July 1, 2020

Weekend Recap: Not Alone but Lonely

This was supposed to be a social and fun weekend, but I ended up feeling pretty isolated and alone 🙁

My Friday kicked off in a weird way. On Tuesday, I woke up with my left eye really puffy and swollen – but not at all red or itchy. To be honest, I kind of ignored it for a few days, thinking it would go away on its own, but by Thursday evening, when it was still as swollen as ever, I realized I needed to address it before the weekend.

My optometrist opened at 7am on Friday (amazing?!), so I went for my morning run, then gave them a call before I headed down to my gym to do some strength training. They asked if I could come in immediately, so I skipped the rest of my workout in favor of the doctor. The verdict? A stye – I’d need to treat it with antibiotics and wear glasses for ten days, and that should clear it up. I wasn’t thrilled about not being able to wear my contacts, but it was good news that it wasn’t serious! I was really glad I had taken care of it before the weekend.

My day progressed fairly uneventfully; I knocked out my morning meetings, then drove up to the mountains in between conference calls. (Well, in between video calls; I also took a few phone calls on the road.) Several friends and I had made plans to convene up there to celebrate my friend Mike’s birthday, and I was really excited!

As it turned out, I was the first one up, and there wasn’t really a plan for dinner – we were going to meet at Mike’s condo, but food was TBD. There was discussion of ordering pizzas, so I said I’d head to the grocery and pick up salad ingredients and frozen pizzas, so we could just chill out and eat on our own schedule rather than trying to deal with takeout somewhere. When it comes to pizza, I really like Safeway’s store brand, Signature Select – their dough is really delicious and fluffy! I grabbed three different kinds, and my friends (who are pretty big foodies and appreciate good stuff) absolutely loved the spinach mushroom one in particular. Well, that was easy!

I also baked this s’mores pie, which was a huge hit and got requested again this weekend.

The six of us (Heather, Kirk, Mike, and Brittney) spent the evening eating pizza and drinking wine, and it was a lovely way to kick off the weekend! This is such a great group of friends, and to be honest, I’m kind of proud of how I’ve brought them together 🙂 It’s also a huge bonus for me that I’m able to hang out with so many of the people I love best, and know that they are great friends and enjoying it just as much as I am.

The next morning, we were joined by the two others in our now-regular group, Kelly and Den. (And my comments above definitely apply to them as well – Kelly is one of my oldest and best friends, and the one who got me to move to Colorado!) Now a group of seven, we drove up the bumpy dirt road to Piney River Ranch, to embark on a hike to Lost Lake. The hike was stunningly beautiful, and the company fantastic.

Such a gorgeous, perfect Colorado day too!

Unfortunately, it was after the hike that things for me started to go downhill. We headed into Vail to get lunch, with a plan to sit outside on a restaurant patio. However, when we got into town, most restaurants were busy and didn’t have outdoor dining available. We walked around to a few places, and Heather and I stopped to look in a shop window while the others continued to the Mexican place we thought would have room. Unfortunately, when we got to the restaurant, the rest of the group was already seated inside – saying there weren’t outdoor tables available so this would have to do.

I felt incredibly uncomfortable. From everything I’ve read, eating inside is now being described as one of the most dangerous activities you can do… but I also didn’t want to be difficult, especially on Mike’s birthday. I told the group I would just walk around Vail Village while they ate, and they could call me to meet up after (since we had carpooled and I didn’t have a way home).

Then the waitress offered a small table out on the patio; it just wasn’t big enough for the whole group, so Kelly and Den volunteered to come sit out there with me. While I was happy to get some quality time with Kelly and Den (especially since they hadn’t made it up to the mountains the night before), I felt really guilty that I had literally split the group, and now Kelly and Den were missing out on the fun with everyone else.

Meanwhile, even outside on the patio, the restaurant didn’t do a great job with keeping people safe. Patrons were coming and going without wearing masks, and staff weren’t asking them to put masks on when they weren’t seated at their table. While the tables were spaced okay, people kept walking close by our table without their masks on, making the spacing kind of pointless. I was really uncomfortable throughout the meal, and I think outdoor dining is now something I’m going to be leery of in the future as well.

