Self-isolate! It seems to be all the radio and news reports scream out at us right now. And alright, I’ll do that. I’ll stay at home to give the stretched hospital staff the best chance possible to contain this. To survive.

But I will call it something else.

Because isolation makes me think of people who are detached and adrift with no possibility of human connection. Or of those who are incarcerated: prisoners of conscience in authoritarian regimes, who have spoken out and are banished to solitary, airless cells. I know, I hear you, some people are on their own with this, and they don’t want to be. They want to leave their houses and continue with their lives, but they can’t right now. I have a husband and children and I’m not experiencing loneliness, yet if I shudder at self-isolation as an expression, how does it feel for those who have not another soul within their four walls to talk to; for those who really are alone? 

The potency of language is boundless and shapes and moulds our lives. It can help us to feel part of something or it can churn us up and spit us out so that we feel like seed, scattered over barren fields. I don’t want that, I want to belong, even in a time of pandemic. I want to put my fingertips onto the pulse of the breathing world, but as the coldness of this new vernacular digs its roots into the soil, I cannot.

Now is a time for re-imagining language, for re-drawing the boundaries we impose on ourselves with words. So I’m going to scratch out self-isolation. I will call it something warmer, something with more heart. I will call it Sanctuary.

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