So here we have it, a second and final dose of my isolation portraits. This time, I travelled across continents, and it was very special to reconnect with some of my soul sisters that I met through photography and yoga, as well as with those from my childhood and younger years. I could write an essay about each of these women. Choosing women to photograph was not so much intentional, as it was instinctive. I came out of each encounter stronger and inspired, so part two of Alone/Together is a sort of a love poem to all the women out there. Hope that you see yourself reflected in some of these beautiful souls that I photographed through my computer screen, and that you enjoy reading their stories (the topics of conversation have slightly changed, just as isolation/lockdown has gradually changed us).
Virtually hugging you.
Marsha, 32, Seattle, US
I work in Higher Education, in Advising and Organizational Change Management.
I’m also an aspiring User Experience Designer!
Things are 50% no-so-great and 50% great for me right now. Because of my job, I am acutely aware of the hardships people are going through. Crises like this really impact the marginalised communities. Luckily, I’m able to address some of those issues directly. The other 50% that’s been more positive has included things like gardening (it keeps me grounded. Ha. #pun ), yoga at home, trying out new recipes, and I just bought some essential oils which I’m sure will solve all of my problems…
Life has become simpler since social isolation. And with that, I’ve found that the things I used to create an appearance of having it all together have been taken away. Which has given me time to be more introspective. I’ve reminded myself that I am worth more than my career goals and accomplishments.
It sounds cliche but we really are all connected. Our actions impact one another so much and this pandemic has been a huge reminder of this. I’ve also been reminded that life isn’t black and white. There’s nuance to our world and people and all humans deserve respect. I mean, easier said than done because I regularly want to flip tables every time I check the news, and sometimes other humans test me. But, it’s a reminder that gets me through the day.
Karo, 34, Warsaw, Poland
I am a human, a friend, a yogi, a nature lover, and a copywriter. I am at my place in Warsaw by myself, mostly.
What I learned in the last few weeks is that basically, it was what it was, it is what it is, it will be what it will be. I went through some brutal moments during the lockdown (not the best time for a heartbreak), but at the end of the day, I realised the simple truth: everything that is difficult right now will transform eventually.
What can I say about humans in the global context? Well, mostly if someone is an asshole, they will remain an asshole during the pandemic, while decent people will continue to be decent. Not very revealing, I know, but after almost two months at home, after a phase of memes and panic that transformed into the apathy to become the unfounded dropping of the restrictions, this is the only insight I can share for the moment.
Josée, 30, Georgetown, Ontario, Canada
I work as an elementary-school teacher and a photographer. I live in Toronto, but due to the pandemic, currently reside with my parents in Georgetown, Ontario.
I believe I am one of the lucky ones who still has employment during this time. It is the students that I teach that I am deeply concerned about. Many families have reached out to me in moments of stress, expressing how overwhelmed they are. Among the scenarios, I have heard of family members who are considered essential workers and are concerned about how this will impact their home life, or parents who are each working from home and their child is not independent enough to get work done so they are doing school work evenings and weekends. Our school board deployed all our electronic devices to families in need and have even paid for Internet for certain families who do not have access. Overall, it has been a stressful process of trying to make sure education is accessible online and also feeling like I am wearing the hat of an IT person and, occasionally, a therapist (which, let's face it, I do normally in a classroom anyways haha... this time it just feels more acute).
I have learned that I overwork myself. I think I am realizing that I need more downtime and to say no to things in the future for my own health and well-being. No more FOMO.
I have learned, on a global scale, that we don't appreciate the little things as much. We take everything for granted. I know that this pandemic has been a catastrophe for a lot of people and our economy, but on a basic level, it is actually bringing people closer together and allowing us to get in touch with the things in life that are most important. I saw my brother and his partner today and, although we couldn't hug and had to stand "two hockey sticks apart" (as the Canadians are saying), it was the highlight of my week. I do, however, acknowledge that I come from a place of privilege when I say this - I have a job and a roof over my head. Not everyone has this and their mindset may be entirely different.
All in all, I think we all need to sloooooow down. Play house... learn to make bread... garden a little... go for a walk... play a board game with loved ones... call your grandparents... take care of yourself!
Aga, 34, Warsaw, Poland
I am a Graphic Designer, isolating with my boyfriend at our Warsaw flat.
I don’t find it fair to say, I’m doing great, while there’s a world pandemic around and people struggle. But I don’t find it fair to pity myself either. I’m privileged to have the comfort of working from home. We do groceries online. We master new recipes. We have a park in front of our house for walks. We play ping pong on our dinner table. I do yoga. I’m lucky to have my boyfriend around, he always knows how to cheer me up. It wouldn’t be fair to complain. The only thing I find personally disturbing, especially among this so called creative class, is this pressure to get creative or master new skills. There’s a lot of violence to it. But I’m also slowly getting there.
In the last few weeks I’ve learned that when I was saying I wanted to look good for myself, it was total bullshit. It’s all for the others. I’m changing my day pyjama to my night pyjama since two months and I feel so good about it.