We finally all finished our meals, and started to head to the parking garage. However, Mike (who was my ride) wanted to spend some time shopping in Vail Village before leaving, so Kelly offered to give me a ride instead. Rather than walking back with us, Mike said to call him when we got to the parking garage and he’d use the remote unlock feature to let me in so I could get my house keys / other stuff from his car. Unfortunately, Mike promptly forgot he promised that, and didn’t notice his phone ringing off the hook as I tried to reach him. Finally, I told Kelly to go on without me, and I headed back to the shop to find Mike. He apologized profusely when I found him, but at that point there was no option but to wait for the foursome that was left to finish shopping. So I spent the next hour awkwardly standing outside the store alone and reading on my phone, continuing my feeling of isolation 🙁

Finally, we headed out, this time en route to Vail Brewing Company – one of my favorite hangout spots in the mountains, and also a place known for their big patio. As a result, this time we were able to get tables outside. It was a huge relief to feel like part of the group again!

The birthday boy, in his fancy new cowboy hat.

After VBC, I dashed home for a quick shower, then headed over to the condo where we were going to meet up for apps and drinks before going to dinner in Beaver Creek. I was pretty excited about dinner at Hooked, a restaurant I’ve wanted to go to for over a year… until I learned that we hadn’t, in fact, reserved an outdoor table; we were instead going to be seated inside. One friend tried to convince me that the restaurant was taking every precaution and I had no reason to worry, and I almost went along with it against my better judgment. But then it came out that we were going to need to take public buses or Ubers to get there and back… and I finally put my foot down. I offered to drive everyone to the restaurant myself, but said (as politely as possible) that I would be dropping them off and that I wouldn’t be staying for dinner.

Ugh, the rest of Saturday night was miserable. After dropping my friends off, I cried for hours, hating that I had to miss out on what I knew would be a great night with my friends in order to stay safe. While I knew deep down (really deep down) I had done the right thing, the whole day made me question my own judgment. These are my best friends, whose opinions I normally really respect, and all of them seemed to think that sitting inside a restaurant wasn’t a big deal. Was I being ridiculous / paranoid to not want to do that?

When I really examined my beliefs, it wasn’t even that I’m personally terrified about getting COVID19. For me, following social distancing protocol is a matter of principle and doing the right thing for my community. According to our governor himself, we are “safer at home and in the vast great outdoors” (yes, that second part is cheesy), and while indoor dine-in is allowed, the state strongly urges us to use take out and outdoor dine-in. Continuing to go about normal life and dine in restaurants is certainly not the right thing to do in the midst of a global pandemic, and while I hated drawing a line in the sand, I couldn’t in good conscience sit inside a restaurant for hours to socialize. It sucked so much to miss out on time with my friends (something I desperately want after several months alone) because of principle rather than a genuine phobia.

I slept terribly Saturday night, feeling incredibly lonely and waking up multiple times in the night. But I tried to make Sunday a new day, and headed out for a hike as soon as I woke up, with my plan to then rejoin the group for breakfast. Unfortunately, wires got crossed, and first I was told breakfast was delayed till 9am, then when I headed out further on the trails, was told that 8am was still on. I finally gave up on meeting up with my friends again, and just focused on my hike.

Unfortunately, luck was not with me here either – I accidentally took a different trail (Grouse Lake) than the one I intended (West Grouse Creek), so while I thought the trail was going to peak at 4.7 miles and then continue in a loop, it actually ended abruptly in a meadow, and I couldn’t figure out where to go. While I was traipsing around the meadow, I pulled out my phone to try to figure out where I was – and all of a sudden, the battery went from 60% to a countdown – 59%, 58%, 50%, 40%, 30% – all within about 10 seconds. The battery finally stopped draining with 4% battery left, and while I had a solar charger with me, I figured it was time to head back – the last thing I wanted was to be lost in the Holy Cross Wilderness with no means of communication!

The lake was pretty, though, and I was really proud I learned how to capture panorama pics with my phone camera (click to enlarge). I didn’t see a single person this entire time – it was so peaceful up here!

Although I couldn’t figure out where the trail would continue (because it didn’t), I was careful to remember where I had come from, so it wasn’t a problem to find the trail down and start heading back. And on the bright side, while I spent a lot of the run sad that my weekend with my friends had turned so lonely, I did thoroughly enjoy the podcasts I listened to while I hiked. While I know she’s going through a bit of drama at the moment, I’ve recently picked up and been really enjoying Rachel Hollis’ Dais Podcast, which is a mix of entrepreneurship and social psychology that always teaches me some new things. While I felt forced into solitude on Saturday night, I realized it was kind of nice on Sunday morning to choose to be alone – which reinforces this article on being alone vs being lonely.

