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Life in the Time of Covid 19: Self-isolation as a single person

The social distancing that is self-isolation is being experienced very differently by each of us with a variety of living arrangements and life circumstances. Over the next few weeks we’re going to try and hear from different people across the family of churches so that we can better support and pray for each other. In a typically ego-centric move I’m going to interview myself first.

What are your circumstances?

I live alone in Horfield over a couple of floors which gives me plenty of internal space but no outside space which I haven’t ever minded – until now! I’ve been living by myself for twenty years so am used to that experience and to working from home a lot of the time too (though I’d normally be down in the Emmanuel Meeting House two and a half days a week).

I work 4 days as the pastor of ECC and 2 days a week for www.livingout.org and both jobs (turns out) can be done from home so life has actually been especially busy over the last couple of weeks as we rethink how we do things remotely, rejig plans, communicate what’s going on and seek to support everyone involved.

What is it like self-isolating on your own?

Well it’s early days at the moment but some things are obviously easier for me than for others: I’m not crammed into a small space with four other people including three active children. I’m not having to combine my jobs with child-care and home education. It is comparatively easy to shop for one and there are fewer people competing for the toilet roll…

But some things are harder: I haven’t been within two meters of friends or family for over a week now – turns out that nothing beats being in a room with real people. There is the anxiety around what would happen if I was really ill alone. Some of the things I’ve got used to about being single and living by myself have become hard again in the new circumstances we all find ourselves in.

What are you trying to do to help yourself and others?

A whole host of things:

  • I’m sticking to all of the government’s advice and rules when it comes to social distancing as one of the best ways of loving my neighbour at this time – especially those serving us all in the NHS.
  • I’m keeping to my usual routines (as far as possible) and developing new ones.
  • I’m continuing with the jobs that God has called me to do and am enjoying the challenge of trying to do them in new ways – I’m very conscious of the blessing that it is to have roles that are continuing at present.
  • I’m planning an on-line social life: I’m meeting up with two of my closest friends in London on Saturday lunch for a virtual meal (we’re aiming to do this every week). I’m watching a film at the same time as friends across the city on Saturday night. Over the last week I’ve enjoyed a virtual G&T with friends (thankfully only the friends appeared virtually – the G&T was in the room) and multiple phone calls.
  • I’m ringing another single friend who is now working from home every day at 6pm so that we signal to each other that now is the time we should be switching off the computer. It’s been great to simply share what we’ve been up to that day and the ups and downs of what we’re both going through.
  • I’m now a “rising star” (?!) on Facebook where I’m trying to post things that have encouraged me spiritually on the ECC group – or just made me smile.
  • I’m making a list of people to contact regularly – prioritizing friends who I know are alone like me or struggling for other reasons. The last ten days have highlighted to me how I’ve recently let busyness cool a lot of my relationships: the surprise in someone’s voice when I rang them last week brought this home to me and I’m hoping to change.
  • I’m rationing the news as too much of it was too much for me and I’ve learnt how refreshing it is to have some conversations that don’t touch on Covid 19 at all: I was part of an on-line seminar earlier this week that was wonderful because for an hour and a half I was completely preoccupied by something else entirely.
  • I’m loving the numerous WhatsApp groups I’m part of and how they are being used to share needs and laughter, but I’m recognising the need there is to have some no screen time even as screens become a more and more important part of daily work and life.
  • I’m trying to escape well into novels, TV and films that (unusually for me) aren’t full of death or mourning or crying or pain! PG Wodehouse’s The Inimitable Jeeves is my reread before lights out and M*A*S*H the current box set (though I skipped an episode about a ‘flu epidemic’). If things continue like this for too long I’ll be back in the ultimate escapism that is The Lord of the Rings (the book NOT the films) and The West Wing.
  • I’m trying to get some fresh air (in line with the current rules) and have been given a good hard time by friends who discovered I hadn’t left the house on Monday and Tuesday due to work.
  • I’m standing by to practically help my parents who are self-isolating due to an underlying health condition and aiming to speak to them every other day. I’m being lined up for on-line history lessons with my sister’s children when they return to virtual school after their Easter break.
  • I’m aware that I’m going to need to pace myself better – I lost my first few days off since Christmas last week and my main annual holiday was due to be in May. The concept of a Staycation is going to need some careful research…
  • I’m remembering that I’m never alone. Here’s one of my favourite quotes from Bishop JC Ryle’s Practical Religion (p.348):

‘The Lord Jesus goes with His friends wherever they go. There is no possible separation between Him and those whom He loves. There is no place or position on earth, or under the earth, that can divide them from the great Friend of their souls. When the path of duty calls them far away from home, He is their companion; when they pass through the fire and water of fierce tribulation, He is with them; when they lie down on the bed of sickness, He stands by them and makes their trouble work for good; when they go down the valley of the shadow of death, and friends and relatives stand still and can go no further, He goes by their side. When they wake up in the unknown world of Paradise, they are still with Him; when they rise with a new body at the judgment day, they will not be alone. He will own them for His friends, and say, “They are mine: deliver them and let them go free.” He will make good His own words: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt.xxviii.20.).’