The longest period I spent completely alone during this pandemic was one week. I spent the week reading the increasingly distressing news on my phone, desperately wanting to do something, to be a small part of some collective action against the tightening authoritarian grip of the Tory government. Instead, I sat alone in my rented room, waiting, worrying and reading.
A few years ago, a friend bought me The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks. When I picked up the book, I drew no connecting line between these 4th Century monks sitting in their cells in the Egyptian desert, waiting for the world to end, and myself, sitting, in the 21st Century, in my room in South East London. Perhaps with good reason; these monks spent decades in near or complete isolation, barely eating, sleeping or drinking – I spent a week scrolling on my phone and eating takeaway pizzas. But eventually I did begin to ask a question that connected my experience with theirs: What am I doing in here by myself, when terrible things are happening to us out there?