Let us remember to look after one another
Life is rarely easy. No matter how independent or self-sufficient or introverted we are or say we are, we need other people. For interaction, companionship, to love & be loved, for help, and so much more. In-person interaction is vital to our existence. However, that’s not something we all have easy access to, currently exacerbated by the current situation with COVID-19/Coronavirus.
More Americans are living alone than ever before. Almost one third of the population lives alone. (I count myself among that population.) Like many introverts and so many memes, we’ve been “training for this all our lives” because we more often choose those times of solitude from interaction. Mildly funny, but a poor reflection of our current reality. That hasn’t previously excluded being alone in public, like coffee shops, stores, and restaurants.
Additionally, this moment in history and our society adds extra and unspoken stress on those of us single and living on our own. I can appreciate that life is different for the family or couple who’s now on top of each other day and night. Or for the roommates who don’t have to see each other this often. I am sure some are looking at me thinking, “what I would give to have a place to myself right now!” Perhaps you need it! But you still have access to physical touch like high fives, handshakes, hugs. You are still allowed to be less than six feet away and look into someone else’s eyes while you talk and see their facial expressions as they look at yours. Do not take these things for granted.
For those who share a dwelling with anyone else and share about your lives on social media, consider me simultaneously grateful for your ability to have those moments and deeply envious and pained that I am unable to do the same. Even the staunchest of introverts I know lament the inability to connect with friends and family they are close to in a meaningful capacity right now. And the truth is some days it sucks a lot more than others to be missing out.
No matter how great technology has become and has allowed us to voluntarily socially/physically distance, *nothing* replaces talking face to face. That goes for those small and often silent moments in public, like seeing other people driving and going about their days. Other times it’s a brief conversation with coworkers at your job, or a server at a restaurant, or the small talk with a cashier. No amount of Zoom video conference calls can replicate or replace that face to face human element. I’m struck by how apparent it is that if we only use these communication tools and social media platforms can and will have some detrimental effects on how we see and communicate with people.
As of this writing, it’s been almost 4 weeks of being in shelter-in-place. I’ve had a few moments of interaction with friends (from a safe distance!) which I already look back on with fondness. While we’re keeping ourselves physically distanced from one another, I wrote down some ideas for how we can think about caring for the singles in our midst, especially those who aren’t sharing living space with anyone else right now.
Some of the suggestions here may be more specific to my own personality and experiences, but it’s just a list to get you thinking and to live it out for your people.
- Send a text once in a while to check in to say “hey.”
- If they text you saying “hey”, reply back so they know you’re there for them. It’s possible they’re feeling lonely at that moment.
- Inquire about their lives in a meaningful way. Move beyond the “How’s quarantine life?” question we’re all contractually obligated to ask each other.
- Offer to watch/stream a show together and talk about it
- Share the occasional dumb meme, ideally non-COVID-19 related. (I’ve seen enough to last me a LONG time.) You can send them privately. Do not post it on my Facebook wall.
- Call that friend/family member. If they’re more introverted, send a text first to make sure they’re up for talking.
- Ask if they’re reading anything. If they are, ask thoughtful questions about the book/topic.
- If they say “no,” ask why not and what he’s doing with the hundreds of unread books on his shelves in the guest room.
- Dropoff homemade food or baked goods on his porch.
- (It is extremely unlikely I will return this favor to anyone as I do not bake and am barely feeding myself well right now.)
- Remember they’ve been deprived of any meaningful physical contact for weeks, including simple things like handshakes or fist bumps. This is a hard time for them, even if they haven’t or can’t express this feeling of what’s been lacking.
- If you live with others, be mindful and grateful for them. You are getting to interact with people in the flesh. This is more of a privilege than you may know right now.
- Send money. (This is acceptable at all times, regardless of any worldwide pandemics.)
I know we will get through this together, even if some of us can’t be physically together for a while. Take care of one another out there.