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The Underestimated Pain of Isolation

A Personal Perspective: Our adaptability is a blessing and a curse.

People say we’ve got it made
Don’t they know we’re so afraid?
Isolation
—John Lennon

English zoologist Desmond Morris suggested that human beings rose to their position of dominance on the planet because we were more adaptable than other creatures. Humans learned a variety of skills that allowed us to gather food from a wide range of environments, whereas other creatures went hungry when the food in their limited environments became scarce (Morris, 1969). Being adaptable is both a blessing and a curse, though. Adaptability gives us the flexibility to survive challenging circumstances, but the downside is our tendency to adapt so well that we don’t notice how bad things really are. There is an urban myth that if you put a frog in a pot of cold water and very slowly bring the water to a boil the frog will never notice the incremental changes in differences until it has boiled to death. So it is with COVID.

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Woman sitting on wooden dock by the sea
Source: sasint/pixabay

I went for a walk with my dog this morning, as we do every morning. It’s not our usual day to go to the bakery, but we went to see Stephanie and chatted about her husband Tom who is in the beginning stages of cancer treatment. On the way home, Diva started pulling very insistently in a direction we never walk. I looked up to see our friend Marion, bundled up against the frigid 25 mph winds, out for her morning walk. Marion carries dog treats on her morning walks for all of her friends, and Diva can spot her from a mile away. We walked over and wished Marion a belated 95th birthday, and she told me how important it was to her to get outside today because she had been cooped up inside all day on her birthday because of the near-zero temperatures.

As we left Marion and continued on our way home, I was surprised to notice how much my spirits were lifted. I felt as if I had just won the lottery. I hadn’t even noticed how deflated I was until talking with Stephanie and Marion.

Being the highly adaptable creatures we are, somehow we have managed to find ways to cope with this awful plague — at least, those of us who have not died or been impaired for life. I’m adapting, I’m doing OK, but boy, I can’t wait to sit on the porch with my neighbors for an hour or so, talking about absolutely nothing.

References

Morris, D. (1969). The Naked Ape. Dell.

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