Solitude is my natural state as writer and artist; I’m in this 3-year residency to do my work, so I’ve had plenty of it. Monday’s call from Trudeau made complete sense to me: Stay home. We can do this together by staying apart. Let’s help one another with the practicalities of our self isolation, and send love and gratitude to those of us on the front lines.

I’d just spent rich time with good friends and family and felt confident in my ability to function well without regular direct contact with other humans. Take a deep breath, get supplies, and then close the door.

It’s now five days since Trudeau’s initial call out to us, and my news informed gut tells me we’re not even close to the peak of this pandemic. Increasingly now, I feel a deep ache for people who feel solitude as nightmare, for whom alone-ness feels like punishment.

There are some whose life and survival revolves around contact, kindness and direct interaction with others – the elderly, the sick, the differently-abled, the stranded. My heart goes out – were I homeless, where would I find safety and nourishment? Were I struggling with my mental health, where would I find help? How could I stay safe as a prison inmate in Barton Jail, which is currently at three times its capacity?

It’s important that this is empathy, not anxiety. I feel a real sense of wonder that my heart opens more, as our isolation continues. I can see this in other people too – some I know, some I don’t.

I have great solitude muscles, yes, but my gut tells this is a new thing we are dealing with. I can’t get REM out of my head. It is certainly changing me in ways I could not have imagined. As I let go of things I can’t control feel my work harness relax I can feel spaces open up for other things I’d never had the time to consider, or do. Or feel. What if has become What is.

I live here in this lovely apartment with Mia the foster cat who loves that I’m always home. I draw, play cello, I write, read, cook, eat, sleep. Such a great longing in me, for human touch and warmth! I’m surprised by this, which also is surprising. Glad to feel human – ache and curiosity, confusion and shockingly deep love that is capable of flooring me completely. There’s nothing at all I can do about any of this but surrender to it.

Every once in a while I read too much news on the internet, and a little overwhelm creeps in. I’ve learned in this short time to close my laptop and turn off my phone. Draw something, play cello, read a book. Go outside, find an old tree to lean on, listen for the hum. Breathe, notice, expand and love what is. Cry, laugh, allow whatever it is to move on through.

Please reach out if you need someone to talk to. Even if it feels a little uncomfortable at times, keep your heart open. Know that you are loved.

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