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Opinion

How to Care for Singles During a Quarantine

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.

Categories
Opinion

The Art of Miscommunication

In the last few years, the written word has gained increasing importance in how we connect and communicate with people. As we rely on writing over speaking because we all have come to hate phone calls because… reasons. And because we also don’t live in a TV world where friends decide to meet up to chat about the most mundane and vital of topics, we are left with text messages, instant messaging, emails, etc. The problem is we can be terrible at saying what we mean.

Categories
Musings Opinion

Words Matter

(Image: Keflavik Airport, Iceland. Its contrast to my post struck me.)

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts about the lack of interactive and thoughtful discourse (part one & part two). I’ve been thinking about this topic again recently as I’ve watched the ability to have rational conversation deteriorate in America with little visible hope that our behavior will change in the near future. We recoil any time we hear or read something that conflicts with our worldviews. Instead of pausing to absorb the message we took in and understand where that person or group is coming from, the new “proper” response is to lash out and tell them why they are wrong. How dare someone disagree with me!

Categories
Musings Opinion

Single Connectivity

Featured photo: Single malt Scotch for a post from a single guy’s perspective.

The older you get, the more complicated and nuanced life becomes. Now that I’m in my prime, there are types of relationships with one another that I find become more difficult to start, build, maintain, or even understand. Many of us know or learn through experience that friendships are easier to make (and walk away from) in our younger years. Often little thought or premeditated plans are put into them. It can start with the most basic of event based coincidences like being at the same playground or being put on the same dodgeball team during gym class. From there, the smallest of sparks ignites a new friendship just like that! And for the most part, these sorts of situational-based sparked friendships are still made throughout college. As an adult, you wonder why we make it harder on ourselves. We know friendships will change. But oh how we nostalgically look back at the simpler days!

Many of our friendships are forged in the midst of being in the same place at the same time, frequently revolving around our age or place in life especially during the high school through our mid-20s. We do life together as we figure it all out in a collective confusion. These shared times and spaces create experiences that come to shape and define who we are and memories we hold onto and remember quite vividly.

Major life events are called that for a reason.  They ripple through and touch every element of yourself,  your family, and social circles. They look safe enough on the surface. Right after graduation, Will gets a job offer on the other side of the country which means you only see him during holidays. Jimmy got into that masters program which means evening classes and less time to hangout. Bobby joins a sports league which infuses your core social group with new and fun faces. Jenny starts dating Brad and as they get more serious you start calling them “Benny” or “Jed”. These choices and life moments change you, even when you’re not the one going through them. It’s always interesting to think about the impact the decisions others make affect us.

Of those events, one of the biggest is when you or your friends find significant others. Hanging out starts to feel… different. What you talk about when you’re all together starts to change. You hear the occasional “we” instead of the “I” when one of them speaks. Depending on the couple, the conversations turn to “let me see if he/she is free too” even though you were only inviting one of them. Oops.

Then dating turns to marriage. The wedding and reception day come and it’s a wonderful celebration for all. A new union is very much worth having a big party for! No matter what anyone may try to do to avoid the inevitable, those relationships take a drastic shift and will look and feel very different. There is no avoiding the winds of change.

So what do you do when life trajectories aren’t on the same path anymore and you stop sharing some common goals, interests, and perhaps most importantly, free time?

There’s a number of challenges along the way for which I have found no straightforward answer yet. How do you deal with not being as close to your best friend as you once may have been? What’s an appropriate friendship level with your friend’s spouse who you didn’t know as well before they were married? How do you handle the logistics and nuances of married friends with kids?

More questions and thoughts coming soon! Feedback and response again is welcome, whether in the comments section or privately.

Categories
Opinion

Critical Culture

If there’s one thing we’ve become exceedingly great at in American culture, it’s criticizing everything. Whether it’s what celebrities wear, or what someone posts on Twitter or Facebook, “romantic” decisions made on reality dating shows, how well or poorly we perceive that coworker to be doing her job, or  pretty much anyone’s life decisions. We love and aspire to “drag” people online like it’s a sport and follow those who are amazing at it. It’s all about that ultimate burn, calling someone out on anything you’re outraged about or against in any capacity, getting the final word in and “winning.” But the question is, what is it we’re all winning?

Superiority – or at least the illusion of it.

Categories
Opinion

Reset-uary

Every January, the world stops to reflect and celebrate another completed trip around the sun. And we’re always so proud of it too! (Yay, most of us didn’t fall off the planet, thanks to gravity.) Inevitably, this month also marks the time when we also feel like it’s time to start something new, make healthier decisions, get going on all those projects that we’ve been promising ourselves for the last 3 years, and just be a better person. This month should be relabeled “Reset-uary” on all calendars. Also, it would be the first month to officially have a hyphen in the name.

While I don’t have any specific issue with the idea of starting fresh and taking on the world with new perspective and energy, what I haven’t understood is why we so often wait for significant events like the new year to reboot ourselves. Imagine if we waited a whole year to reboot our computers or phones! Windows can barely go a day or two before acting erratically. See what happens to us when we let ourselves run for too long without shutting down once in a while? We should be taking a more proactive approach to life and evaluating and adjusting more frequently and not just at major milestones the calendar – and society – dictates.

