Commentary

I became the first person to marry myself in 2015. How did I do during the COVID lockdown?

Sophie Tanner
Sophie TannerPhoto: Instagram

When the pandemic struck last year I thought I’d be well equipped to cope with it; I am a sologamist after all. I married myself because I was tired of having to apologize for my single status. I don’t believe you need “another half” to complete you. Finding a partner is not the only path to “happily ever after,” I prefer to live “happily ever now.”

Like many people, I tried to view the enforced me-time of a solo lockdown as an opportunity, I’m not exactly a stranger to filling my own cup! I bought home yoga equipment and booked online fitness courses. I ordered piles of books and started to write my next novel. I got creative in the kitchen, cooking healthy, “immunity-boosting” meals. I relished my one run a day with my dog, gulping down as much fresh air as I could.

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Alas, after just one short month, I found myself, unwashed and feral, crying hysterically into my porridge. I was filled with the kind of dizzying despair that makes you want to run out onto the street and beg a stranger for help. Personal development and self-care suddenly seemed totally pointless. The empty months stretching ahead of me felt impossible and, as tears plopped onto my oats, I started to question whether or not I could actually live with myself.

This past year, I’ve had to dig deeper into my reserves of self-love than ever before, and the experience has been humbling. It’s reminded me just how much self-love is a journey, not a destination. I think we should all be proud of surviving lockdown; we’ve had to really look after our physical and mental wellbeing, meaning self-care has become less of a fad and more of a priority. It’s important that we embrace the lessons we’ve learned and use them as coping strategies moving forward.

Loneliness is part of the human condition

Though I’ve always thought I’m quite self-aware, I realized over lockdown that when I feel lonely I often deny it; I’m embarrassed by it. But as the entire global community slowly started losing the plot in isolation, I realized how silly it is to be ashamed of this feeling.

We all feel separate from others at times, whether that’s physically or emotionally – it’s what makes us human. After all, we’re social creatures who need contact to thrive—and sometimes even to survive. No man is an island; we’re all involved in mankind and we want to belong. When we feel lonely it’s a signal that we need to do something to make us feel reconnected.

Helping others is healing

What’s so unusual about this past year is that it’s been a unique shared experience, like a world war. We’ve all been cut off from our communities and we’ve all lived in fear of sickness and death. As well as feeling sorry for myself, I’ve felt sorry for everyone else. I’ve volunteered for local charities and also made sure that I check in on friends more regularly than usual and it’s made me realize how powerful empathy can be.

When we acknowledge our greatest fears, we can recognize them in others and offer some comfort. This can be a very healing process. Helping someone else, whether that’s practical or emotional, can widen our perspective and make us feel useful.

Be conscious about online behavior

Although relating to others can help us feel connected, in today’s world of information overload, it can be easy to take on too much. Our cluttered media and social feeds can trigger a host of negative feelings, especially this past year when there’s been so much bad news and heightened emotion.

We need to be aware of which echo chambers we use and how they make us feel. In times of low confidence, the last place we should be is having a raging debate online. When I’m starting to feel unsettled, I’ve learned to turn away from the virtual world and do something grounding.

Discover your personal self-soothing techniques

Many of us are guilty of turning to unhealthy vices when we’re distressed; going out on a bender or binge eating our way through the evening. Lockdown has forced us to look at the way we usually deal with problems. Personally, I soon realized that staying up really late having Zoom calls and drinking bottles of red wine actually didn’t make me feel better in the morning. I had to tap into my inner parent and allow myself a cathartic cry, then find ways to comfort myself.

I’ve found that doing gentle things that appeal to all of my senses really helps to calm me down, such as; wearing my softest clothes, playing my favorite music, cooking a delicious meal, lighting scented candles, watching a familiar film. We all have different ways of self-soothing, the idea is not to attach any guilt or judgment to our methods, as long as they’re genuinely helping us to feel better.

Make home a sanctuary

I don’t think I’m alone in my recent obsession with DIY. Having spent so much time at home has meant that I finally got around to doing odd jobs I’d managed to procrastinate about for years. I’ve really enjoyed the process of making small improvements and adding pleasant touches to brighten up my space.

After all, our homes are our own blank canvas, the one place that we should feel safe and happy. Taking pride in and care with our immediate environment can help to make us feel more secure within ourselves.

 Seek out nature

In the absence of human contact, nature can be a great substitute. Taking walks by the sea and across the countryside has been a saving grace for me this past year. Being outdoors in a natural environment can bring a strong sense of companionship, and a connection to something bigger than ourselves.

Even when we can’t access nature, we can bring it into our homes with plants and pictures of natural scenes, opening windows for fresh air, birdsong, and natural light. And then, of course, there are domestic pets – if we’re lucky enough to have an animal for company, they can bring a lot of joy and unconditional love to our lives.

Explore with your mind

When we feel stuck in a rut and unable to change our environment, we can use our minds to travel! The very act of learning means we’re fully engaged with the task at hand and automatically take on a growth mindset; whether we’re discovering a new language, a new instrument, a new exercise, a new recipe, a new book, a new hobby, etc.

We can get a deep sense of satisfaction from doing what we’re naturally drawn to, even if we only practice it for a short amount of time each day. Improving our individual skills and pursuing our passions can really help to deepen our sense of purpose and give us a sense of achievement.

 The power of solitude

Though none of us wants to return to lockdown in a hurry, it’s important to remember that solitude is very powerful. Spending time alone is not something we should avoid, it can be a form of meditation – on ourselves and the world around us. It allows us to check in on our emotional state and make adjustments where needed.

Sometimes we need to consciously remove ourselves from stressful environments and societal pressures and make space for reflection. I’ve really enjoyed the lack of FOMO (fear of missing out) throughout lockdown. I hope lots of people have learned just how much they appreciate their own company.

Practice gratitude

It’s certainly true that social distance makes the heart grow fonder! One of the main things we’ve missed over lockdown is contact with loved ones – being able to sit and chat with family and friends. We’ve also been deprived of the very basic freedom of movement – being able to step outside our house and go wherever we choose.

In the aftermath, it’s worth holding onto the gratitude we now feel for these simple pleasures and live more mindfully. All the other trappings of life pale in significance when we just stop and notice how good it feels to have the sun on our face or make a friend smile.

Encourage your authentic self

One delightful upside of lockdown is that we’ve had more time to experiment with our identities in private. Away from society’s gaze, many of us have taken the opportunity to allow our bodies to do their own thing. With salons and spas shut, we’ve neglected certain “beauty” routines, we’ve grown out hairstyles and dyes, we’ve worn what we feel most comfortable in – we’ve removed the “mask” we wear in our public lives.

For the first time in 15 years, I’ve allowed my silver hair to grow out and have been delighted to find that I actually really like it! I think it’s so important to hang onto that sense of authenticity. We should always embrace aspects of ourselves that we like, and not give a damn about what anybody else thinks.

Sophie Tanner is an author and sologamist living in Brighton, UK. In 2015, she married herself in a self wedding ceremony, demonstrating that self-love is just as important as romantic love. Her first novel, “Reader, I Married Me,” published in 2019, is loosely based on her own experience and aims to inspire other people to live their own “happily ever now.” Read more about her story at www.imarriedme.co.uk or follow her on Instagram @TheSologamist.

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