Rebecca and I have been working together at Northwest Center for Creative Aging for almost five years. We are regularly tickled by how easy, supportive and complementary our working relationship is. It is truly a gift to work with someone with whom I share such a rich professional and personal connection.

Trump, reversing course, says coronavirus task force will continue ‘indefinitely’—WaPo

May 6, 2020

Thumbnail isolation
by Rebecca Crichton, Seattle, Washington

I’m a single woman by choice, a phrase I haven’t written so boldly before. I didn’t start out that way. Raised in the 50’s, my favorite toy as a young child was the Bride Doll given to me when my sister was born, allegedly a ‘gift’ from her to me.

Getting married, having children, growing old with my husband—those were the expectations based on my middle-class Jewish family in post World War II suburban New York.

Then life happened, as it did for all of us, and I found myself divorced at the age of 28. I ‘paired,’ as one partner referred to it with a number of people, but marriage never felt like an option I wanted to try again. I didn’t even live with a partner for longer than a year at the most and none of the relationships in my life lasted for more than five years.

It wasn’t anybody’s ‘fault.’ I accept that I am a better friend and companion—sometimes with benefits—than I am a partner or wife.

In fact, when I hang out with my many coupled friends, I often come home and delight in my singleness. There are very few couples whose marriages I would want.

And now, in the throes of pandemic isolation, I actually feel better prepared to be on own than many people I know. 

However, there is an interesting wrinkle to my smooth plane of acceptance: Zoom! Like most of us who have discovered how much time we can spend online—meditating, learning, exercising, chatting, celebrating—some of the ‘meetings’ confront us with our own reality in surprising ways.

Case in point: the mutual birth date shared by my daughter and a good friend. Both my daughter and my friend are coupled. We have celebrated their joint birthdays together for years.

This year, we scheduled a Zoom call for a mutual toast. And there we were, right on time, ready to talk and share. Three thumbnails filled the screen. My daughter and her partner in one box, and my friend and his wife in another. Both couples cozied up together, sharing their single device. And there I was, nobody in my thumbnail but me! I felt a mixture of emotions: surprise, discomfort, a sense of loss.

It’s not that I haven’t ever felt that way before. When I am the only single person with a batch of couples, I can feel like the odd person out, but then I connect with others and feel included and it’s fine.

But this was different. This time, I literally saw myself as the isolated one. I saw how they were together and would continue to be together when we hung up. They would talk about the call and how they felt about it. They might even talk about how I was alone and wonder how I was doing.

Happily, I had made plans after the meeting. I headed to a single friend’s deck for the dinner I picked up from one of the many restaurants that are surviving by offering take out food.  We sat 8 feet apart and ate our food, sharing our own stories, aware of the blessings we feel in our lives. 

When it got dark, I retreated back to my apartment, which I consider my sanctuary, and treated myself to a movie.

Most of the time, I am alone but not lonely. I don’t feel isolated, although I do feel restricted. I don’t bemoan my singlehood, but I’m thinking I might want to bring my favorite stuffed toy to perch on my shoulder the next time I have a Zoom call and want my thumbnail to show another member of my household. I know I am not the only one who has soft companions that don’t require care and feeding. I can live with that just fine.

Photo by Rebecca Crichton

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