re-birth: On Loneliness & Letting Go in Quarantine
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
If there’s nothing that we’ve all learned this year, it’s that there’s really something about the spaces we occupy. Our apartments, homes, even our office spaces are the very essence of ourselves. After I’d returned home from Malibu, I spent the remainder of my quarantine in my studio. The same studio that I’d been quarantined in since January since I’d been on house arrest from a broken foot. The same studio on the Northeast side of Portland, where I’d learn to understand silence and focus as I wrote my first manuscript. The same studio that I decided to share with a human a little too soon. Throughout quarantine, my chic little studio that was a vessel of creativity started to feel more and more like a lightless box that made me feel like I was suffocating. Being forced to one space does that sort of thing to your mind, it’s stifling and can often feel demeaning. But, as I sat in the middle of my apartment, revived after a spiritual trip in one of my favorite spaces, something still felt a little off. And, as my life became more routine than ever in the peak of quarantine I started to wonder was I just lonely, or was I alone?
As a single person, living alone can be extremely freeing, it is also an excruciatingly lonely experience. For the first time in my life, I didn't have a roommate to check in with or a brother who was using some shit that wasn’t his. I had space-- a home to myself, and though it was the very essence of me, it often felt weird to only have the studio to myself. And this year, for my first time living alone, I’d have to go through the ranks of literally having to get back up on my two feet, then getting used to only having those two feet be in my space for 245 days. Being locked inside gave me a lot of time to focus, but as I stayed inside longer, it got harder for me to think clearly on the projects I was working on. My thoughts felt like they were stuck in the air, I couldn’t formulate my ideas into reality, and I felt like I was reverting into an old version of myself that I thought I’d left in Malibu. It was the strangest thing. Then one day, I lit the candle and it hit me-- my studio was no longer just my studio. It had served as a quarantine space for me and another individual. Once I took all of this in, I realized that I was alone, but the absence of that person left a sense of loneliness in the space that I just couldn’t shake. I felt like Beyonce in “Denial” in Lemonade, where Beyonce swims over a version of herself, asleep, except I wasn’t just swimming over myself, I was trying to get myself to wake the fuck up.
Now, valiantly awake, I was in need to cleanse my apartment. I saged every inch of the space, burning incense and candles for weeks, and even having St. Mariah constantly lit couldn’t ward off whatever quaran-energy that was settling inside my space. I was trying to pinpoint the source of the imbalance, and one Friday night, as I was blasting Anita Bakers, cleaning my bathroom, I glared in my mirror and realized that there wasn’t something sitting right with me. And as I took a dry erase marker to every mirror in my apartment, I cleaned the entire space and had written affirmations on every glass and reflective surface in my studio. Feverish and feeling a lot like Pauletta in Being Mary Jane, I was determined to make my home a space of assurance. It was as if something was sitting in my space and nothing I was doing was helping budge. I would clean my apartment every Friday thoroughly, add a new slew of affirmations to my mirrors, and wake up each Saturday to a renewed space. And on top of all that, my Co-star was telling me that I was in a place to begin breaking down my emotional traumas, so I must’ve been on the right path, right? Well, not quite. The cleaning and the saging was one part, but it was clear that I had some work to do within myself, and that’s when I figured whatever loneliness that had been dwelling in my being would subside. So, closed the door to my apartment, looked in my mirrors when no one was around and got really close to the silence in my apartment and within myself.
It’s often hard for me to sit still. I’m always on the go. But being forced to sit in my space, gave me the chance to strip myself down trait by trait and habit by habit. I started to unpack some things about myself and identify toxic behaviors that I’d held onto and embodied for a long time. From that moment on, I used quarantine as my mirror to get closer to the core and essence of me and let those things go. I started to write out the toxic traits that I wanted to reverse on my mirrors and windows, constantly reminding myself that I, too, could be a constant embodiment of change. And as I sat on my couch in my apartment, the same couch where I’d felt my muscles shrinking through a cast, as I’d been propped up, putting on an extra 18 pounds, I accepted the fact that it was time to let some of my old habits die hard.
My close friends sometimes jokingly call me Toni Childs, and sure, being on the go is part of it. But, the other part is the way I like to live my life. I enjoy trips to foreign countries and stemware. I love brunch, lunch, and dinner. I'll get myself nice gifts from time to time. But, sometimes, I can be a little too into myself. As I started to realize that some of these tendencies and habits that were sometimes shallow and a little harsh were ways that I was deflecting from other people and myself. Those foundational traumas that Co-Star told me that I needed to work through were all connected to how I assessed my value to my wealth and my relationships. I honed in on how I used material things and people to make myself feel good and secure. But, I soon became the only person that I came in physical contact with for months on end, and I realized if I was going to be stuck in the house with myself that it was about time to get down to the root of my issues so I could at least re-enter the world as a new version of Matthew-Toni. And the biggest lessons that I was coming up against were learning how to stop running to Saks every time I was feeling down and ending my habit of building homes inside of my relationships, both personal and platonic.
