Isolation in an Isolating Time

Isolation is never so isolating as when one is isolating oneself from online social activities during a time of quarantine, while trying to recover from a bum knee as well as enduring fierce winds and driving drizzle. (Like a driving rain, only with drizzle.)

Yep. Complete isolation. Alone with only my thoughts (and the characters in The Wheel of Time) to keep me company. Some of these thoughts are being dredged from deeply buried memories — buried not from trauma but by time since they happened so very long ago.

Because of the current state of unrest (my own as well as the world’s), many of those thoughts are of my dealings with people of various colors and are both divisive and unifying.

I remember standing on the sidewalk in front of the house cater corner from where my family lived, talking with the girl my age who lived there as we watched our baby brothers play together. We were friends of a sort, but all we really had in common were proximity, our ages, and those two little boys. I have a hunch I was more enamored with having a black friend than I was with the girl herself, but at least I tried. At least we both tried. This was in the early sixties, I think, when blacks were “colorizing” previously all white neighborhoods. The main street we lived on was the border between the black neighborhood and the white, and looking back, it seems a rather nice image, those two young girls and those two toddlers straddling the dividing line.

What really made me remember some of this stuff was that one of the people who left a scathing remark on that video I shared on Facebook was a woman I had gone to high school with. I’d never been friends with her, but somehow I got connected via Facebook because of a high school reunion some years ago (that I did not attend). Ironically, it seems to me she was one of the faction of girls who hated me all those years ago because I took a black kid as my date to a high school dance. I am amazed, in retrospect, how much he seemed to enjoy the dance, but then, I think as many girls were enamored of him and his dancing style as were disdainful of his being there. And now years later, I am considered the racist, and she the “tolerant” one. Life is strange, that’s for sure.

Except for a few such instances, though, when skin color was a factor, I really was skin-color blind. I remember once telling my mother about a girl I really liked who clerked at the local Safeway, and my mother said she’d look for her. Weeks later, my mother said she’d finally met the girl, and then said wryly, “It would have helped if you’d told me she’s black.” I stared blankly at my mother and said, “She is?”

To be honest, even though I was proud of that colorblindness (which nowadays is considered proof of racism), I tend to think it had more to do with my being unobservant of physical traits, remembering people instead by my “feel” of them. I remember once working in an office with mostly men and for some reason I had reason to mention a certain fellow who had the same name as a couple of other workers. “You mean the guy with beard?” the man talking to me asked. I said, no he didn’t have a beard. The man laughed at me. “You wanna bet?” I turned around to look at the guy in question, and sure enough he had a beard. An immense one.

Yep. That’s me. Oh, so observant!

(To this day, I don’t remember what Jeff looked like when I met him; all I remember is a radiant being, shining with kindness, as if he had just recently come down from some spirit realm into my life.)

I remember a woman I once was friends with. We had things in common because we’d both lost our life mates. Although she was a lovely woman (inside, I mean, but outside, too), she had darkness in her past she only hinted at, horrors that rose because of her skin color. And somehow, I felt guilty because of what she had suffered. (And then I felt guilty for the guilt because I worried my guilt was negating her reality.)

It’s funny how for so much of my life I’ve shouldered guilt for things that weren’t my fault. A sort of cultural guilt, I guess. Guilt over concentration and relocation camps, over the Sand Creek Massacre, over slavery, over so many things. Now that I am having this guilt foisted on me, as if I really were personally responsible for all the world’s ills, current and historic, the guilt is sliding off my back, receding from my spirit.

I am responsible only for what I personally did, can only change that which I can control (and it’s amazing how little control we have over even the things we think we control).

My “crimes” have always been small ones — a bit of smugness, perhaps. A touch of pettiness. An occasional lapse into thoughtlessness. And worst of all, a tendency to look behind the curtain for the real truth, not the “truth” that’s paraded on the world stage.

Not much guilt in any of that to expiate.

Which is good. I don’t need one more thing to close me in and add to the isolation of this isolating time. Luckily, the winds and rain will pass (late tonight, supposedly). My thoughts will drift back from whence they came. My knee will heal. The Bob will retreat. My re-re-reading of The Wheel of Time will be finished. I will get used to curtailed online activity.

And then?

I don’t know, but the possibilities of life after isolation will give me something new to think about rather than rehashing all these old thoughts.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

6 Responses to “Isolation in an Isolating Time”

  1. Judy Galyon Says:

    And you can enjoy your new garage!!! The VW will love it!!!

  2. cowgirlsue Says:

    Anyways, I figure anyone who can re-read “The Wheel of Time” can’t be all bad, lol. I guess I also miss a lot of obvious stuff on the surface because I spend so much time in the rabbit hole. Also I hang out with animals more than people so I do keep making politically incorrect moves. I am usually aware of the suffering around me but only occasionally does materialize in my life. And then when it does, I check my premises to discover how I gave my consent to it.

  3. Estragon Says:

    Feeling guilty about feeling guilty. Hmmm, seems kinda-sorta like the notion of original sin, or maybe what people these days call “privilege”.

    Irrespective of our actions or lived experience, we’re somehow tainted by the stain of being human (original sin), or white (or German, or Israeli, or Arab, …). We’re supposed to understand and accept we’re defined by that single attribute. In the minds of those asserting that the “taint” defines us, maybe it’s true.

    I just can’t let myself think like that. IMHO, when enough people do think like that, really nasty things can happen.

    I’m putting my sailboat in the water today, and hoping to take a lady friend to the lake for the weekend. Also gloomy and rainy here, but these skies too will clear. With fair winds, I may be able to take her for her first time sailing. The thought of that helps me see past the gloom of today.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yes, original sin. That was my religious upbringing. I hadn’t realized how much it was still a part of me, but luckily, all this commotion in the world is erasing the last vestiges of that “sin.”

      Oh, I am so envious! I have never been on a sail boat. Ferries, a duck boat in Seattle, a canoe once when I was young, but never a sail boat, I will imagine you and your friend sailing free. Wishing you blue skies, fair winds, and following seas.

Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: