Not a COVID quarantine, but a quarantine of the mind…
It’s been weird putting myself into a bit of exile in Los Angeles. For the past three days I haven’t had any substantial in-person interactions, unless you count a good night from the checkout guy at the grocery store or a quick chat with my neighbor who sits on the stoop outside our building and smokes a blunt as he tells me how much he loves Ina, my dog.
I feel so lonely. But because it’s so self imposed, it’s not exactly something I’m complaining about. I think about who to call and I can’t think of anyone. If I were to call one of my friends, what would I talk with them about? Would I tell them about the food I cooked today or the fact that I am feeling lonely, despite not making an effort to reach out to anyone?
There’s none of the excitement of everything I was doing in New York, running around always, all the time, always going going going, coffee at Cafe Integral with a friend to discuss a project we’re working on, lunch at Balthazar with an ex, heading to a friend’s reading at KGB and then walking down to a friend’s opening in LES and and then grabbing dinner at Dr. Clarks with someone I haven’t seen in weeks, because we’ve been too busy, then going to a friend’s concert at Elsewhere and then catching a friend’s set at Mood Ring and before waking up and doing it all again.
Instead: I wake up and I read in bed for an hour, then I brush my teeth, I clean my face, I walk Ina. I cook myself breakfast (oatmeal made with whole milk, topped with frozen blueberries and cacao nibs) and take my pills (10000iu Vitamin D, probiotic, truvada, birth control). After I’m done eating, I do 15 minutes of Pilates and then meditate for 20 minutes. I brew myself some tea, clean the apartment, and I check my text messages, then my emails, then my twitter and instagram DMs, fill up my planner with all the tasks I need to do, any calls I might have. After I’ve responded to everything (or made a note to respond), I start to write.
Writing is freeing and fun. I’ve not had writer’s block yet, I’m not sure if I will. I have been blocked on certain projects, sure, but thankfully I have so much going on that I can just work on something else for the day. I write and write, and then when I’m out of juice, I walk Ina around the neighborhood again, say hi to all the neighborhood dog owners. Then, when I’m back, I edit; not whatever I was working on, but whatever I was feeling blocked on, and inevitably end up writing some more.
Then it’s time to make dinner, maybe call a friend, even if only to say I love them, chat about nothing, or about their kids, their dog, their boyfriend, while I tidy up my apartment, start the dishwasher. I walk Ina, I draw a bath, I read while I soak, I shower and scrub, I moisturize, I brush my teeth, I clean my face, I read in bed for an hour, I take my pills (cranberry, 10mg melatonin), I put on my little silk eye mask and I fall asleep.
In many ways it’s the happiest I’ve been. I love the rhythm of it. I like the loneliness of it. I was chatting with another writer friend, Aleš Kot, about being alone, and they said it was like “allowing myself to actually unfold into space… it’s like realizing my energetic field is way bigger and in need of much more protection and space than I ever knew!” I said it was like unwinding tension I didn’t even know was there. It reminds me of a silent meditation retreat I went on years ago, although that retreat irritated the shit out of me, because it wasn’t so silent, they kept making us talk!
But it reminds me of the most painful years of my life too, when my loneliness didn’t feel optional, when it felt like I would just never make friends who would see me. When I was a teenager and just riding around on the subway late at night because I had a cluster headache and couldn’t sleep, listening to Temptation by New Order on repeat and crying. When I was reading even more than I am now, when I’d check out 10 books a week from the library and tear through them, desperately seeking that escape into another world, or chatting on my laptop with online friends who felt like they were the only ones who got me.
What a luxury to replay all that and paint even sad memories with warm nostalgia, knowing I could immerse myself back in my colorful New York life seamlessly if I wanted to. But here I am, in my privileged loneliness, with my dog and my writing and my books, my music and my headphones, my ability to buy a carton of raspberries at the grocery store without wincing at the cost. Sometimes I just cry and think about how glad I am that I never ended everything when things seemed really bleak, because look, here I am, and my life is better than I ever dreamed it could be.