There is nothing like a pandemic to remind me that I’m single.
I am going to be home with my dog for an unknown period of time. I have no partner or tribe to join me on this shelter-in-place adventure. I am alone. I’m not a priority for anyone. My worst fear of dying alone, going undiscovered for days while rotting with my dog crying next to me, is a faint whisper trying to find its way into my internal dialogue.
Most of the time, I just live my very full life. But in times of crisis or celebration, it can feel like I’m being smacked in the face with my singleness. It’s those moments that remind me there isn’t anyone at home waiting to give me high five or tell me that everything is going to be OK. In this case, the shelter-in-place order feels like an invitation to a weeks-long office Christmas party where everyone has a date but me. And attendance is mandatory.
My first reaction was to put on my armor of self-reliance and face this time like a boss. I made a list of things to accomplish during quarantine, imagining that people would be in awe of how I once again managed life on my own. Then, I scrolled through my Facebook feed. There were tons of couples and families posting their #quarantine photos, and it felt like I was watching a Hallmark movie version of the 2020 pandemic. I was no longer feeling like a boss. I was now feeling like a relationship failure with no happy ending in sight.
The struggle is real. If you’re not single by choice, sometimes it’s painful to do life on your own. No matter how many great friends you may have or the purposeful ways you spend your time—if you wish you were married and you’re not, it stings. And I was feeling it.
Then, out of nowhere, I thought of my grandmother. She was a woman of faith and the most resilient person I’ve ever known. It was a right of passage in our family to play poker with Grandma. It didn’t matter that we were only eight years old — she didn’t let us win, and she didn’t hesitate to take our pennies. In fact, when we didn’t like our hand, she would simply say, “Stop complaining and play your cards.”
This memory of my grandma reminded me that sometimes life is hard, and there isn’t an easy fix. That truly hurts sometimes, and yet all I can do is play the hand that I’m dealt. I realized that I have a choice. I can wallow in self-pity and come out of this on the corner of bitterness and isolation. Or, as someone who believes in God, I can acknowledge how I feel about my circumstances and trust Him to get me through my unknown number of days of solitude.
I chose God. I shed my self-reliance and put on my armor of faith. While God isn’t physically with me, I asked Him to be more present in my thoughts and ideas. I have found that one of the best ways for me to hear from God is by reading the Bible. I’ve been reading the book of Matthew.
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus says, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I’ve read this hundreds of times, but this time was different. There was an “a-ha” moment for me. I felt like Jesus was giving me a roadmap for navigating shelter-in-place. I decided to see what would happen if I tried being obedient to these two commandments. Here’s what it looks like for me. If you live alone and find yourself struggling with the idea of living in solitude, maybe this will inspire you to reframe how you approach this time.
I started with, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” This is not a time to be half-hearted about my relationship with God.
Normally, I read a daily devotional each morning and check my “putting God first” box. I always take my dog to the park for a walk to start the day. During quarantine, I’m taking a long walk. I put in my AirPods and listen to worship music. It’s usually as the sun is coming up. I like this time of morning because I get to experience God’s creation waking up and physically see the new day dawning. There isn’t anyone there so I can sing loudly and tell God that no matter what happens, I believe He is good. Following my walk, I make a pot of coffee and settle in with my Bible and journal. I read, write, and pray during this time.
I have found that this grounds me in the truth every day. Whenever I wake up with doom and gloom thoughts, this practice brings me to a place of gratitude. I actually feel peaceful. As I hear the latest news stories about COVID-19, the increasing death toll, and another business shutting down, I can do what Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-34 and not be anxious about my life.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I’m not an only child. This is a thought that came to me during my walk the other day, and it stopped me in my tracks.
I may physically be alone with my dog in my house, but I am part of a spiritual family. I need to be a good sister. This is not a time to be self-focused. Every person on the planet is going through a hard time right now. Single people have not cornered the market on suffering through this. Everyone is being challenged and affected by the uncertainty of the coronavirus.
I’m now ending my time of prayer by asking God where he wants to put me to work that day. People have started coming to mind during my time of prayer. As they do, I reach out via text message or email to give them an encouraging prayer and remind them that they can get through this. I’m also looking for ways to be of service. I signed up with a friend to safely deliver meals to Cincinnati Public School kids, and I participated in a local food drive.
Finding ways to be a good sibling in this world is so life-giving. Pray for people who are working on the frontlines or have the virus. Drop off a meal to your friend who is suddenly homeschooling three kids and working full time. Reach out to someone you know who struggles with loneliness. Go to the grocery for your high-risk neighbor. You can make face masks and donate them. You can mow a lawn, weed a garden, or bring garbage cans in from the curb. If you ask, God has plenty of opportunities for you to join him in His work. I have found that the more I focus on other people, the more I’m reminded that I have an abundance of love in my life.
This is not a time to be passive about relationships. We don’t have to manage this time by ourselves, and we have technology that allows us to virtually spend time with other people.
It was tempting just to sit around and see if anyone would reach out to me. Instead, I chose to love my neighbor and start asking people if they wanted to connect virtually. And it snowballed as other friends invited me to join them.
As a result, I spend time with people every day, and my social life is busier than ever. I’m catching up with old friends who live in other cities, meeting with my mentor, spending time with my friends and family, doing online exercise classes, and praying with my small group from church. (If you don’t have one of those, look for one here.) It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s also been refreshingly authentic. We’re having real conversations about how we’re feeling. We may be in different locations, but we’re growing closer. There is truly a sense of community, and I don’t feel alone.
I’m only a couple of weeks into following the roadmap given to me with these commandments. I have no idea how long this pandemic will last. Each day is uncertain, and I pray that we don’t lose more lives. What does feel certain to me is that God is real and He is good.
By choosing to play my faith card, I have peace and community in the midst of this unsettling time. I have been blessed with unexpected resources by people who care about me. My singleness no longer feels like I have to prove that I can do this on my own. And you know what? I’m not a relationship failure. I’m not alone. It turns out that I have a huge tribe to shelter-in-place with, and we are making it a priority to spend time with each other. It may be virtual, but we are celebrating wins and strengthening one another in the midst of the chaos.
And you know that fearful whisper about dying alone and rotting away undiscovered for days? It’s been silenced.