I anticipated the proclamation, I felt sure the order to shelter in place would go on another month. I suspect it may be even longer.
As I sat gazing out at the fading evening light, watching another day turn to night, I realized I had already lost count. I distracted myself with thoughts of how I would occupy my time, what projects to undertake, how to spend the empty hours doing something meaningful. I wasn’t overly concerned. It is my nature to be productive.
But there was something else amiss, an unsettling, unnerving sensation that rumbled within. And as I inhaled a long measured breath, it rose up, a longing, not for activity or distraction, but for connection. I knew its emotion. I am only too familiar with it, having met up many time throughout the years when I drifted too far afield and lost touch with those I need to be whole, or when I shuttered myself off out of frustration or fear.
I drifted off to sleep that night contemplating how human connection could be sustained through this unprecedented time of isolation. Intentional as it was, it didn’t make the result any more tolerable. How would I satisfy my need, how would I broach the topic of it without feeling embarrassed? How would I touch another while sustaining the safety of social distancing?
Human connection is as basic to me as my need for air and water. It is essential to my well-being. I thrive when the connection is vibrant and whither along with it when it shrivels and shrinks away. I know from experience the answer lies in reaching out beyond the insecurity, with condor and intimacy. I have to abandon the safeguards that normally protect me from being nicked by rejection and speak my truth, admit my trepidation and ask to have my needs met, in plain and open effort.
Now is a time to be vulnerable, to accept that I am and let it show through. We are all, no matter how strong and self-assured, or how reluctant we are to own it. This global catastrophe is bigger than our collective bravado and it is weighing on us. It is a monster that lurks under the bed in the silent darkness and whispers its threats when we are most defenseless. Without the reassurance of human contact, it may convince us we are alone to fend for ourselves.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I know the isolation of an anxious mind. I’ve lived with it most of my life, but I’ve learned over the years how to step over the fear and shame of my emotions and I will do so now.
I have to reach out however possible, ask for company when I need it, invite others to share six foot distanced walks, fill the long, vacant hours with the companionship of someone I know cares. I have to ask for what I need and want, not expect it to be divined in some magically way, as I sit here guarded and expecting. I am not alone and these feelings are not exclusively mine. I’ve learned when I speak up, and express what lies behind my façade, I spark a reaction in others, who like me, may be waiting for someone to be the first to reach out. I have to be the first.
There is a bond that forms as eyes meet, it goes beyond words, to what lies behind them. I will be with those who feel comfortable with a personal encounter at an acceptable distance, and will use other means to connect with my friends who prefer facetime and video. Technology may be a less personal approach to human contact, but it does allow me to see for myself how those I love are faring. I will speak honestly and opening about how I am doing, and ask of others to share with me how they are and what I can do to comfort them. I will reach out, be kind, listen deeply and to understand, and I will offer love.
This is a time to live cautiously and protect our health, but it is not a time to be cautious with our hearts.