“Some journeys in life can only be traveled alone” once reflected a self-made man, mentor and entrepreneurial speaker, and in a similar vein Greta Garbo famously declared, in her many film roles, a recurring wish “to be alone”. Her many fictional characters resembling her off-screen persona, as she left the stage behind she kept wanting to be left alone, to shake off the pesty paparazzi, and disappear from the Hollywood limelight once and for all. Opting for a solitary existence, she certainly stood by her words as she led a life of increased self-imposed isolation pretty much from age 35 until her passing in New York 1990; her life a dialogue between her native Sweden and America. In doing so, she closed the door on one chapter and began another, quite different, away from the public adoration, the bright lights, the glamour and the glory – yet, all along, she went her own way and never fell prey to the celebrity hype.
In a way we can draw a sweeping comparison with Garbo as we make our way through a year of restrictions and limitations, where isolation and alone time have become our new guiding stars across the globe ̶ not because we openly craved for it (or knew that, in reality, we did) but as a result of enforced government regulations. This year sees people either crumble under the pressure of having to stand their own company (with social media offering perfect forums for the verbal release of much bottled-up anger and frustrations), or thrive all the more under new conditions. Limited yet limitless, we may be restricted in our movements but in our internal space away from the world as we knew it and the people in it, some look inward and within, explore their own potential and discover personal capabilities they may not have been aware of as the pre-pandemic world kept spinning fast; a centrifugal force that left little room for reflection.
With a shift in perspective happening already as we age and enter new decades and episodes in our lives, elderly loved ones disappear but remain in memoriam. In the middle of the grief that comes from private loss we must learn to face uncertainty and allow ourselves to feel the sadness wash over us. Yet at the same time, as some of us experience personal trauma at the backdrop of a global crisis that impact us all to varying degrees, we must also actively embrace an ongoing process of self-love and self-care. Giving ourselves a break from our own ruminating thoughts and at times self-critical tendencies we ought to instead tap into our own creativity and learn to better and more perceptively appreciate the beauty that was there all along– in the arts, music, literature, and in the poetry between words we did not pay proper attention to but that suddenly start to make real and better sense. And through all this aesthetic appreciation we ultimately also discover the healing effects of stillness, meditation and silence.
Less movement but greater reflection and self-discovery: this is our chance to listen to what’s really going on at a time when we have been given a golden opportunity to turn off the noise and ignore the distractions. Could it be that through that inward gaze we are able to finally glimpse a bit of our own soul? Perhaps the real power of connection lies in connecting not so much with others but more in-depth with ourselves ̶ with the Me, the Myself and the I.