I stopped deflecting and started being honest with myself about the things I wanted. I broke down my thoughts, both the good and the bad, and embraced a new way of thinking when I stopped blaming other people for my toxic behaviors and started taking ownership of the fact that I had the power to make changes for myself. It became clear, that in peak quarantine when I decided to share my space with another human for a brief situationship, that was more-so me looking for a crutch to combat that fact that I was going to have to be alone. And my plan had backfired. It was crazy, it was as if with each affirmation I’d written on a wall, I’d peeled back another layer of myself. I found a deeper understanding of myself with each healing thought and affirmation I was finding. And as that situationship diffused in quarantine, I closed the door to my apartment, sitting with myself and my susurrations, and realized that what I had been looking for had been in my space, and within me all along. I didn’t need a man to comfort me. Shit, I’d been locked inside so long that I didn’t even find comfort in any of the items in my closet. I just needed a little faith in myself to realize that I could make it through any storm.
So amid a summer, where the only sound and song on my street were protests, I stripped myself down to the core to understand who the fuck I am. From an injury to Covid-Quarantine, to trying to get ahead of the loneliness I was anticipating through a man I shared too much with a little too soon, my spirit was completely depleted. But, after I stopped being afraid of the silence in my room, and got tired of hiding from the real me, all of that loneliness that I thought I was feeling subsided. 2020 has helped me trade in my Fendi for family, my Gucci for gratitude, and my Louis for love. And since money wasn’t saving me nor were the bottles of Veuve that I loved to pop on weekends, I dug in hella deep to learn to love myself lately. Through the good, the bad, and ugly, I grappled with the fact, that I, like most of us this year don’t have someone to hold, go home to, or even share a space with. But despite being single in quarantine, we have the option to give back to ourselves. We’ve been afforded the time this year to get close to who we are. As things start to spike up again, take advantage of the time given to you to get to know you, ‘cuz after all, when you think about it-- through self-work, soul-work, and meditative downtime, sometimes it really don't have to be that lonely being alone.
Here are some of the ways I learned how to unpack some of my toxic traits and personal traumas during quarantine. Some of these things can be especially helpful if you’re occupying the same space for an extended period of time:
Close the MF door and sit with your silence. Trauma does not get processed without soul work. At first it was painstakingly loud because all of my thoughts were sounding off at once. I started to think about which thoughts I needed to really focus on and break down first. But then I realized that I needed to give myself the space to work through those things, so I completely rearranged my apartment, and a change in feng shui helped all of my thoughts flow naturally and openly. Everything is about the space we occupy and how we assess priority in that space. Give yourself time to list out the things you often force yourself to silence, start unpacking there and if you need space to work things out a bit deeper, give yourself the space.
Get close af to your mirrors. Literal and figurative ones. This is how you focus on your body and your mind. Your friends are the ones who keep us honest and keep us on our toes. They call out our bullshit and make sure we’re doing the work past old triggers to find footing in our lives. And sometimes, when your friends are busy, you have literal mirrors you can look in too. And one look at yourself in the mirror can have the same effect, especially if you’ve been running from yourself for too long. Life isn’t meant to be alone, we're programmed to want companionship. But don’t dive into something headfirst because you’re afraid of being alone. Find the people that bring you joy and keep them close. Cuz on the darkest days, when money, liquor, and shopping can’t save you, you’ll still have your homies.
Stop blaming other people for your toxic behaviors. No one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. Sometimes like Toni Childs, it can be hard to swallow a big pill you don’t want to swallow. But, it’s a good thing we’re fully dimensional people instead of characters. Being accountable for your actions, even the toxic ones goes a long way. When I started to take the time to process my emotions and consider the triggers that resulted in certain behaviors, I was freaked TF out at first. But then I started to accept the fact that we all have habits and triggers, it’s just about how we find ways to break these cycles and generational curses that often feel like easy solutions or ways out.
Love yourself lately. Living alone is hard AF. Living alone in a pandemic. That’s fucking harder. Doing all of these things can help you ground your mind and your perspective. But the hardest part of all of the lessons is truly learning to love yourself. Listen to your heart. Act when it tells you you need to recenter yourself. Meditating, writing, reading, and music were all of the avenues that led me to my path of letting go and healing. Take the time to find beauty in the elements that center your core. Invest in yourself and your space and bring yourself to the avenues that help you heal during moments of much-needed resurgence.
Stream the augment. playlist on Apple Music.
Photos by Gaius Roberts (@notenoughsanitizer).