Amy’s two cents: notes on isolation and crazy times

What a fucking crazy time. It feels so surreal. Sometimes I think shit’s really serious, sometimes I think it’s mostly only preppers being cray, other times I just stay in bed crying. And then I hear the very real stories of women in business around me suffering big time.  Wondering how they’re gonna get through this. Facing the odds stacking against them and realising that they will most likely not have a business when life goes back to normal. Fuck. And I’m watching it all through the glaring screen in front of me. Because we are in isolation. And it’s lonely. Truly deeply lonely.

There have been many times in my life when I’ve felt utterly alone. Teen angst, mental illness and abandonment issues have played their part for sure, but at the core of it all is the human condition. Each and every one of us has felt alone and lonely and every single one of us feels shit when we’re lonely. It’s a “universally” shitty way to feel. You can be lonely surrounded by people. You can be lonely alone. You can be lonely in so many ways. But it all comes from a place of yearning for real connection with other humans.

We are innately social creatures.

We’ve evolved to live in groups because being part of a group helps to ensure our survival. Our need to be part of a social group of other humans is wired deep within our brains and we cannot escape it.

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, ENTP or INFJ, an enneagram type 8 or 4, a pisces or a capricorn, or whatever other way you identify as being part of one group of people and not part of another, we have something in common.  Our desire (our deep seated need) to be part of a social human community.

Our very survival depends on our ability to be part of a group.

During these crazy times we’re isolated from one another.  In the physical literal sense, but also in the sense that we are caught in a state of fear and uncertainty. Which brings up our defenses and gets in the way of connection. When I “get into a bad place” (when my anxiety overwhelms and cripples me); I retreat. I isolate myself. I withdraw and I hide away from those close to me by avoiding their messages and calls. It’s a good strategy for survival in the wild because hiding away and being quiet in our safe dens means we can avoid being eaten by predators in our time of weakness. But I should be hiding away with my community (all huddled together around our fire providing strength in numbers). I shouldn’t be hiding away alone.

Connecting with those close to me when I'm feeling shitty means being vulnerable.

And vulnerability means predators can get me.  And so my fear kicks into overdrive because I absolutely cannot share these “weak” feelings with others because then…because then…then what? I feel like “because then I’ll die.” Because then I’ll get attacked. Because showing weakness is a terrible idea in the wild as a lone animal. But is it a terrible idea within a community?

Sharing our feelings and fears means that others can connect with us. We are not unique snowflakes. Everybody feels scared. Everybody feels uncertain and unsure and fearful sometimes. So showing vulnerability within a close and trusted community means empathy and connection is formed. So withdrawing in these times is entirely counterproductive. Yet, here I sit. 186 Whatsapp messages unread. Because I cannot face communicating with those close to me right now. Because I don’t feel strong enough to keep the walls of self-defense strong and so I’ll be exposed. I’ll cry and sob. I’ll be unable to smile and laugh. I’ll be a bummer to talk to.  Nobody wants that.  Everybody is battling right now and I can’t put my feelings and emotional distress on them.  That’s not fair.

Ugh this all sucks. But then also my life is not so bad right now and I think aside from some cash flow problems my business will survive and my loved ones are all relatively healthy and alive and I have food and toilet paper and a safe warm house with my lover and cat to keep me company and really fast internet to watch Netflix and connect electronically and try to not obsessively check the World Health Organisation’s website and the money to pay for all this internet and Netflix and toilet paper. So then I shouldn’t feel so fucking shit cos most people have it way worse than me. So then I’m definitely not allowed to feel so crap so I feel guilty for my feelings and taking up time and space in the world talking about them and expressing them.  *Sigh*

I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to express it all. I don’t know how to deal with all this fear and uncertainty. I also know that I need to keep going because in a few weeks all my bills will be due again and I currently owe a big chunk of tax (please don’t be reading this taxman) and I know that all my projects have been put on hold and that a few others have been cancelled completely and that I’m taking on a couple that don’t fit my ideal client or work and that are hugely discounted because I really need the money right now because my bank is bare as hell. And although I think my business will survive, I’m not sure exactly how. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep feeling like this.