Reset-uary does not need to be a one time a year occasion on our calendars. Schedule your own mini-resets into your routine. Take time to logout to clear your mind and gain new insights. Evaluate and adjust in small increments instead of trying to upend everything at once.  The worst thing that happens in this renamed month is we try to change too much at once and by February almost everything goes back to how it was and little of what you hoped to change doesn’t.

Don’t let February turn into “Same-uary”. Or I may keep making up new names for months of the year.

Categories
Musings Opinion

Ask More Questions & Listen More

Questions

Often times I need to take a step back from everything and ask myself, “is there an overarching theme or pattern happening in my life?” It’s fascinating to see how various facets of my life are intertwined usually to teach me – and maybe the world – something.  That current “something” is that we don’t know everything. We think we do so often, assume a bit too much, and because of that often miss something critical. We must ask more questions. It is a significant step to understanding of all manners of things, especially ourselves.

At work, I try to teach and encourage those on my team and around the company to not take anything at face value. Too often someone takes a task or project request and runs with it. At surface level, everything seems straightforward. But peel back even one layer and finding out the “why” that is driving that request and you learn that on-the-surface craziness has some context and reasoning you can support – or at least acknowledge. Or you ask your client to expand on an idea and all of a sudden a great idea is sparked to take the project to a new level or a future potential issue is avoided.

In relationships, questions are the basis for learning more about other people. You know what everyone’s favorite topic is?  What they know best of course: themselves. In my life, I have had many conversations with people without uttering much beyond my name, where I’m from or live, and a gloss over of what I do. How? By continually asking questions about just about anything they want to talk about. I’m amazed by how much others like hearing their own voice. I tap into this by keeping the focus on the other person with questions crafted and carefully selected for them.  When I’m not in the mood to talk about myself, it’s a powerful deflection tactic that works on at least 80% of people I talk to (a couple close friends are on to me.)  The only problem? When I do want to share something about my life, people still like to talk about themselves even when I’m not asking them anything. This cumulatively results in only one person feeling like they are known better; often times that person is not me. It can lead to a sense of isolation or not feeling cared about.

When it comes to ourselves, how often are we asking the really tough questions in a way that results in action or real insight? The right questions can be uncomfortable to respond to. Why? Do we not ask them because we don’t care about other people or about ourselves? Or is it because we’re afraid someone will ask us about stuff we don’t want to talk about? Maybe it’s why I direct a lot of conversation focus back to other people.

One of the worst things we do is assume we know everything we need to know from work to friendships. Without questions, we are left to assume what we don’t know, and Assuming takes you to dangerous places. So don’t be too taken aback if I ask lots of questions. It means I care and I don’t want to miss something along the way.

 

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Musings Opinion

Discovering Depth in Discipline: Marathon Insights

Above: Photo gallery of Missoula and the state of Montana
It took four months of training and Saturdays where I didn’t sleep in until noon and many other nights during the week skipping out on TV, laying on the couch, or hanging out with friends over a beer or other tasty beverage. It all led up to one Sunday morning in Montana and a 26.2 mile route ahead of me. The Missoula Marathon had finally arrived. But there was so much more than just those 5+ hours to share.

I could write about the time in Montana before, during, and after the race. I could share about Troy, the guy at “The Hub” who told us about so many great things to do around  the area; about Doug, the guy who took us via boat and led our expedition across Flathead Lake over to Wild Horse Island and dropped knowledge and factoids like sick beats; and then there were the various events and friendly faces around Missoula that made our time there magical.

It’s already been three weeks since the race and there’s still elements of the total experience that I’m unpacking in my mind. I can share what I’ve learned about running and myself so far:

Training stretches you beyond your limits (almost) without you noticing. It’s hard to believe that before March of this year, the longest I had ever run was 5 miles and that by July I considered that a “short” mid-week run. The small incremental jumps in distance in each week trained my body to take on a little more, mostly in chunks it could handle.

Training is MUCH better with others. I don’t know if I could have done this without others, especially for the weekly long runs. Even without many words, the encouragement of having a friend or two by your side does wonders for your ability to continue going.

Big goals require a lot more change in your life than you plan for.  By far the biggest noticeable adjustment for me was not sleeping in on Saturdays. For anyone who knows me, Saturday morning is not a time you assume I’m awake or available for anything. Waking up as early as 5AM once to get my training run in took me way outside my comfort zone.

The body and mind is capable of far more than we normally give it credit for.  Growing up and living with asthma, running long distances never seemed to be something attainable to me. In the last few years I seem to have mostly grown out of it, however, and it allowed me to complete a marathon.

With this achievement under my belt, I look ahead to what else I can do. Perhaps it will be another marathon to push for a faster time, or to improve and increase my writing abilities, or to actually learn how to fix more stuff around the house. At the expense of sounding cheesy, “if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” (Marty McFly, Back to the Future).

me at Missoula Marathon