I haven’t written to you all in a while, and I’ve missed talking to you all through my writing here at Social Tinkering. With all the chaos of this year I just hit a mental wall for the last several weeks and didn’t know what to write about anymore. Everything just got a bit overwhelming and my ideas escaped me and I needed time to pull back and re-group for a bit. I’m guessing you can all relate to this one way or another. I’ve spent the last month or two focusing completely on my family and on things I’ve needed to focus on for a very long time. Although this year has been a huge mess with one awful crazy thing happening after the next, there are some good things coming out of it too if we choose to look for them. It seems to be a common theme that time is a gift we have all been given in some form or another. Time to finally be still for a bit, time to think, time to share with loved ones, time to read, and time to give attention to the things that are important to us.
As I reflect on the last couple of months, I think about all the different conversations I’ve had with friends and acquaintances. I have friends who are in the middle of unexpected pregnancies and planned pregnancies – difficult before COVID but far more complicated, lonely, and even scary at times to be pregnant now, but these friends say some good things have shown up surprisingly too. I have friends who have become parents for the first time in the middle of COVID, who have hardly any support system because of the strains of COVID, who are discovering how strong they truly are. There are people I know who have stepped up to be the sole providers for their families as their partners or spouses have lost jobs. There are people I’ve spoken to and read about who are having to close their small businesses or who are struggling to keep their small business open, while concurrently becoming educators and caregivers full-time to their children. Being a parent right now might mean doing the work of 2 or 3 full-time jobs and COVID is making it painfully clear to those of us who are parents that it truly does take a village and just how far we have moved away from operating as a village in today’s culture. I regularly speak to and often think of my single friends and hope they are doing okay living alone during this time, not being able to socialize normally all these months. As for me, I was a stay at home mom before this for several years and though I am not able to start the business I intended to this year, my life is not that much changed. I suppose I will simply continue to be a stay at home mother for at least another year since my kids will need care and help with learning from home.
The thing that has impacted me the most this year has been feeling lonely and socially isolated. We moved all the way across the country a year and a half ago to a place where we knew no one. This community has welcomed us more than any other we have ever lived in and we love it here and we quickly made a circle of friends, but COVID has made it impossible for us to visit old friends and has made it very difficult to grow our new friendships. Can anyone relate to this? Are you all feeling a bit lonely yet? I am certain I am not alone feeling the impact of not socializing normally, even though we are partially back to normal life.
Most of the world started this pandemic off trying to fill our time in quarantine through our imaginations and creativity, finding ways to stay occupied and not go stir crazy. Reading, learning how Zoom works, catching up with family and friends over the phone, spending too much time on social media, binging Netflix, doing puzzles, making up dance routines, and taking lots of walks if we were fortunate enough to live somewhere less populated, all sounds very familiar to each of us. From there things started to slowly re-open, but for many people life is still much different than we’d like it to be. Still, we are unable to see each other normally, travel normally, or interact with strangers while running errands as we used to.
This week I walked 5 blocks to our downtown area and ran several errands. It was almost unnerving as I turned corners or opened doors at the same time someone else did from the opposite direction. Normally, I might smile and say hello and comment on the day to this stranger opposite me or at the very least nod and acknowledge their existence. But now we almost purposely avoid each other’s eyes and veer as far away from each other as physically possible. If we start to automatically react to each other with a smile and a comment on the day, it is quickly muffled and pushed down within us by not only our masks but by the immediate reminder that life is not normal. I think this has been one of the hardest things for me, this constant need to remember that life is not normal, that I must steer clear of other humans and avoid contact and can’t even really express through facial expressions my fellow humanity. Perhaps this is not so hard for some people, as I think in our modern society we have become disconnected from each other a long time before COVID ever hit us. For me, I am a very socially interactive person, even with strangers, even if no words are exchanged, and so this necessary reaction to steer clear now is almost a painful knee jerk reaction and makes me sad each time it occurs to see how much further disconnected we are now. Before COVID loneliness and social isolation were huge threats to our health and mental well-being. Before COVID I was reading many articles a week on the research being done on happiness and loneliness and social connection. That is what brought me to start this concept called Social Tinkering. But now, as the experts have predicted, our disconnection from each other is only broadening. We can all feel it as we read the news of the many tremendous issues our society is struggling to face every day. I feel it not only walking down the street in my little small town, but in the obvious forced reduction in social interactions, and in the increased time periods between calls as we all become tired of seeing each other only on Zoom and are foregoing even that so that we have one less reminder that we cannot be together in person.
Of course as I’m writing this, I am well aware that in many places in this country and the world, many people do not believe COVID is a real threat and are out having the time of their lives getting together for parties, attending events with hundreds of people without masks, even going so far as to hold protests against school districts that are requiring their children wear masks to school. It is a strange world we live in where some people are quarantining completely to protect themselves and their families from the potentially devastating circumstances of COVID, while others are not even believing in its existence or their role in transmitting the disease. Trying to find reason in all of this can be completely overwhelming.
This week I am writing to just let you all know that you’re still not alone out there. That we can still come together and find ways to meaningfully connect even though this stupid pandemic seems like it might never end at times. It is critical that we keep trying to connect somehow, in whatever manner makes us each feel comfortable and safe. We need to remember that we are a part of something larger than ourselves and our tiny sanctuaries. We are part of a larger society where our single actions have waves of effects that we will never fully have knowledge of. Time is of the essence here. This is a time to re-focus our lives. It is a time to remember what is truly important. It is a time that we need to remember that it takes a village for each and every one of us to live healthy and happy lives, whether we are elderly, children, parents, in a partnership, or single adults. It takes a village to maintain healthy individuals as well as a healthy society.
So my friends, my challenge to you this week, after all these weeks of being silent and reflecting, is this: FIND YOUR VILLAGE. Remember your village, seek out your village, form your village, do whatever you need to do for where you are currently at, but find your village my friend. You need each other more than you realize, and it is worth the time to build your village around you.
Thank you to my village this week and so many other weeks in the past for making sure I get re-connected when I start drifting away. You mean more to me than you might realize.
“Community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves, but for one another.” Henri J.M. Nouwen