To Connect Is Human
Two weeks ago, I was in a retirement community in Eastern North Carolina, celebrating the long life of my mother-in-law.
After a lovely funeral Mass, the family lined up to hear the kind words of those who knew her. We were instructed not to shake hands or hug. We could lean in, bump elbows, smile.
It was impossible.
The first folks through the line did their best at communing from a distance, but by the end, we were all clutching, embracing, touching. That is how we, as humans, comfort and connect. It’s how we calm our anxieties and bravely face danger — we gather and share and hold each other up.
Two weeks later, we’ve all come to accept a new, unimaginable reality. We are mostly shuttered in our homes, chatting with neighbors from across the street, worried about getting groceries and how to keep the kids entertained without school.
But that essential truth I witnessed at the funeral hasn’t changed. This virus is horrible because it kills, because of its crazy, sneaky contagion rate, because there is so much we don’t know about it. It’s also terrible because it robs us of our best way to cope. It asks us to stop connecting.
So often in scary times, we have gathered shared meals, talked out our concerns, prayed in community, lent a hand, made someone else’s load lighter. We’ve come together in bomb shelters and churches and impromptu potlucks, barn raisings, rallies, food and supply drives, and planning meetings.
All that is taboo now.
Being together is what puts us at risk. How can we wrap our minds around that?
The internet has been a salve, for sure. My teens are taking classes online. My tween tuned in for a virtual soccer practice this week. My dancer donned her tights and leotard to follow a ballet instructor who had posted class on Instagram. She’s taken heart in the fact that dancers at all levels around the world are in the same boat as she — desperate to move together in front of a mirror on a sprung floor. Instead, they are plie-ing to piano notes from their phones — gathering the only way they can.
There are other creative solutions: quarantined Italians are playing music on their balconies. I’ve seen suggestions that we light candles in our windows each night to show solidarity. I’ve found a daily walk is doing me good. Even if I am no closer than six feet from anyone I encounter, just seeing other people lifts my spirits.
Social media has been awash in ways to help from afar: Write and mail a note to a senior citizen. Deliver food to the door of someone in quarantine. Pick up the phone and call a friend or cousin or grandparent.
But all this only goes so far. How will we manage weeks and weeks of sharing the company of only a few souls?
We can’t know, of course. We will do what we have to. I am accepting that I feel sad to lose easy everyday conversation, connection, hugs.
I think sad is a way I’m going to feel a lot over the coming weeks.
We all will. Many will feel it while they’re even more alone than I.
I’ve been a reader of Shannon Hayes for years, her books and her blog, so when she recently launched a podcast, I tuned in. Am I ever glad. Hearing Shannon read her weekly essay on family, sustainability and community is a delight. Hope you check out The Hearth of Sap Bush Hollow and enjoy it as much as I am.
In my corner of the world, there are a lot of exciting happenings underway: an effort to recycle at a deeper level than our city can afford, a campaign to open the first compost facility in my area, signups for CSAs of all kinds. It all feels a little shaky at this exact moment. But if you’re home, using your laptop as your window to the world, now seems as good a time as any to check out local initiatives in your place and see what they’re all about. When we begin heading back into the world again, you’ll be ready.
Speaking of how shaky we’re feeling, here are a few ways to make everything a tiny bit better: support local businesses, tune in to free online meditation sessions and dance parties, check out some 3 million new imagesmade publicly available by the Smithsonian Museum, virtually tour museums around the world or stream these movies, free to Amazon Prime members.
This piece was written last November to encourage us to use winter’s quiet to perfect a new cooking skill. It feels especially relevant now. What cooking projects are you dreaming up?
In search of a little inspiration? Here’s a profile I wrote about mom and restaurant owner Kat Pascal who brings a can-do spirit and incredible kindness to everything she does.
Another feel good piece: How a small nonprofit in my community is tacking a big, intractable problem.
If you’re in need of a good book to curl up with, I loved this tale of a strong woman and the son she left behind.
I’m so glad you’re here with me today, reading, sharing, cooking. Thanks and welcome to everyone who has recently joined the Nourishing Stories community. Please feel invited to email your thoughts, requests, recommendations.
A quick a shout out to Julia Roberts (not THAT Julia Roberts!), a South Carolina-based designer who took my ramblings and turned them into the beautiful elements now giving my newsletter its lovely feel. She has just launched Prisma Media, her own marketing firm. Take a look and see if she can help with your design or media needs.
As always, if someone you know might enjoy Nourishing Stories, I hope you’ll forward and recommend it. Growing my audience is key to Nourishing Stories’ success.