Monday, March 16, 2020

Solitude During Trying Times While Spring Beckons

The sun is shining, the magnolia blossoms ready to burst forth, but I go outside rarely unless it is to walk the dog, pull up crabgrass or other small yard work. Lily is patient and understanding of my moods, my need to sleep a little later in the morning before getting out of bed to face a day empty of all routines and contact with others.

This is the life of the woman alone, only with a deeper, more profound challenge. I work toward finding a new rhythm, being resilient and grateful, but, for now, like everyone, my life has been upended by the virus. A long anticipated 17-day tour of Vietnam came to crashing cancellation less than 72 hours before we were scheduled to depart.

Isolation, disappointment in the crushing load of cancellations from church services to a teaching seminar, to the shutdown of parks, libraries and gardens is the new norm.

A much-needed break alleviated this stress Saturday night. I met two women writing friends for dinner (before the edict came down that all bars and restaurants were to be closed for at least fourteen days, beginning today).

We shared over white wine and Thai cuisine concerns, despairs and frustrations. We miss the camaraderie of the read around in our Women’s Writing Circle, which is on hiatus this year. I wish I could call an impromptu read around now in my home to break the isolation, but it doesn't seem wise.

We shared our love of writing. One friend said virus, or no, she dutifully journals every morning. As for me, my new memoir, A Woman Alone, was shipped off a week ago to an editor living in the San Francisco Bay area. I spoke by phone with her, after she was recommended to me by another writing friend, and was delighted with her understanding and appreciation of the rigors involved in memoir writing—how we wrest all we have both personal and professional—molding something that transcends ourselves and reaches a larger audience. I look forward to receiving her critique, (a bit apprehensive, too)  as well as the critique of two writing friends who have agreed to be beta readers.

I find it hard to put all of this down in a cogent way on the computer; the writing is not easy to come by, but the writing also drives away the despair, the chaos.

Reading does too. I have found respite reading Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. The novel is provocative feminist writing at its best. I imagine Atwood had great fun writing it, the sarcasm, the nod to the absurd, but also the deeply profound story of women of all stripes and persuasions in the grip of a cruel and violent patriarchy with obvious parallels to the present.

How we cope with the loss of income, of companionship, of life savings on the line, truly are the times that try men and women’s souls. But spring beckons. We are all in this together.

When I went downstairs this morning to make coffee, I spotted those magnolia buds outside my kitchen window about to pop through their brown shell coverings. In the corner of my yard, I saw the forsythia ready to bloom in gold splendor. John planted those bushes so long ago, yet every spring they offer renewal and memories of my love for him. I keep those memories close now in these difficult times. I keep the memory of love close. And I keep writing.

How about you? How are you pausing, thinking, coping?


Marilyn said...

Hi Susan, Thank you for these reflections on writing and isolation. A writer usually pursues her craft alone, but it seems different now that we are forced into this confinement because of a sinister virus. Cut off from physical contact with family and friends, every day patterns disrupted, long anticipated events cancelled, our routines are shattered. Once again, writing and reading can sustain us. I am grateful for what I have, and for blogs like yours to keep us connected.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Thank you, Marilyn. We stay connected through sharing our stories and our voices. Reading great books about women like The Testaments and writing daily thoughts in our journals sustain us as women, not just now but always.