That said, I’m not going to pretend to be positive all around on this. Saturday really sucked, and it put me into a rather depressed mood that lasted most of this week. I’m supposed to meet up with the same group of friends on Friday for a backpacking trip, and I am honestly dreading it. While backpacking seems safe (no restaurants in the wilderness!), I’m nervous about feeling like I’m not part of the group. Saturday made me feel so “othered”, and getting inadvertently left out of the breakfast plans on Sunday perpetuated the feeling. Then on Monday, a group email started a discussion on backpacking meals, but when I suggested switching one, it seemed like the group had already agreed on them in person, so they were kept as-is. Not changing the meal wasn’t the end of the world, but I feel like “the difficult one” is my new role in this group, and I hate it – it makes me question myself any time I express an opinion, rather than being able to relax and feel secure.

It’s been really hard to be home alone by myself, and I’m sure we’re going to be locking down again soon, so I want to enjoy my time with friends while I can. This weekend, though, I felt really alienated, and more lonely than even when I was totally alone throughout the shelter in place. Part of me wants to bail on the backpacking trip this weekend, and make a conscious choice to be alone rather than risk going and feeling lonely in the group; the only thing stopping me from doing that is not wanting to cause drama when we’ve been planning it for weeks.

Even though I’ve been counting down to the extended holiday break since Memorial Day, I’m now really dreading the July 4th weekend as a whole. It feels like a weekend to “just get through” rather than having something to look forward to. Furthermore, my birthday is the weekend after, and while I had originally told this group I’d host them for dinner at my house, I’m also rethinking whether that’s truly a good idea – but as with backpacking, I don’t know how to get out of it, so feel like I’ll need to just suck it up and do it anyway.

More broadly, my birthday is not something I’m looking forward to. Normally I have a full roster of fun treats and activities planned weeks in advance, but this year, I’m wishing I could just ignore it and pretend it’s not my birthday. I just can’t think of something I’d really enjoy doing, with or without friends. Ugh – I need to find a way to shake this despondency!

It’s pretty ironic that I was reasonably happy when we were on complete shelter in place and I was forced to be alone, but now that things are opened up a bit for limited socializing, I’m really lonely and sad. Fingers crossed something will change for the better soon? I’m hoping this backpacking trip won’t be as bad as I think…


6 thoughts on “Weekend Recap: Not Alone but Lonely”

  1. Hi,

    I understand how you are feeling. While I am married so things are a bit different, because my spouse and I can hang out, we have not really seen any friends. We don’t feel comfortable with more than one other couple at a time (and only social distanced) and definitely no eating in restaurants. Now that our case numbers have gone up we have also completely stopped any outdoor dining. When we were eating outdoors we would only do it with us – no friends allowed to patios, because it’s too hard to socially distance. We won’t ride in cars with anyone either. We have a large group of friends who are all meeting together for BBQ’s, etc. so now anyone of them who has been to one of those gatherings we have also stopped hanging out with. This has left one couple that we can see and, luckily, are able to do so about once a week. We are pretty sure that we will lose some of these friends permanently because of this. It’s definitely a tough time for sure! Good luck in getting it all figured out.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you’re having struggles with your friend group too! It’s really frustrating how COVID19 is driving a wedge into otherwise solid friendships, and I also hear your fear of losing friends permanently. I have been considering whether I need to stop hanging out with this group of friends altogether, because of the risks you mentioned, but have just been so reluctant to take that drastic step. Sending best wishes to you and your husband to stay safe and keep doing what makes you comfortable – the social pressure isn’t easy!

  2. Sending good thoughts your way! Navigating friends and Covid is so tricky. I always feel like such a fun sucker even though I’m just trying to keep us and others safe. And it’s so hard to know which guidelines people are following or ignoring. No end in sight makes it even harder. Hang in there!

  3. I am sorry your wkd didn’t go as planned. What I have come to realize is that I can only control my actions and reactions during this difficult time. I have made clear to my friends and family that I am only comfortable seeing them outside (but not at a restaurant patio; I am in TX where the cases are increasing every day). To that end, there are only a few people that I see with any regularity right now. I think if you are upfront with your friends, they will respect your choices. I feel like some of the stress you experienced this wkd could have been avoided if the group had made reservations for outdoor space at restaurants (but since it was for someone else’s bday, i get that could be hard to insist upon). As for the backpacking trip, you need to be armed with information on how y’all plan to be safe for the wkd. I think that would go a long way in easing your mind and making the trip enjoyable for everyone. I hope you end up going!

    1. Hi Ashby – I totally agree with you that everyone has different comfort levels, and it’s important to communicate them! I had told my friends several times before the weekend that I was not comfortable going into a restaurant, and that they were welcome to do so but I would skip that part of the festivities. Unfortunately, while I was originally told we had a reservation outside, it was only at the last minute I learned that was not the case. But I did end up going on the backpacking trip and it went a lot more smoothly!

      Hope you stay safe and healthy 🙂

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