What I have since learned from this pandemic is that I have become my new best friend, reacquainted with the person I have been living with for decades. The one I bring along to all occasions, and never go anywhere without.

What an odd realization, I thought, when after being cooped up in the house for so long that I am not as bored as many people around me claim they are. Conversely, I made another interesting discovery: it isn’t the isolation per se which is my personal nemesis, but the lack of options that has suddenly been thrust upon me. My sense of freedom is gone, and has been replaced by an invitation to get to know myself better than I ever have before in ways which require a new mindset. I think of it as another chapter in the never-ending journey towards what we refer to as self-perception.

At first, isolation was sort of a novelty: something to try on like a new pair of shoes that needed to be eased in a bit before feeling comfortable. Similarly, I needed to experiment with my own psyche in order to understand the difference between deprivation and seclusion. I am learning they are not one and the same. En route to that discovery, and without knowing it, I am forming a new relationship with myself - a chance to be reintroduced to an old friend, who looks exactly like me on the outside, but whose inner foundation is antithetical to the person I thought myself to be.

During my thus far eight-week sabbatical from life as I know it, another person has emerged, who bears a complete resemblance to me, but with a few internal alterations.

For starters, I never knew how peaceful I can become when in my own company. Not to say I am unaccustomed to being alone. But an unfamiliar sense of calm began taking over, when out of necessity, I no longer feel rushed or put upon by outside demands that nipped at my ankles each day. The pressure is off. I have been granted a reprieve to simply slow down and literally “smell the coffee.” Well, for me, it’s tea, which I brew each morning in my favorite Italian Alessi teapot,

Instead of the rush to get moving, the urgency to perform is suddenly gone. I am now inhabiting a quieter universe with an alter-ego, who shares my space, and who, in the most mysterious ways, has become my new best friend.

Life continues to be both daunting and creative. While I stay indoors listening to classical music and jazz, I watch the days roll by from outside my windows. And I write — for long hours - on my book, poetry, assigned articles — the perfect combination of two diverse worlds: the one beyond my physical grasp, and the imagined world inside my head.

A friend in Manhattan sent me a photo of the pear tree that blooms outside her fourth-floor Irving Street apartment window, where, similarly cloistered, she finds solace in the small gifts that nature bestows. For me, it’s a flowering forsythia bush, a cluster of daffodils, and the birds alighting on their feeder that serve to delight. Mother Nature perseveres even in the face of adversity.

I always knew I was sturdy and resilient; I’ve been tested on numerous enough occasions to understand that. But those situations were different, and resulted from the loss of two parents, two cats, and a husband. A pandemic serves as another kind of loss, one in which we are forced to relinquish life as we know it, and take on the burden of solitude. Except, is being sequestered a burden, or rather another opportunity to test one’s mettle?

I awaken to new mornings now, prepared for whatever I want to do. I still have deadlines, and responsibilities, but does it really matter if I don’t put on makeup or dress for the day? I find that “casual” far exceeds my preference than “fashionable,” and I have begun to covet my sweatpants and t-shirts. While I could use a good haircut, and I miss Robert over at the Paul Albert Salon, my follicles remind me that I am still very much alive and growing.

I am unusually cheerful in a not-altogether unhappy way. While my friends and I complain that this isn’t easy, at my very core, I feel blessed that I am able to stay fed and hydrated, and that I have people who care about me. I applaud those on the front lines, and I mourn the deaths of those who were not as fortunate as I. Their demise is unfathomable. It’s a terrible time, but one which is accompanied by reflection, and the understanding of what’s really important and what no longer matters.

So, as the world turns, I stay at home with my new best friend, with whom I pass the hours and whom I treat respectfully. By the time all of this ends I would like to think we will be kinder and more accepting of ourselves, and the world around us.

For now, though, my best friend and I hunker down, amusing ourselves in a variety of ways, And, there is always time for tea - with my BFF, who takes it just like I do: no sugar, and very warm and welcoming.\

Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views monthly in the Westport News. She can be reached via email at joodth@snet.net or at judithmarks-white.com.