It is odd that we have this new rule about being six feet apart. It is surreal and yet somehow so familiar. I think I have been six feet apart from people all my life.
Was my feeling of distance from other that spawned my feeling of being unworthy of connection? Or were my differences so apparent they created spaces so vast, I came up with unworthiness as an explanation to make sense of it all.
Simple things have always tripped me up made me feel inadequate because who I was didn’t fit into conversations, cliques, or communities. I looked like anyone else; I sounded like anyone else. And in fact, in some cases, I dripped with privilege, so I felt guilty about my feelings of not belonging when the ticket in seemed to be written on my skin. But my heart, my soul, felt something so foreign in the spaces around me.
Simple things like small talk, introductions, managing finances, being a guest in someone’s home, helping with chores, driving, giving directions, cutting tomatoes, baking a pie, calling to make reservations make me feel so small and incompetent. They seem like impossibilities to me sometimes. Ridiculous, I know.
It is easy to convince myself I will mess it up. Say something wrong. Not be heard correctly. Choose the wrong location. I don’t know how to stand in a way that makes other people feel comfortable. My thoughts spin when numbers come up because they make no sense to me at all. Percentages and budgets come up, and I start to sweat. I don’t like going to movie theaters or loud, crowded places. Fear grips hold of my tongue daily because I refuse to say something silly and look dumb. Cooking becomes an obstacle to surmount because I am sure dinner will turn out burned or taste awful. Listening to others is okay, but will I say something that eases their heart or makes them feel more comfortable; not likely. Parties are not a source of fun and excitement for me; I dread them and have to prepare for hours to show up and look relaxed. How do you look or seem relaxed? I am forty-two and still don’t know. In all things, I believe I will make a mistake that causes discomfort to someone else, even if it is a minor discomfort.
Even when we could be in contact with one another, I longed for connection. I wanted to be seen. And yet at the same time, I feared being seen. There was something better about being unknown, misunderstood that left me feeling more comfortable as if I was born to be lonely and isolated. That seemed to make more sense even if the logic didn’t compute. Because I know we are better together. I know we need one another to thrive.
Now, with shelter in place, the separation is visible. And the longing is still there. Even though there are times, I think I am built for a life behind walls.
The good news is there are moments that people text to check-in, stop by with flowers or ice cream, send a card or a book, or even to just pretend to be gnomes in our yard, and it changes our composition. My heart swells so quickly and becomes so full, tears well because I think there is no more space inside my body that can hold the love I feel showered upon me. And in those moments, I believe that my atoms were created to be loved. That somehow, they are love. That love is all there is inside me and around me.
How is it that visible distance can somehow make me feel closer to people than I ever did before? How is it that it can also bring up the loneliness in my heart in a way that it echoes throughout the day? Somehow it can do both.
I want to be a refuge for the people I love and for myself. I think I can do both. I want to do both. But my awkwardness and insecurities have always kept me six feet apart, sometimes even more. Maybe through the quiet, this shelter in place creates, there will be time for reflection that will allow me to emerge from it a softer place to land for myself and those I love best.
Tara Westover, author of Educated, wrote that, “[g]uilt is the fear of one’s own wretchedness. It has nothing to do with other people.” And it is guilt that is strangling me in so many ways. Guilt that I take up too much space, that I will mess things up, that I am not enough, and I have lost too much time to do what matters, but maybe time is being handed back to us right now. Perhaps it is slowing so that we come out the revolving door with less guilt, or none at all and ready to embrace each other and ourselves in ways that will matter more. Sometimes the end isn’t the end at all. It is the beginning. Maybe we will get to create something new and better out of all of this.
Maybe…but I don’t know…I hope so…