No man is an island

Yesterday I was on my second ever Tinder date. My date this time was a married woman (no one’s perfect! 😉) and since there was no romantic potential in this encounter I’d say this date went significantly better than my first experience.

We walked along the river, talked science and travel and later drank tea at her place. It was lovely, despite being a bit too cold for my taste (the weather, not the tea). But everything in life has consequences and the whole experience highlighted the feeling of loneliness and isolation I feel and have felt for a very long time, pandemic or not.

This morning, slowly making my way into the world of the living, I was reading about the unexpectedly low birthrate during the pandemic. In many (developed) countries the birthrate is down by over 20 per cent. That is really rather shockingly high (low?) and the article gave a lame attempt to explain it as a consequence of the world’s economic uncertainty. But what resonated with me enough to write about it, was how the article started with a woman, age 33, explaining how the lockdown cost her expensive time to perhaps meet someone to love before the end of her fertile window (also leading to the main conclusion of the article that people are simply kept from intimacy to produce any babies). It was shocking to read it written down, yet obvious, as I had exactly that conversation with my mother some months earlier.

A year (two?) has a different cost at different times in one’s life (which, btw, I wrote a very controversial blog post about but never dared to publish…). Yet having thought that my year is worth something particular, makes me ashamed beyond myself. I know that my mother, and the world’s older generation, feel the same in an even stronger setting. For us young, we are prevented to build lives with families and decent jobs. For the old, the sand in their hourglass keeps running, even though life isn’t…

…and so I break completely. Selfishly and emphatically.

It was many years ago, that I largely gave up the thought of having a family of my own. I don’t mean for it to sound dramatic, but it just doesn’t seem to be something the universe will offer me in a format that I would be capable of accepting. So what I miss, is not like with the woman in the article, the possibility to build a family. Rather it is the sensation of being not just another face in the supermarket, not just a consequence of proximity or convenience, nor a quick phone call in between life’s more important happenings, not someone to date in the meantime, but something – someone – of genuine and deep value to another individual.

I hope this does not come across as sounding negative, or whiny, and if it sounds pathetic – well, so be it, I have little to pride myself on. In my eyes, my words are by no means meant to cause pity or concern from you dear reader, but rather to enable a change in my own behaviour and perspective.

I am a firm believer that loneliness is a state of mind and that we have the power to alter our own perception. As I’ve grown in age and experience, I’ve found immense strength in this view, in this ideology of the self’s responsibility for her emotions and her situation. Yet, to heal a wound, it can’t be ignored but must be treated. Accepting my limitations in that I cannot always save myself, I’m trying something new by embracing my own vulnerability. All things alive need to live and it’s been a pretty brutal drought. I ask myself, are the dormant seeds still alive in the dust?

Forcing myself to use Tinder again to meet people when no other means are available is a step in the right direction. And perhaps reaching out for a rain cloud in the far distance, I called yesterday evening. He is a friend of a friend living far away who I never met, and probably never will, times being what they are. He is wild and crazy and reminds me of myself in some ways yet feels so alien in all things else. But he has a voice that sounds like it cares and is curious about what I have to say. He tells me he too is lonely and I hope that I managed to offer him some to clench his thirst, if but for a few minutes.

I really miss having a meaningful conversation with someone that goes a bit deeper than what words alone can offer.

[Author’s note: Yes, I know I am using the metaphor in the title incorrectly but this is also so common that following social convention I am allowing myself such liberties.]

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