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Staying Connected, No Matter What

As I work to figure out how I’m going to get through these weeks and maybe months of quarantine (and still be sane), I’ve developed more than my share of theories and plans. One idea, of course, is that maybe I can learn some lessons from this forced simplicity and then, when our lives are back to normal, I’ll be more appreciative of what I have, and I’ll need a lot less. I can only wish for this result though, because I’m old enough to know that I’m not always guided by what’s right.

Each day does get a bit easier, as I figure out a work schedule that I can manage from my living room. I’m also getting a little better at not imagining all the terrible things that might happen, and at making it seem somewhat normal that I haven’t left my home except for a walk or a run in more than two weeks. I’m even finding myself in awe of our ability to normalize something as strange as this. But what strikes me the most—each and every day—is what all of this does to our connection to each other.

Our relationship with each other is what makes the difference in everything we do.

I know that, on an average day in our regular lives before the pandemic, we all loved our friends and families. But I also know that the business of our days filled our time, and that we often took each other for granted. As an introvert, I was actually glad when I could come home after a busy day and not have to make conversation with lots of different people. Now, besides my partner, the only time I connect with another human is on a Zoom call for my job. Jodi and I do occasionally cross the street and sit six feet apart from our neighbors, and I run a couple of times a week with my best friend and lifelong running partner, but it’s not the same.

And here’s what’s weird about this. For me, more than a belief in a higher power, or a practice designed to ground me in my spiritual self, our relationship with each other is what makes the difference in everything we do. It’s what balances us, what reminds us of what’s important, and what keeps us honest. Even when we race past each other with perfunctory hellos, we still know we’re here.

But in this very odd time, most of that has to be left to memory and trust. We don’t get to hug each other, sit at tables and drink cups of coffee, or linger over delicious dinners. Our connections now are on computer screens. We laugh at customized virtual backgrounds, show each other our dogs and cats, make jokes about our hair getting long or gray in this time of no hairdressers, and fumble with keyboard commands and voice delays. It’s not what we’re used to, by any means, and it’s not the same as true human contact, but it makes it clear that we need it, no matter what.

It’s hard not to think that this thing is filled with life lessons about gratitude and grace and generosity. It’s difficult to imagine that we will go back to only casually and occasionally appreciating each other and all that we have. But I’m thinking today that the big reminder in all of this is how much we need each other. I find myself longing to see the faces and hear the voices of the people in my life, even if they are sometimes pixilated. I long to know that my people are ok, that they’re safe, and that they are not alone.

When something as strange as this occurs, we’re thrown into a tailspin. We’re trying to do our regular, old lives while simultaneously managing the many ramifications of this surreal new one. We’re scared, we’re worried, we’re tired, and we’re unsure what’s going to happen next. What rises to the top in all of this is our connection to each other. We reach out, even if it’s electronically, and remind each other that we’re here, that we’re listening, and that we care. It’s all we can do and it’s all we’ve got, but right now it’s everything.

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