Why is Isolation So Noisy?

It has been three weeks since I and most others I know have been isolated at home in the hopes of slowing the spread of Covid-19. At least I think so. Even as the sun keeps rising and setting, I like most people, have lost all sense of time.

But I can’t figure out why. I have worked at home for nearly three years. My normal work outfit is yoga pants, a T-shirt, and a sweatshirt. My office is down the stairs. I barely leave the house during a normal week. Yet, everything feels different now. I am struggling to concentrate. It is perfectly quiet, but I feel like everyone is screaming.

A New Coworker

My husband has been working at home for three weeks now. We live in a small condominium with only one office space, so that means he’s been working at the kitchen table. But he works for a non-profit and needs to do interviews and some days has more conference calls than I have, so we’ve been sharing the office space and swapping the kitchen table workplace at times.

The Persistence of Memory Painting by Salvador Dali as a Coloring Book

That hasn’t caused that much inconvenience and it has been a bonus to eat lunch together, but having my husband at home full-time has changed the rhythm of our life. There is no more separation of workday and evening, of coming and going. Instead, the days all seem to blend together.

Virtual Family Ties

With everyone in the same situation, the amount of virtual communication from my family has increased. My family has been texting on a group text that includes all my siblings and in-laws. I have seven siblings who are all married, so at times it is hard to keep up with the many threads of conversations as they unfold.

Overstimulated by the constant notifications, I put my phone on silent and put it in the other room to charge while watching a movie the other night. When I picked it up a few hours later I saw I had missed 26 texts. In normal life, this would have signified that some sort of an emergency had occurred. But not during this pandemic. When I looked at the thread, I was greeted with regular check-ins and photos, and a few jokey back-and-forths.

And So Many Emails

Emails have also increased exponentially. The email pulse has changed slightly from the first days when we were still trying to imagine how Covid-19 would impact the USA. Then, it seemed every company I had ever done business with was telling me how they were responding to the pandemic. Those emails came from the big names and big brands and also from venues where upcoming events had been canceled.

Following that wave, the messages seemed to be more related to staying calm. It seemed everyone else I had given my email to wanted to let me know they were thinking of me in this time.

And then of course, came the invitations to meetings. Whether via conference call or webinar (who hasn’t heard of Zoom by now?) I’ve also received my fair share of invitations for meetings to connect during this time whether it be to set aside time to write together or learn a new skill, I’ve had a hard time keeping up with all the invitations.

The Zoom Revolution

The next evolution has been face-to-face communication. People are having happy hours via Zoom. My sister-in-law recommended it to my family, though it hasn’t happened yet.

On my previously audio-only work calls, I started to see the faces of coworkers from across the country I had not seen before. Since not everyone has worked at home regularly, my company wanted to be sure those who didn’t felt connected. So now I’m combing my hair and wearing better T-shirts.

Edvard Munch The Scream done as Coloring Book

I understand the need for people to connect. I understand that before we were all at home, that some people did go out into the world every day. For them, this time is especially hard.

But as someone who has been isolated for so long, all this connecting is just as hard. I feel anxious and scattered in a way I didn’t when I was the only one who stayed home all day. Surprisingly, I think I feel the same way people who are longing for connection feel. I’m longing for a return to normal.

How about you? How are you coping with the isolation? Do you feel it’s too quiet? Or are you like me and feeling like everything is a little louder these days?

If you are feeling distant and looking for ways to connect, The Wisconsin Writers Association is holding a virtual event this week. The FREE Online Happy Hour & Open Mic will be held Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 6:15 p.m.

21 comments

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  1. Morgan

    When I read the title of this post I immediately thought, “right?! Yes.”
    I’m an online graduate student and aside from my practicum twice a week I was usually home. Now that things have changed it really does feel louder and discombobulated. My husband is an essential worker (ambulance mechanic) so we still have that work day separation but the added stress of my five year old now being out of school and his anxiety being up has also impacted our home ecosystem. Great blog post, thanks!

    • Catherine Lanser

      It is strange that I haven’t become more accustomed to it either. It still seems just as hard to adjust after all this time. Thank you for stopping by.

