Fiona didn’t know what to do with herself when the lockdown began. Ever since she started working at 16, she kept busy. Her dedication, hard work and commitment were highly appreciated, and she rose through the company ranks becoming one of the top directors in charge of a team of fifty people.
She always felt blessed with such a satisfying and rewarding career and never examined the hard choices she had to make to sustain her working life. However, since her last birthday, she began questioning her complete devotion to work. The fact that her son moved across the pond only added new cracks to her carefully constructed life that started to show signs of unavoidable collapse.
The house wasn’t the same with Malcolm gone; it felt empty and cold. Every piece of furniture reminded her of him. Since Malcolm’s father disappeared somewhere in Asia when the boy wasn’t even one, it was always the two of them. Even this big, crazy country house was for Malcolm. Of course, as any mother would, Fiona was happy that Malcolm found love and quickly settled down in Toronto. She worked hard to convince herself that his sudden move wasn’t painful. But when her life suddenly came to a standstill amid the pandemic, she quickly realized how lonely she has been feeling since his departure.
Even though Fiona was put on furlough immediately after the scheme became available, she still spent up to five hours a day (weekdays only) “keeping on top of things in her department.”
She needed to keep busy and occupied and work has always been her comfort zone, that protected her from feeling too much and too deeply. Both of her siblings lived abroad, her house was far from the town and… and she couldn’t meet any of her very few remaining friends because of the restrictions put in place by the government.
Fiona’s life-long dedication to work and her son made friendships hard to sustain over long periods. Women, especially single mums, always have to juggle work and family commitments, while making hard choices between personal life and career.
The first two weekends Fiona felt excited to be able to stay in bed, watching her beloved shows, and reading for pleasure in between. But soon enough she found herself restlessly wandering between the bedroom and the kitchen.
Two months into the lockdown, she began avoiding her reflection in the mirror. She became too scared to see her own loneliness staring at her. The prolonged lockdown, technical difficulties (Zoom was over capacity, Skype evaporated, and WhatsApp still couldn’t get its videos and audio quality in order) and isolation left Fiona anxious.
Her anxiety was driven by worry over Malcolm’s safety, who as a doctor was exposed to COVID 24/7. She was enormously proud of him and of the man he became. But not being able to hold him or be there for him was killing her on the inside, pushing her anxious thoughts and feelings to the edge. Pre-COVID Fiona was able to control her anxiety, but once the lockdown restrictions were introduced, the sadness and loneliness that triggered her anxiety couldn’t be stopped for much longer.
When Fiona felt the lowest and the most vulnerable, she wondered whether perhaps she got it all wrong. All her working life she was committed to her job and the company she worked for. She was always available and of course, rewarded handsomely for her loyalty and flexibility. But that flexibility came with a price much higher than Fiona thought she had paid.
At the age of 56, she had to admit to herself that she was lonely. When all the fluff surrounding her everyday life faded, she had no one left to talk to, connect with, or go for a walk with.
She pondered if the pandemic was possibly the last call for her to re-focus her life? She wasn’t sure how one looks for friends and builds meaningful friendships in the modern world with instant access to everything. Those thoughts kept her occupied while she embarked on a grand job re-designing her neglected garden.
By the end of the first lockdown, Fiona knew that however long the pandemic was going to last, she wasn’t going back to a lonely commuter’s life. She quickly found solace in pro-activity and slowly eased her way into the world of social media (she dropped those when her days became too short and commitments too extensive). Social media led her to a new startup Serendip that was created for people like her, people living in big cities looking for friendships.
Currently, as of this writing, Fiona is on furlough again. But this time around she has a couple of new friends based locally, so her loneliness isn’t eating her up from the inside as much as during the first lockdown.