Comments from Week Five of isolation due to COVID…
Not gonna lie, it’s been a rough week. I may not be totally “isolated” in that I’m with Jeannie, yet this “new normal” is still getting old, fast. Before I proceed, I want to fully recognize that I have it better than most; if I had to guess, I’m somewhere in the top 10% of “we’re OK.” We’re healthy and safe, have each other, a comfortable apartment, and access and means to get through this safely.
Yet no matter what your personal situation right now, this is not normal, and we shouldn’t even begin to think that we’re all OK. We’re not OK. We might be getting through this, but the world is hurting right now. And each of us is hurting in different ways.
That out of the way, as I started, it’s been a rough week. I kinda think this might have been a “trigger” week for a lot of people. But I don’t know about other people, because, other than Jeannie and Justina, I really haven’t talked to anyone this week. And that’s weird because anyone that knows me knows that I talk a lot. For the first four weeks of isolation I juggled many text chats a day as well as video chats almost daily. But this week? Zero. Nada. Zilch.
I can’t say for sure what happened, but there are a confluence of possibilities. First, we’re all growing weary of whatever isolation we’re in. Even the best situations become rote and a little boring after awhile. Second, the novelty of virtual activities is wearing off. In the first two weeks I joined every only social, game show, and dance party I could find. They were really fun! But those same activities this week had lost their luster. Third, many of us are coming closer to the realities of this virus: whether we have it, know someone who does, or know someone that has lost their battle. It’s heartbreaking for everyone. For me, and likely many others, it’s sucking away my energy.
To reiterate, I’m in one of the best possible situations being in good health, safe conditions, and with Jeannie. Some spouses are getting tired of spending every waking moment together, but Jeannie and I have flourished in these conditions. We actually enjoy time with each other. We have a great balance of “me” time along with “us” time. We’ve accomplished some terrific practical things in our apartment. And we’ve blocked off hours to be date time and/or sexy time.
Sexy times are different right now, but just as fulfilling. Sex itself has been fantastic, but there’s been little desire or energy to create scenes – like a good rope or other kink scene. I do want to get back to practicing rope, but like other things right now, it’s just hard to commit.
While we’re doing really well, the weight of isolation gets heavier each day. It’s hard not to end up getting angry at each other over something silly. So far, we’ve both grounded each other nicely, but do we have the energy to keep that up? For how long? I’m just thankful we truly get along. I cannot imagine what some families must be going through right now.
Here’s where things start to diverge a bit. I’m longing for Justina and that’s perfectly natural. But the question that keeps popping into my mind is, “why would Jeannie not be enough right now?” I joined a sex positive mental health check-in Zoom last week and asked this question. The therapist opened with:
Because you are poly and therefore aren’t comfortable with forced monogamy.
This seemed a little flip, but was also quite accurate. The therapist went on to elaborate and also to suggest that I re-frame the question. Being poly has never been “because Jeannie isn’t enough” it is because “I desire other things that Jeannie does (or is) not.” These two statements are sort of the same but the important difference is not looking at this in the negative. Looking at it from the positive changes a lot of the emotion around it.
With that understood, I am working through a terribly painful longing for Justina right now. It feels wrong because I should be happy that I have Jeannie. Especially when Justina is living alone and, frankly, way more in need of human contact right now. (Maybe that’s part of my anguish, too? That as a partner to her I cannot fulfill that need for her when she needs it most?) Justina and I have been having video calls and Netflix Party dates. They are terrific and the movie nights give me something to look forward to each week.
Justina also has another steady partner and that partner has a different isolation condition and protocol from me. Because I live in NYC and I walk the dog multiple times a day, I’m not truly “safe” (not that anyone is, but you get the idea.) Justina’s isolation protocol, as well as that of her other partner, is more strict. So every two weeks, Justina is having that partner over for the weekends. I’m truly happy that she has this, because she really needs some human connection, human touch, through all of this.
But what of me?
When she’s with that partner, I try to be respectful of that time and I don’t interrupt. She tells me I can text, but I really want her to be intentional with that limited time – and to get her physical needs satisfied. I’m generally OK with this, but when I see a meme or just a silly thing I want share with her, I’m inclined to wait, and that’s just a slightly sad reminder to me that I’m not with her. I’m not jealous – I’m truly happy she has this person! I am, undoubtedly, envious; because I want to be there with her.
The biggest challenge is knowing that it’s likely still at least six more weeks before she’d be comfortable seeing me again. Why can’t I be the partner she sees two weeks from now? Well, there are lots of logical COVID exposure reasons, but that doesn’t ease my pain. Further, Justina and I aren’t the kind to have sexy play over a vidchat. Jeannie has this with another partner and I do want it, but Justina and I agree that this isn’t when we truly need, or want, right now. In fact, the first thing I want to do when I see Justina in person is to hold her close, and then cuddle on the couch watching TV. Pretty much what we’re doing now, but with physical contact. Sex will come, too. But I think we both need connection first and sex will follow naturally.
Meanwhile, I have made various connections with several new people just before or during this crisis. Two are matches from OK Cupid where we had dates scheduled that needed to be cancelled as isolation began. For one, we’ve had some nice text message exchanges, but it’s likely to remain just that until “the world gets back to normal” (as if normal is actually a thing.) For the other, we’ve done one very nice vidchat and have another planned next week. This person, coincidentally, live walking distance from my apartment. Yet there’s near zero chance we’d get together in the coming weeks for obvious reasons. The proximity just makes it a touch more painful – knowing how easily we could see each other.
I’ve also made a virtual connection with Rita, someone I met IRL before all of this. She and I have the most deliciously naughty texts and video chats. But it’s still just that, virtual. Are these virtual connections keeping me full? Helping me through? Or just increasing my longing for physical touch and real human connection? I don’t really know. But in the absence of a complete answer, I’ll take what I can get in the present. Also, as morbid as this sounds, the reality is that some of us won’t make it to the other side, so shouldn’t I do my best to live for today?
And therein lies the rub…
I’m trying to live for today, everyday. I’m also trying to listen to my body, to my soul, and let it relax or do (or don’t do) what it wants in any given moment. I’m giving myself permission to have lazy days, sad days, etc. And when I’m feeling good, I’ll get things done and keep my human connections, virtual that they may be, moving forward.
Yet none of this helps reduce the pain of reality. The pain that I cannot see Justina almost entirely because I happen to love in NYC. The pain of another couple that wants to come see us, but needs to set the proper example for their teenage kids. The pain of another virtual date that, just for a little while, is beautiful and glorious; and then it’s over and the reality of isolation is all around me.
Lastly, the pain for what the world is going through, the people that are sick, the people that are dying, and the people that are struggling to have food and shelter. These are the most important pains, and while I recognize that, they are foreign and distant to me. I don’t know how to process all of this, but I will keep doing so each and every day with the hope that there’s something better awaiting me, awaiting us, “on the other side.”