  2. Gina

    I always thought that if I had more time I would [fill-in-the-blank]. Now I have all the time in the world and I haven’t done any of it. I got laid off from my job of 17 years just two weeks before the world turned upside down. I had plans to go out to lunch with a couple of different friends to bitch about it and process my new “normal” but that never happened. I might be forced to take early retirement because I don’t think I’m going to find another job at 62 years old. Good luck to you.

    • Catherine Lanser

      I’m so sorry you lost your job as this happened. Not being able to be with others now has got to be especially hard. I am wishing you the best.

  3. Will

    I love this new supposed isolation, and feel less isolated than ever! I get to meet with people without driving anywhere. And I have more meetings, much related to writing, than I know what to do with. So I definitely relate.

  4. Lisa Kramer

    This explains my own struggle almost exactly. Having my daughter and husband around all the time has shifted the rhythm of my days, as I try to balance and honor my own needs with theirs. I am overwhelmed by abundance, in a way, as zoom opportunities abound. I am finding myself trying to silence the noise with more meditation, music, and focus on personal projects. Still, in many ways, I find joy in each day, even if I don’t know what day it is.

    • Catherine Lanser

      I do feel that each day my needs change. Last week I was reading, this week too much. We really need to pay attention to our needs.

  5. Tammy Breitweiser

    Overall, I am doing well with this schedule. Aside from the sickness component, this is pretty close to my ideal life. BUT I have felt this week there is pressure and tension that seems odd to me. I take my walks and runs trying to release some of it. There are more emails. I started unsubscribing from some of the emails I never read and only scroll by because now it seems overwhelming. There are days I have up to 5 zoom meetings which I like but is draining as well. There seems to be no transition times between things – temperatures, changes in schedules, changes in expectations.

    I find myself seeking truth and realizing it is multi-faceted.

  6. Wendy Strain

    So much this!! From all of my writer friends, we all feel a little deafened by how much noisier our worlds have become now that everyone else is at home, too. My 13-year-old niece calls every day and doesn’t understand why I don’t have 2 hours to just sit around and talk, even though her mom (exec at Samsung) has an ‘important job and she still has to work.’ Somehow, that idea that some of us still have to work doesn’t translate to her, or almost anyone else. I’ve been asked if my days have lost their names yet (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday become day, day, day) when my schedule has only had to stretch further. You’ve really captured the heart of the issue for us.

  7. Kim Carberry

    I am the same. I hardly go out anywhere but it all feels different having my fella and the kids at home.
    I have been putting my phone on silent too. It sometimes is a little too much to take.
    Take care and stay safe x

  8. Carol

    I’m retired and have enjoyed my time in my home and going out when every I wanted. Originally I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal since I spent a good deal of time at home, but I was wrong. It’s the being told to stay home that makes it harder to take.

  9. Lilyfae

    We are home educators (I’m stay at home mum) and although being home all day wasn’t unheard of, it’s when you just CANNOT leave that it becomes difficult.
    The factor of choice is so empowering or debilitating however it spins. My girls are noisier than before, thank goodness we have a garden and a swing otherwise it would be so difficult. My heart goes out to all those trapped in tiny flats with increasingly no outdoor space to escape to even for an hour.
    And yes we’ve lost track of the days too, my 7 year old makes plans for when the virus is over, I hope that the world hasn’t changed so much so that we can do them for her. #MMBC

    • Catherine Lanser

      I live in a condo with limited outdoor space. I am looking forward to opening up the doors and sitting on the balcony. We also have a shared pool. I’m so hoping we will be able to use it.

  10. Catherine Green

    Yes! It is far too noisy in our house, and my husband is a key worker so he is out of the house 6 days a week. I am home alone with 2 children (aged 6 and 9) and a young dog (3 years old). The dog is still settling in with us having been adopted just before Christmas, and now he is very confused that we have suddenly stopped doing the school run and having our daily walks along the canal. He won’t stop barking at the neighbours now that they are home! My ears are ringing, I can’t focus on work, and I just want life to go back to normal…

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