Single, Childfree, And Petless In A Pandemic — Then And Now

(Dear BloggEEs. This is the first of a new addition to my blog. I am going to occasionally add personal essays and journal entries for your reading pleasure. I am a little nervous about this. Please continue to like, comment, and share, as usual. Let me know what you think. Enjoy! And thank you. They will be compiled on my new Musings page.)

Single, Childfree, and Petless in a Pandemic – Part One

(Wearing my emotional support sweater)

March 2020 – The Beginning

This forced isolation has me rattled. And a little faklempt. Maybe a lot faklempt.

I think it is because of all of the unknowns. How long will this last? Is this the beginning of a series of traumatic climate change events? Will I get sick? Will the internet go down and I’ll no longer be able to see my clients online and my income will dry up?  Will I run out of hair gel? Will my computer die so I will have to stop blogging?  Will human beings never become enlightened? Will I fall and break some important bone, not be able to reach the phone, die and not be found for weeks? Will my acupuncturist move to Portland? Will I lose the opportunity to finally find the love of my life because dating sites are forced to shut down and tango dancing is banned forever? 

Did I mention that I have ruminating tendencies?

I am single, childfree, and petless. In my 60’s. I have lived pretty contentedly alone for much of my adult life with two breaks for short-ish but significant relationships. I am an introvert through and through. Solitude is my friend. I have always been driven to build a meaningful career path and to create a better world. I am less in need of a traditional family. And so, I have created a fulfilling work life, loving friendships, and a sweet, comfortable nest for myself. 

But still. I was not prepared for lockdown.

I am coping by using a combination of approaches. (I am a psychotherapist so I know a lot of them.) I am ramping up my spiritual practice. Reading trusted news sources. Zooming with family members and friends. But, actually, I am mostly using one tactic. 

Denial. Denial is not something psychotherapists usually recommend to clients but pandemic disorder is not found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual either. So, I use denial and try not to think about all of those ruminated possibilities. (Denial, as in, not thinking about it. Not denial, as in, touching and breathing on people.)

But, lately, denial is not working so well.  I am worried about the future. Even though solitude is still my friend, and I have acquired an emotional support animal in the form of a cozy chenille sweater that I wear almost every day, I am wondering if it is time to invite someone, a male partner, to join me in my nest. Virtually, of course, for now.     

Truth is, back in the day when nuclear war was the threat we all prepared for, I would think, “I want a person who thinks of me first, who finds me first, when the bomb drops.”

I still want that person. And now would be a great time for you to show up. I want a person who thinks of me first, when the pandemic hits. 

Oh, wait. The pandemic has hit. 

Text me. 

I will be at home.

Single, Childfree, and Petless in a Pandemic – Part Two

March 2021 – A Year Later

It has been a year. I am no longer so rattled, or faklempt. At least no more than I was during the years before the pandemic. Turns out if you are a psychotherapist during a pandemic, you have job security and human (online) contact.  In fact, if you are a highly sensitive introverted therapist like me, working online is kinda fine. I can still reach my clients through the screen. (My empathy, it turns out, is teleportable.) Some of my clients even prefer staying home in their own cozy chairs with their blankets and tea. It seems that, for some, the safety of their own nest allows them to be more vulnerable than they might be sitting across from me, in real life, face to face, bodies in the room, together. So, when it comes to work, income, and continuing to feel connected to a larger purpose, Covid-19 did not get the best of me.

And because I had even more time than usual, because I was not going to the gym, socializing at the café, traveling to visit relatives, or tango dancing into the night, my blog was more of a priority and I was more open to expanding my practice into international consulting. In fact, the switch to online conferencing made it possible for me to accept offers to speak I would have otherwise declined. To audiences in the Netherlands and France. To clients in Cyprus and Belgium and beyond. 

Of course, I would not have survived so well if this had happened in, say, 1985. No Internet. No cell phone. No Instagram. No Skype. No Zoom. No Voxer. No Venmo. I would have been a wreck in a 1985 pandemic. If there had to be a pandemic, well, 2020 was a good year. 

So, I am grateful. 

And so far, even my 2020 ruminations have not come to pass. I did not get sick. No one I know died. I did not break any bones and die a slow death until I was found three weeks later. My internet kept working so I could see clients and keep blogging. My acupuncturist did not move to Portland. I did not run out of hair gel. 

It is kind of a miracle. 

I do understand that a couple of my ruminations are still alive and well. The ones about climate change and humanity never becoming enlightened. There is still that. When I look beyond my smallish comfortable world, I could easily start rattling or faklempting again. But, instead, I take a breath, and remember my assignment. I am here on planet Earth to help smart, sensitive souls self-actualize and create a better world.

Oh, and there is one more rumination: Will I lose the opportunity to finally find the love of my life because dating sites are forced to shut down and tango dancing is banned forever? 

