Some time last week, when I was still working outside my apartment, I came home to find my husband drinking a moscow mule at his computer while a crowd of familiar faces smiled back on the screen. “We’re doing on-Nomi,” he explained, “It’s Japanese for drinking online with your friends.” I picked the wrong Lent to give up alcohol, I thought.
“How can I tell them how I’m feeling,” I thought, “when I’m healthy and safe? What right do I have to ask for help in a time like this?”
Loneliness Increases Anxiety
I started experiencing symptoms of anxiety only a few days into my self-isolation. I have a history of anxiety and depression, so on some level this wasn’t surprising. Symptoms included tightness in the chest, unexplained bouts of crying, and an inability to concentrate on my work. These feelings were compounded by the nagging thought that I was wasting time. (Shouldn’t I be taking advantage of all these hours to get more work done?) This guilt only increased the anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.
Meanwhile, friends were reaching out to me via text and social media to ask how I was doing. Sometimes I would reply, sometimes I wouldn’t. “How can I tell them how I’m feeling,” I thought, “when I’m healthy and safe? What right do I have to ask for help in a time like this?”
Finding Cause to Celebrate
In the midst of all this, a close friend got engaged. I guess things like that still happen, even in a pandemic. I wanted to share in her joy, but I didn’t know how. It didn’t feel right to celebrate. And even if we wanted to, all the normal methods of celebration were out of the question. Then another friend messaged me. “How about we each buy a bottle of bubbly tonight and pop them on video chat?” On-Nomi, I thought. It’s time.
I decided to take advantage of my St. Patrick’s Day dispensation.
My friends and I chatted for hours, long after the half-bottle of eight-dollar Cava from the corner store was gone. We discussed our excitement for the upcoming wedding, silly things, like what dresses she would make us wear and what dessert she would be serving. She, of course, had no idea, but that wasn’t the point. We were looking forward to a future after the chaos.
On-Nomi translates to “drinking online,” but it was never about the bubbly. What we really needed was each other.
We also talked about our anxieties. Or fears for the future and the small and large ways in which our lives are changing. Then, one of us made a suggestion.
“Would anyone like to get online later this week and pray a rosary?” There was a short pause, the vulnerable kind that happens when someone has expressed a sincere need. On-Nomi translates to “drinking online,” but it was never about the bubbly. What we really needed was each other. And our faith.
Cherishing Friendship in Isolation
We always need our friends and our community, but now we need them more than ever. We’re blessed to live in an age where communication isn’t hampered by physical distance. While we may feel alone, the reality is that across the country, indeed across the world, millions of people are having the same experience.
It’s going to be painful. We’re going to experience real loss. Sickness, loss of work, even death are at our door. But there will also be moments of celebration. Life goes on, even when it’s changed. We need to cherish each other, guide each other, and support each other through this. We are never truly alone.