difficult as we head into the next month of loneliness. This surreal time has generated an overload of advice on how to cope; however, it seems most of this advice focuses on families and people who live with others.
What about folks who live alone? It appeared to solo quarantinees that no one realized there are many people in the Taos Valley communities living alone -- quarantined with only themselves for human contact. Sure, families and roommates complain that they are all on each other's last nerve, but try being on your own last nerve. It gets extremely lonely, as you look longingly at the couple across the street, arm-in-arm, walking their dog and enjoying the fresh air.
Taking a solo walk, with social distancing a top priority, often leads to paranoia and fear that some stranger might venture a tad too close. How to deal with the intense solitude?
Hope Moore lives alone in Taos half the year, as her partner travels all over the country for work. "We spend long weekends together to ease the sting of a halftime distanced relationship," Moore said. "But he's in Chicago, and I had to cancel my flight to visit." She said she's uncertain when she will see him again.
Moore looks for what she is grateful for through the uncertainty. "I'm finding ways to feel and experience gratitude," she said. "But, on the other hand, I'm hug-deprived and realizing I do get lonely or feel isolated at times - even as an introvert."
While she is grateful for the ability to do some of her work from home, Moore said, "[I] work in mental health with youth, and I am concerned about how this social distance is impacting their coping, well-being and development."
She also connects with loved ones across the country via FaceTime and other video messaging apps such as Marco Polo, practices yoga and gets outside for long walks with her dogs. Reading for pleasure, writing letters and rewatching "Parks and Recreation" on Netflix help Moore to pass the time.
Speaking of Netflix, let's face it, we're all bingeing more now than ever. "Tiger King" anyone? There are several other binging opportunities on Amazon Prime and Hulu, to name a couple. This may be a good time to see that movie you've been threatening to watch for years, or maybe check out some of the old classics.
If you become tired of watching alone, Netflix Party ( netflixparty.com) is a great way for friends who share similar binge diets to connect. Netflix Party allows friends to watch the same show at the same time and provides a sidebar group chat so friends can comment without actually interrupting.
Taos resident Marianne Todd shared that she is at risk of contracting coronavirus due to health issues. "I do not allow that to keep me from hiking," she said. "It's my only solace."
She does FaceTime with her kids quite a bit. Otherwise, she considers herself to be an introvert and didn't get out much before quarantine. "This hasn't been a huge change for me, but I have spoken with a lot of extroverted friends who I have had to talk off the ledge."
What does Todd miss? "Absolutely nothing," she said. "Except the hot tub at the gym." She also spends time writing a new screenplay, researching and reading.
Like many in Taos, Brian Eckert was laid off from his job and has had no human interaction since. "Just hit me this morning," he recalled. "I haven't spoken in two weeks.
"It's really tough," Eckert said. "But I have a house I can keep busy renovating." He is also thankful it's not the middle of winter.
In addition to renovating, he said, "I can spend a few hours in nature with my dog, and that keeps me sane."
And, of course, our senior citizens who reside in assisted living or nursing homes are often affected by loneliness - but especially now. Tracy Ivy, activities director at Taos Living Center, said that the staff works hard to make sure residents are well taken care of, and that they have human interaction every day. This includes daily FaceTime visits with loved ones, as well as in-person visits from Ivy and other members of the staff, albeit while donning masks and gloves.
"We try to make it like a real home," she said. "It is their home, and [each resident] makes their own decisions as to what they want to do. They are completely autonomous."
Some residents choose to enjoy a meal with friends in one of the dining rooms, where staff ensures proper spacing and safety. The TLC staff also works hard to provide fun for residents while maintaining social distancing. For example, the staff recently organized a faux happy hour to engage residents with each other from their rooms.
Ivy praised her coworkers. "I love and appreciate them all. I am proud of the people I work with," she expressed.
As Taoseños plod through this unprecedented way of life, it is important to reach out to friends, family and neighbors on a regular basis. Text, call, set up a video chat via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or any other methods you find. Organize a virtual happy hour or game night. Be creative! We truly are all in this together, and it's tough.
As Todd suggested, "It helps to get up every day, get dressed, get presentable - even if it's only for the dog. Make the bed, do some yoga, eat well, work, hike, nap."
Moore added that she is working on setting boundaries with an overload of media and salty snack consumption. "Which I'm finding a correlation between," she said, smiling.
She concluded with, "My inner child is saying, 'I hope this ends soon, so I can go play outside with my friends again.'"
And so do we all.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay informed. Stay positive. And stay home.