Why is Isolation So Noisy?

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It has been three weeks since I and most others I know have been isolated at home in the hopes of slowing the spread of Covid-19. At least I think so. Even as the sun keeps rising and setting, I like most people, have lost all sense of time.

But I can’t figure out why. I have worked at home for nearly three years. My normal work outfit is yoga pants, a T-shirt, and a sweatshirt. My office is down the stairs. I barely leave the house during a normal week. Yet, everything feels different now. I am struggling to concentrate. It is perfectly quiet, but I feel like everyone is screaming.

A New Coworker

My husband has been working at home for three weeks now. We live in a small condominium with only one office space, so that means he’s been working at the kitchen table. But he works for a non-profit and needs to do interviews and some days has more conference calls than I have, so we’ve been sharing the office space and swapping the kitchen table workplace at times.

That hasn’t caused that much inconvenience and it has been a bonus to eat lunch together, but having my husband at home full-time has changed the rhythm of our life. There is no more separation of workday and evening, of coming and going. Instead, the days all seem to blend together.

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Virtual Family Ties

With everyone in the same situation, the amount of virtual communication from my family has increased. My family has been texting on a group text that includes all my siblings and in-laws. I have seven siblings who are all married, so at times it is hard to keep up with the many threads of conversations as they unfold.

Overstimulated by the constant notifications, I put my phone on silent and put it in the other room to charge while watching a movie the other night. When I picked it up a few hours later I saw I had missed 26 texts. In normal life, this would have signified that some sort of an emergency had occurred. But not during this pandemic. When I looked at the thread, I was greeted with regular check-ins and photos, and a few jokey back-and-forths.

And So Many Emails

Emails have also increased exponentially. The email pulse has changed slightly from the first days when we were still trying to imagine how Covid-19 would impact the USA. Then, it seemed every company I had ever done business with was telling me how they were responding to the pandemic. Those emails came from the big names and big brands and also from venues where upcoming events had been canceled.

Following that wave, the messages seemed to be more related to staying calm. It seemed everyone else I had given my email to wanted to let me know they were thinking of me in this time.

And then of course, came the invitations to meetings. Whether via conference call or webinar (who hasn’t heard of Zoom by now?) I’ve also received my fair share of invitations for meetings to connect during this time whether it be to set aside time to write together or learn a new skill, I’ve had a hard time keeping up with all the invitations.

The Zoom Revolution

The next evolution has been face-to-face communication. People are having happy hours via Zoom. My sister-in-law recommended it to my family, though it hasn’t happened yet.

On my previously audio-only work calls, I started to see the faces of coworkers from across the country I had not seen before. Since not everyone has worked at home regularly, my company wanted to be sure those who didn’t felt connected. So now I’m combing my hair and wearing better T-shirts.

I understand the need for people to connect. I understand that before we were all at home, that some people did go out into the world every day. For them, this time is especially hard.

But as someone who has been isolated for so long, all this connecting is just as hard. I feel anxious and scattered in a way I didn’t when I was the only one who stayed home all day. Surprisingly, I think I feel the same way people who are longing for connection feel. I’m longing for a return to normal.

Originally published at https://catherinelanser.com on April 5, 2020.

Narrative nonfiction and memoir. Querying my memoir about my family, told through the lens of brain tumor and father’s stroke. www.catherinelanser.com

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