I know that business and stress and life and the virus and the economic impact of it all is only going to get worse. And I'm already barely coping. How the fuck am I going to survive this?

Maybe my outsider feelings have a large role to play in my inability to connect in times of distress. Maybe if I connected with my community more when shit’s hard then I’d be able to cope better. Maybe that’s how I survive this. Maybe that’s how we all survive this.

But what is our community? Those living in our homes with us? Our neighbours? Our families in other cities? Our online biz fam? Our random Whatsapp groups? I think the digital age has expanded our community which is rad becuase we get to connect with other like-minded people from across the globe and we’re not forced to hang out with only the people in our immediate physical proximity. But it also means we have a difficult time defining our communities.

Maybe this is why I feel so shitty right now. Because I’m being forced to confront my issues around a sense of belonging. I don’t really feel part of a community. I never have.  Do any of us really? Are we all just pretending? Or am I just a bit broken?

The real human condition is loneliness.

We’re all just looking for some real connection because we’re all just a bit lonely. 

Being in isolation and not being able to distract ourselves with shiny new clothes, or coffee shops or dinners or drinks or mountains of work or movies or fast food or gym or getting our hair done or whatever else we do to fill that hole inside us means we have to face ourselves. We have to face our deepest loneliness. 

And it really sucks.

We're not used to feeling these feelings.

We’re used to noise and flashing lights and distractions. We’re used to conversations with random strangers and being surrounded by people in shops and cafes and parking lots. Because this makes us feel connected to other humans. It quells our loneliness. But are we truly connected? Are those people part of our community? Or is it all just a trick? A trick we play on ourselves because that’s easier than facing the idea of being alone without a community around us.

I see a lot of talk of community on social media and how “we will get through this together.” But let’s be real – we need to also get through this alone. We need to do what works for us. We need to focus on our own well-being and how we can get through this time in one piece. I want to help all the other businesses around me, but I need to make sure I help them without hurting my own business. Is taking on work that doesn’t fit my niche actually good? Is giving huge discounts to projects that I know are going to take up lots of time the best thing for my cashflow and psychological well-being? I don’t think so. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Speaking of desperation.

What's up with the ghouls online taking advantage of people's fear?!

You know the ones. You’ve seen the ads and the posts all about “3 sure-fire ways to save your business from the covid fallout – course on sale now” or the “social media management in the time of corona – 50% off for the first 3 sign ups.”

It makes me feel so gross! I know these people are pivoting to maximise money now in a stressful time, but it feels really horrible to me.

Preying on fear to make money. Nah. That’s not for me. Fear is not a tool to use to get your way – that’s what violent dictators do. Every time I see something on Instagram about “leveraging your community during lockdown” I want to barf. Isn’t this contradictory to what community is supposed to be. A group of humans that work together to ensure survival. Not an audience of scared and lonely business owners whom you can prey on to make profit.

So I've been pretty absent from social media.

I have no idea what to say. I unscheduled my planned posts because it felt callous to carry on like nothing was wrong. How the fuck am I supposed to keep talking about web design shit when people are dying and businesses are collapsing. But I know I need to keep showing up. I know that now I need to be even more visible than usual (that’s what everybody is saying). But I can’t bring myself to do it. I feel lonely. I feel scared. I feel sad. And I am so worried about making enough to pay my bills this month (And next and maybe even the next), but what am I going to say on social media that isn’t heartless or insincere.

How am I going to sell right now?

I have no idea. A friend gave me some advice. She told me that she thought a good thing for me to do to help me get through this time is to write a blog post or two. She’s known me for many years and she knows I enjoy writing. When I feel isolated and alone and I need to get my feelings out I can always write them out. I’m too scared to talk to people about how I feel, but I can write about it.

So here I am. Writing about all my feelings. And putting that writing out there onto the internet for my community to read. And hopefully I can make some connections so we can feel less lonely. They way I’ve chosen to sell myself and my services all along has been through honesty and just being myself. So I’m going to continue to do that now. I’m going to write and be myself and put it out there for all to see. And hopefully if any brand designers and strategists are reading this and you have some work to throw my way then you’ll pop me an email. Because I really need to pay the fucking tax man.

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