If you are in the same situation as me, you are mostly staying home with the members of your household, except for necessary outings like getting food, gas, or just getting a breath of fresh air. Many of you may also be working from home, as I am. As a result, you may be feeling rather isolated. And that’s where I wanted to make my point. Had this virus hit 25 years ago, we wouldn’t have had all the technology to connect with each other like we do now. We only had telephone and maybe email for some. Now, we can see each other on a big screen TV and talk to friends and relatives who live on the other side of the globe. That’s pretty much what I have been doing during the past couple of weeks. My cousins and sisters live in Europe and elsewhere. We created this chat group on WhatsApp, last year, and we had been using it to keep each other up to date. But now that we’re all stuck at home, we have been ramping it up, sharing silly videos of ourselves, singing out of tune and doing crazy dance moves… No. I will not be posting those in the show notes!…
Social isolation is known to affect physical health, mental health, and longevity. Some studies even suggest that isolation has similar impact on your health and mortality as smoking, high blood pressure, or obesity. Research also indicates that loneliness may contribute to poor cognitive performance, faster cognitive decline, more negativity, more depression, and an increasing mistrust of our fellow human beings, leading to a vicious cycle of isolating even more. This is why it is even more critical at this time to overcome any tendency to cut yourself off from others, even if just out of laziness. It may not be as easy for you to reach out, now. Or maybe it is. Some of us have grown accustomed to checking in with each other via electronics, while others are more face-to-face kinds of people. For the latter, it may be a good idea to let go of that preference, for the time being, and embrace electronic means of communication.
But there is a notion of “hanging out” that may need to be developed more in this new context. When I’m home with my family, that’s what we do. We just “hang out.” That means we do our thing, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes together. We read, text, cook, eat, wash, send emails, pet the dog, call a friend, watch TV, water the plants, sweep the floor… Sometimes we talk to each other, sometimes we don’t, sometimes we just talk to ourselves with the awareness that others are within earshot. That’s what hanging out looks like in the physical presence of others.
When we make a phone call, a FaceTime call, a Skype call, a Zoom call, we often make the assumption that we need to have something to say in order to check in, and when we’re done with our back-and-forth exchange, we have to hang up. What if you called your parents, your child, your sibling, your best friend, and tell them to just keep their video session open while you go about your business around the house, and they do the same. It’s like having company without them being physically there. Every now and then, you can go, “Hey, mom, I just remembered, I talked to Bob, last night. He said he’s doing fine…” Why not use this multitude of video platforms that connect us via the internet as an extension of our living room into someone else’s? And then, we could learn that we can be with each other in silence, that communication does not always mean words. Once things return to normality, as they always do, even if it’s the new normal, the practice of being with each other without the expectation that we need to keep a conversation going could also be part of the new normal.
I think that this pandemic has a lot to teach us. We may decide to learn those lessons, or we may not. But if you are listening to me, I know that you are one of those souls who have chosen the path of transformation. I would be delighted to hear from you and to read about the insights that today’s situation has led you to.