How to be at Home, an animated poem

Lean into loneliness this season, if you’re feeling a little adrift — and know you’re not alone in it.

Canadian filmmaker Andrea Dorfman (an old friend of the late Lisa Korthals, so can we adopt her as honorary Pembertonian?) reunited with poet Tanya Davis to craft tender and profound animation on the theme of isolation, providing a wise and soaringly lyrical sequel to their viral hit How to Be Alone.

Heads up – an f-bomb is dropped within the first 3 seconds, so please pardon the French.

If gathering is your primary source of medicine, routine or festival for this season, the restrictions we are being asked to embrace are a real loss and a challenge. Let’s acknowledge that it’s hard.

And we can do hard things. Especially when they’re meaningful, and are genuinely a way of serving one another.

As a friend recently said to me, it can be challenging to be a good kind giving community member – do you carry people’s groceries? do you donate money or time? It can be tricky to navigate the best ways to do that, while respecting other people and fitting it in with our daily obligations, she shared… so how nice it is to realise that laying low, staying home and wearing a mask are actually three incredibly powerful contributions we can make to the Greater Good. I liked that reframe.

How To Be At Home, Andrea Dorfman, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

“If people are your nourishment, I get you.

Feel the feelings that undo you.”

via New Earth Institute

How to Be At Home

by Tanya Davis

If you are, at first, really fucking anxious,

just wait.

It will get worse.

And then you’ll get the hang of it.


Start with the reasonable feelings:

discomfort, lack of focus, the sadness of alone.

You can try to do yoga.

You can shut off the radio when it gets to you.

You can message your family or your friends or your colleagues.

You’re not supposed to leave your home anyways, so it’s safe for you.

There’s also the gym.

You can’t go there, but you could pretend to.

You could bendy by yourself in your bedroom.

And there’s public transportation –

probably best to avoid it.

But there’s prayer and meditation,

yes, always. Employ it.

If you have pains in your chest cause your anxiety won’t rest

take a moment, take a breath.

Start simple,

things you can handle based on your interests,

your issues, and your triggers and your inner logistics.

I miss lunch-counters so much, I’ve been eating sandwiches and pickles

while hanging unabashedly with my phone.

When you are tired, again, of still being alone,

make yourself a dinner. But don’t invite anybody over.

Put something green in it, or maybe orange.

Chips are fine sometimes, but they won’t keep you charged,

feed your heart.

If people are your nourishment, I get you.

Feel the feelings that undo you while you have to keep apart.

Watch a movie in the dark and pretend someone is with you.

Watch all of the credits

because you have time and not much else to do.

Or watch all of the credits to remember

how many people come together

just to tell a story.

Just to make a picture move.

And then, set yourself up dancing, like it’s a club where everybody knows you,

and they’re all going to hold you

all night long.

They’re going to dance around you. And with you. And on their own.

It’s your favourite song, with the hardest bass and the cathartic drum,

your heart pumps hard, you belong.

You put your hands up to feel it.

With the comedown, comes the weeping.

Those downward eyes and feelings.

The truth is, you can’t go dancing. Not right now.

Not at any club or party in any town.

And the heartbreak of this astounds you.

It joins old aches way down in you.

You can visit them.

But please don’t stay there.

Go outside, if you’re able.

Breathe air.

There are trees for hugging.

Don’t be embarrassed.

It’s your friend, it’s your mother, it’s your new crush.

Lay your cheek against the bark. It’s a living thing to touch.

Sadly, leave all benches empty.

Appreciate the kindness, and the distance, of strangers.

As you pine for company and wave at your neighbours,

savour the depths of your conversations,

the layers of comfort in this strange space and time.

Society is afraid of change and no-one wants to die.

Not now, from a tiny virus.

Not later, from the world on fire.

But death is a truth we all hate to know.

We all get to live, and then we all have to go.

In the meantime, we’re surrounded, we’re alone,

each a thread woven in the fabric

unraveling in moments, though

each a solo entity spinning on its axis,

forgetting that the galaxy includes us all,

here in our fall,

from grace, from each other, from God,

whatever, it doesn’t matter.

The disaster is that we believe we’re separate.

We’re not.

As evidenced by viruses taking down societies.

As proven by the loneliness inherent in no gathering.

As palpable as the vacancy in the space of one person hugging.

If this disruption undoes you,

if the absence of people unravels you,

if touch was the tether that held you together,

and now that it’s severed, you’re fragile too,

lean into loneliness. And know you’re not alone in it.

Lean into loneliness, like it is holding you.

Like it is a generous representative of a glaring truth.

Oh. We are connected.

We forget this.

Yet we always knew.

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