Well. Dating sites are going strong. Tango is just on hold for now. So. The opportunity is not lost. I will be vaccinated next week. The invitation stands. Join me now, love of my life. My hair gel won’t last forever.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

38 responses to “Single, Childfree, And Petless In A Pandemic — Then And Now”

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  1. tallgirl79 Avatar

    I am an introvert but I have a kid, dog, and a cat. I sometimes have to take a trip to Starbucks to get away from them. I didn’t think the quarantine would impact me much as I always stay away from people because I am not a fan BUT it got to me. I lost a lot of people. My mom is currently in the hospital and we can’t see or touch her which is very hard. My best friend lost her son to suicide in October. I did go to see her though. Now she has lost someone to COVID. She went through a pregnancy as well and her husband couldn’t come to the appointments. It ended up being harder than I thought it would be. Hopefully, this is the end. As a person that suffers from bipolar disorder, I have had to talk to my therapists more often as well. I also started drinking which is not good with my meds. It’s hard. I am a medical coder so I have been working from home for 6 years already so I’m good on working. I just really want to go to a beach. I think that hurt me the most.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, tallgirl79, that is so much to deal with. I’m glad you have therapists and are talking with them more. Sending you much love. <3

  2. Amy Avatar

    Thank you for having the courage to leave a more personal post. I feel like that’s such an important part of connection that we’ve been leaving out of the internet in the past few years.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Amy. And more will be coming!

  3. dirtbagdad Avatar

    Thank you for daring to take a chance and be bravely vulnerable. Simply by the number of comments here, I can see you likely have abundant support. So it goes with vulnerability; often what we most fear is replaced with generous support and empathy. And as a fellow RFMer, you’ll understand that I don’t need to worry about you plumbing this alone. 😺

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      That is so true, dirtbagdad. Vulnerability is strength! Good to hear from you. 🙂

  4. Stef Avatar

    Finally got around to reading this, Paula–I, who am also doing this whole pandemic thing alone–though a friend sent me a “robot cat” as a support animal (it purrs, meows, licks its paws and rolls over to have its chest rubbed) but isn’t good at cuddling me and warming me, as your sweater must be. A big difference is that I got a clear message to PAUSE during the Covid time, which means that I spent a year not writing. At least not writing for anyone else to read. “Turning inward” it could be called. The good news is that a novel that’s been on hold for 20 years actually needed the events of 2020 to set seeds and the pause to “germinate.” The bad news is that fiction writers (which I mostly am) are constitutionally created to visualize (and expand on) conflict. Nobody would read a book where the main character[s] get everything they want when they want it. Intense imagination (coupled with gifted connected thinking) can be a hard companion when watching the news in times such as these. And empathy can be downright deadly. But the “energies” are changing, as all the “weird folk” are saying. People need what you do and will go on and on needing it as the ramifications of massive world change continue. Glad to see your musings and trust you will be dancing soon.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you so much, Stef. I always love hearing from you. Exciting to hear there may be a new novel coming our way!

  5. Em Avatar

    Thank you for your lovely words Paula💚
    I have just found this site and am so heartened and teary eyed by your words and others here!
    I am not on any social media and don’t find Zoom brings me much comfort in connecting…in fact I feel quite distant from others through it….so I am glad to find some other sensitive souls here.
    I love animals, but I am not really interested in owning and caring for a pet, that seems overwhelming, even in a pandemic…I have many, many plants though, and talk to them, as well as the dear trees in my daily wanders through the forest behind my house.
    I have lived alone now for 3 years after a horrible divorce from a 25 year relationship, and was terrified at the beginning of the pandemic knowing I was alone now and there would not be anyone to help out in any way or care for me if I needed it, and I was looking at losing my job permanently and was so isolated through last year.
    I live in a tiny but wonderful state and am used to a fair amount of isolation and self reliance, but it has still been daunting.
    I feel more at ease now… what will be will be…what comes, comes.
    It’s nice to share some thoughts here and I will keep reading all your insights and experiences!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, Em. I’m so glad you found us. You are so welcome! Yes, keep reading.

  6. Deborah Avatar

    Paula, that was great and I feel like I got to know you. Thanks for sharing your deep thoughts. I agree with you that this pandemic happened at a good time especially for us who have internet access. I was working remotely for a while until I was eventually laid off a couple of months ago. Retirement is definitely an option, so in my case, this too is good news. I am single, my children are adults, no grandchildren and one sweet cat. I wish you were a little farther north (I live just north of Seattle). It would be an honor to meet you.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Deborah. If you come to Eugene, post-pandemic, we’ll have to have tea. 🙂

  7. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    I think I may have deleted a comment that I meant to approve. So if you sent a comment and don’t see it here. please send it again. So sorry!

