Q. Hi Meredith,
I am a 63-year-old woman, divorced, and, of course, I have been isolated because of COVID-19 for the last six-plus months. My contact with the human world has been with delivery people, a few neighbors, and occasional trips to the grocery store. Being masked, I try smiling with my eyes because you never know when you can catch the right spark. Guarded optimism?
My last relationship was with a man I really had nothing in common with; I realized that he was self-centered and controlling. I was falling into my pattern of being with “someone” just for the sake of companionship, even if it was lacking.
I also care for my 96-year-old mother who lives with me, so virtual company is about all I can do for now. I am very fortunate to work from home, although my boss was just let go. I have had my job for 22 years and nearing retirement; this throws me into limbo. I fear there will be major changes soon.
So I don’t know what I am really asking, or if I’m just wondering out loud. I afraid of ending up alone interminably.
A. You are being a good person, caring for a parent, caring for yourself, worrying about work.
I won’t promise you a vaccine that comes with a boyfriend who cares (come on Pfizer and Moderna, get that one done, too!), but I can tell you you’re not alone in your isolation.
There are many single, divorced, isolated 63-year-olds who are thinking, “As soon as I can, I’m finding my person.” I don’t know many people who are taking companionship for granted right now.
I do think it might be worth checking out some apps to remind yourself that humans exist outside of your house. Even if it’s just a message here or there — a random “like” — it’s a connection. And yeah, maybe there’s someone who’s in a pod/bubble of one, being safe, and might be able to join you for a chilly walk or, eventually, a visit.
If it makes you feel any better, I recently bought a sentimental gift for the person who has been delivering my groceries. I have bad asthma and have been afraid of stores. She’s picked up my order almost every time. I feel like I know her. She recently told me all about her breakup (she doesn’t even know I do this for a living). The point is, we’re all searching for connection. I can imagine a future where you can interact with some lovely people and they’re really happy that you gave them your time. For now, optimism, eye smiling, and masks.
That’s the pep talk for now. Maybe I can do a better one in a few months — or after winter.
At least you have your mom and neighbors for some in-person contact. Just try and keep busy. Join Netflix or a streaming service and binge!
^You know I love TV as the answer.
^MG, of course you do. “The Mandalorian.” “The Boys.” “The Crown.”
If you’re looking for connection, I don’t think “smiling with your eyes” is going to cut it. You can strike up conversations with people safely (masked/distanced) and most clubs/activities are now virtual and you can safely take walks outside with people. In addition to COVID, you’re going through a lot (job change, divorce, elderly mother, etc) and I think you need more of a support network rather than dating advice. How would you be making friends if we weren’t in a pandemic?
We’re almost the same age. I was the caregiver for my mom, a task that more often than not falls on the daughter, not the son. Even though it was in a non-COVID time, it nonetheless isolates one from others. When my being the caregiver came to an end, I looked back on that time as being hard work, isolating work, and work that I was glad I that I did. And almost imperceptibly I then moved back into the world, and the world was there waiting for me to rejoin. When your caregiving ends, I hope you experience the same thing.
Send your own relationship questions to email@example.com. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.