Twice in one day this week, I heard different people mention feeling isolated during this odd time we’re experiencing. We are all so accustomed to our own ways of connecting with the people in our lives that having Zoom meetings and doing FaceTime is not nearly enough. The dread we feel at being sequestered may surprise some of us, as it did me at first, because we’re introverts and we feel we never quite have enough time to ourselves. And yet, with no real end in sight, it’s hard to imagine when we might get to truly bond with anyone outside our own tiny circles.
It’s made me think a lot about the fragility of connection and isolation, and how little attention I’ve paid to it in times when getting to hug those around me felt like a right, not a privilege. Last year, one of my best friends moved to San Diego—nearly 500 miles from here. We used to work together, but it’s been several years since our paths crossed on a daily basis. This has made us both more accustomed to the intentionality required to connect with each other. But having her so far away geographically has heightened not only how much it means to me to touch base with her, but the thought that it takes to do it. Do I have the time to have a meaningful conversation? Am I calling her in the middle of something she might be doing? Are we keeping up with each other in a way that represents the significance of our relationship?
This quarantine has made me realize that I’m often apathetic and uncreative about connecting.
The pandemic has reminded me of how important being intentional about connecting really is. It’s often not enough to just touch base, although that’s usually all we feel we have time for. And part of being close to someone is considering what’s going on with them. Is me reaching out going to feel like one more thing they need to fit into their lives?
More than anything, I’m thinking that we get lazy about how we connect with each other, even when we’re pandemic-free. We rely on quick texts, memes and emojis, and empty language that describes our lives and communicates concern, but doesn’t go much further. I’m not suggesting we all start having heart-to-heart conversations with everyone we know. It's just that, without connection with each other, we don’t have much. This quarantine has made me realize that I’m often apathetic and uncreative about connecting. I seem to have lost my energy for reaching out, opening up, talking truthfully about my life, and listening with intent to someone else.
During graduation time in June, we received a real, handwritten thank-you note from the lovely 18-year-old daughter of a wonderful writer friend of ours. When I found myself taking the little envelope to the couch and settling in to read it, I realized how rarely I receive anything personal in the mail, much less something funny, intelligent, and really well-written. And more than anything, it made me feel connected—to her and her parents both. In short, it meant a lot.
I’ve written often about feeling the relative shortness of the amount of time I have left in my life, and it is sometimes all I can do not to lapse into regret over hours I feel I’ve wasted. I get it that everything I've done was part of the bigger picture of my life, but I am learning to deeply appreciate what I do have and the amazing people whom I am blessed to know and love. And it is reminding me that taking the time to connect is probably more important than most of what any of us spends time doing.
In these weird days, when we’re all scared and tired and generally kind of grumpy, I’m reminding myself of the value of these connections. Maybe one big lesson of COVID is how much the ways we talk with, listen to, hear and see each other can create a bridge among all of us. And hopefully it’s a lesson I take with me when we head out again to connect with each other in real life.