  8. dmstauber Avatar

    I love this, Paula!!!!! And I can testify that your empathy is eminently teleportable.

  9. Gail Post Avatar
    Gail Post

    Paula, Love this! So glad you got through the year and are doing well. This has been such a tough year – and for me, at least, one that required a heaping amount of endurance and also some of the denial you mention. Providing therapy through Zoom was not bad at all – I kind of liked it, too. And I have saved a lot on haircuts (did them myself all year up until a month ago), car expenses, and new shoes! Wishing you well going forward. Gail

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Gail. Are you still consulting with parents of gifted kids outside of PA? I’ve been wanting to refer people to you.

  10. Cathy Stoppel Avatar
    Cathy Stoppel

    Wonderful read today. Thank you Paula! ❤️

  11. viviendoconintensidad7 Avatar

    Thank you Paola. I am a therapist of rainforestminds like myself in Spain and I feel every word you have said in this post.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You are a therapist in Spain? There are a number of readers here from Spain who might want to meet you! Would you like to post your website here so they can find you?

      1. viviendoconintensidad7 Avatar
        viviendoconintensidad7 Thanks Paola¡ Abrazos 😉

        1. viviendoconintensidad7 Avatar

          By the way, I recommend your book to all my clients

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Thank you!

  12. Nan Nichols Avatar
    Nan Nichols

    Paula, your posts, blogs, and books have stabilized me during this past traumatic year. The slow-down has allowed time to discover my own 2E nature and come to terms with a rainforest life of 60+ years. You are a light that shines…sending you good juju as we continue to navigate lives well live.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for the juju, Nan!

  13. cathytea Avatar

    We made it! Now, we just keep on going. Here’s to our resilience!

  14. Tanya Avatar

    I love reading your blog, Paula, and I wish you were my neighbor. I’m hundreds of miles away, though, and not planning to move, so I’ll keep checking in here. Knowing you exist makes me a bit more optimistic that I could find someone like you in my neck of the woods. I need to put in some effort to find friends.

    Also, this line: “I take a breath, and remember my assignment. I am here on planet Earth to help smart, sensitive souls self-actualize and create a better world.”

    I like the verbiage of an assignment, maybe just because it’s a familiar word applied in a new way. I’m going to think on that for myself. I think it’ll help clarify things a bit.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m sure you can find someone in your woods, Tanya! It’s not easy to find RFMs, but they are out there.

  15. itssue42 Avatar

    Oh so wonderful and fun to read your words and make me smile and feel more at peace. Reassuring to know that I’m not the only one with thoughts that I label in myself as bad somehow, when it’s really a part of being human. We’re “just” humans which I often find annoying! Hah! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Petless?? I firmly believe everyone needs at least 1 dog or cat or whatever spirit animal sings to you. They are a comfortable solidity when tossed on a turbulent sea; plus always being goofy and fun and loving. But then of course I also firmly believe that everyone should take up ballroom dancing; so great for mind/body/spirit. 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I know so many people have adopted animals this past year and it has made a difference. I’m not an animal person, though, but dancing?? Yeah!

  16. Kristen Avatar

    Thank you for making me laugh this morning “My hair gel won’t last forever!” Please keep sharing!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I shall, Kristen. Glad to get you laughing!

  17. annakirksmith Avatar

    Never be too nervous of undertaking things that you ask others to do for you (e.g. sharing personal thoughts), they’ll appreciate the honesty, it gives them more permission to share (I swallowed that pill previously as a teacher)! Lovely post Paula. It has been an amazing ride recently to say the least – well done on surviving – we are starting to emerge from lockdown here in the UK, but no sign of Tangoing any time soon 😉 Hoping for you that the love comes along – it may in an unexpected moment… in an unstructured and unforseen way. You’re not only here to help ‘us’, but also to enjoy a wholesome life yourself. Thank you for being you, as you are very much appreciated x

    1. Abbie Robson Avatar
      Abbie Robson

      Another UK reader here! I’m most relieved for the opportunity to walk with people in ‘real life’ (which has been a long time coming because the hubster has been shielding most of the year). I’m an introvert, but I find that when I’m in conversation with someone I need to listen to their whole body, if that makes sense?! I am quite keen to start dancing again as well though!

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Well said, Abbie. “To listen to their whole body.” Yes.

    2. Abbie Robson Avatar
      Abbie Robson

      Where abouts in the UK are you?

      1. annakirksmith Avatar

        Hi Abbey,
        I’m in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, happily by the sea. You?

    3. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Anna, you are so right! If I am asking you to share yourself, then I need to do it, too! Thank you. Good to hear from you. Here’s to our tango futures!

  18. hksounds Avatar

    Thanks for sharing. If you have done/are doing your best, what more can you ask of yourself? Maybe double check your priorities from time to time? but I think you probably already do that.