What have you learned about us as humans, in a global context? That we adapt easily to any circumstances, especially when guided by fear and our selfish interest. We’ve survived a lot and we will survive anything. For the first time in my life I saw it with my own eyes. I remember how shocked and terrified I was when I saw over 150 deaths in one day in Italy for the first time. Now nothing is shocking anymore, sadly everything becomes a new norm.
Krista, 42, Reydian, 8 and Atlin, 6, small town, Canada
I am a natural health educator. I live on a dead-end street, backing onto a forest trail in a small town in Canada, with my two outgoing and creative daughters, Reydian and Atlin. We have a big, open yard with trees lining the sides, and making sure we get outside everyday. I would say, we are getting along quite well together, but certainly feel that there's something missing. Our moods are rather positive, but I notice that fuses seem to be shorter than normal. There's a mild, odd feeling of over-lying confusion and stress, and it's causing us to over-react in some instances.
In terms of self-awareness and personal growth, these past weeks have been hugely transformational for me personally. I notice a growing disconnect between some of the people I love in my family life, and I believe it is rooted in fear-based division, uncertainty and blame. Some people seem quick to judge others, and are drawing conclusions without ever having a conversation about it. I also notice acts of kindness, but I believe this should be normal anyways.
I have shifted my focus to having faith that everything is unfolding exactly as it should, and that good will prevail. This viewpoint helps me to not worry and to stay more positive. I can feel some altruistic qualities and compassion surging from within, and im comfortable looking through other peoples' lenses for better over-all understanding without becoming frustrated. I'm finding myself double-guessing my decisions a bit more now than ever before, but I feel I may be allowing the current global consciousness to influence and have an effect on my mood.
As long as I keep reminding myself to stay present, and not get stuck in my head about things, I'm good! I do believe good will come of all this, even though the discomforts of rapid change are forcing people to face deep insecurities that may have been hidden for a long time. For all those who are open to becoming better versions of themselves, now is the time to experience just that.
Myrtille, 28, Lille, France
I am a consultant on HR related topics and training to be a psycho-bio-acupressure (PBA) practitioner. I live in an apartment in Lille, North of France with Nicolas, my boyfriend.
I actually feel very good right now. I know the luck I have, and I am grateful to be so blessed: my loved ones are healthy, I am not under pressure trying to keep up with children and work, I am ok with the income drop, plus we have a balcony!
Even though my professional activities have slowed down, I have kept a daily routine.
Most of the days, I wake up around 8:30, exercise (yoga or fitness), read for a while, have breakfast and then turn on my phone. We have been cooking a lot these days, trying new recipes (you know the ones that you keep on your Pinterest thinking that someday you’ll have time to try). Having good home meals helps avoid cravings. I actually dread the moment we all go back to «normal» and nothing has changed.
One week prior to the lock down I was literally sick in between two trains getting back home from a remote client site. I personally always look for meaning in symbols and «signs from the Universe». I was not to miss out on the opportunity that was offered here! I listened to its message « stay home » and so I withdrew from work and went off-grid for a while. I did not know that I would be able to let everything go so easily.
I really enjoyed alone time and peace and quiet… how surprising for someone who has always been filling up her agenda.
Despite my jobs being about emotions, I had tried to avoid feeling some myself, and they all came back, knocking at my door like « there’s finally silence, this is our time to be honoured ». It felt good, then bad, then good again. I have rediscovered sacred texts and some philosophy as well with, feeling as if I was looking for some missing pieces to my inner puzzle game.
As for the global context - we are all living the pandemic differently. How humbling it is to rely on low wage professions and share the same event worldwide regardless of social status! The ability of Humans to adapt is incredible and goes along with solidarity.
I see that some people have reconnected with their loved ones, have asked for forgiveness for old stories, have been grateful for friends, family, health, the Planet and/or have taken a step back on what was the purpose of their life.
However, I also believe that only a part of us will get out confident that we need to start living differently and take actions. For the rest, the « Universe » will send another message, that may be even clearer….
Melissa, 32, Bocas del Toro, Panama
I am a yoga and meditation teacher, and I also guide dance medicine circles, cacao ceremonies and retreats. I am based on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, an archipelago in the Caribbean side of Panama and I live with my housemate and her little dog Nala, and we have a friend living with us too.
I am doing well right now. I am enjoying having a lot of time to do all the things I love: meditation, yoga, dance, cooking, contemplating nature. I felt a little guilty about how happy I was feeling at the beginning as I know that this is not so easy for many people - very hard for some - but I realised that feeling guilty didn’t do any good for anyone so I am focusing on gratitude instead.
What I have learnt about myself in those last few weeks is that I need time alone, haha! I knew it before, but I can normally take the time when I need it, whereas at the moment it’s a little trickier. I have also remembered how resilient, positive and adaptable I am.
As for the global context, I feel that as humans, we need change! I’ve known this for a while but this is a great highlighter on what is no longer working in society. Humanity must unlearn the consumerist frenzy it has adopted to reconnect with nature and learn to live from the land in harmony with nature. Now is a great time to make changes. It won’t be smooth, but it is possible and I have great faith in us.