We have grown accustomed to seeing friends and family in a virtual manner. Birthdays and other celebrations take the form of car parades and summer travel plans are being altered to fit within the safety and comfort perimeters of each family. To say that things are “back to normal” is premature, yet I find myself stretching and straining to recognize and grasp any sense of pre-COVID normalcy, all the while trying to balance that lifestyle with our current “new normal.” Even though replacements have taken place and modifications are in place, there is one aspect of our lives that cannot be fit into a pandemic mold: human interaction.
My spirit animal is a horse, which means I have a herd mentality mindset and in true extrovert fashion, love being part of a group and/or large gathering. I thrive on get-togethers with friends and family and do my best to feed and nurture the close relationships in my life. Some days that type of nurturing is a run with a friend, a hot cup of coffee with a fellow mama, or an hour-long conversation with someone I can’t see in person.
Recent times have pushed me out of my technology comfort zone and forced me to get creative with those near and far away. Virtual happy hours on the back patio replaced in person dining outings, and kitchen table Skype sessions are keeping my kids connected to out of state family until we feel ready to travel by plane again. We are all doing the best we can with the hand dealt to us, but one day last week alerted me that I could be doing more. How I can dig deeper into a relationship while presently still in this weird place. How I can reach another human instead of just calling them to “check in” and feel accomplished for the day. And just as I was contemplating how to do this myself, a friend of mine was ten steps ahead and showed me, by simply giving me a call.
To be perfectly honest, I expected to catch up with this friend in a breezy kind of way, tapping into subjects that are in our mainstream lives: kids at home, husbands working, how to filter news pieces, kids at home, and how to maintain our sanity with it all because the kids are at home. Despite my predictions, the conversation plunged to depths without realizing my need to dive there. I had no idea a simple question of “Tell me how you are really doing and please spare me the part where you say you are fine,” was what my soul was craving. A genuine, down deep ache to not only get a few things off my chest, but in equal parts gain clarity and perspective on matters that were weighing heavily on my mind and heart. In a time where everyone feels judged for every move they make or don’t make, it was refreshing to just lay it all out, and know that I was in a critique-free zone that allowed me to jump from one topic to the next and one emotion to its polar opposite. What a gift I was given that afternoon; to have someone carve time out for me to express, laugh, and cry what was weighing on my exhausted self.
The sacrifice of her time spoke volumes to me. We mamas know how hard it is to get a minute to ourselves, let alone consecutive minutes for someone else. In the background of our conversation, I could hear the reality of her life pulling her in every direction. The kids, the kitchen timers, and I am sure a knock at the door or two were all put on hold for the time being. For me. For a well-friend checkup. There is no doubt in my mind that dishes piled up in her sink, her husband wanted her attention, and her children blared rap music all too loud, yet she stayed present with me for the entire conversation. Her actions spoke louder than words (although her words were poignant too) and I am not sure she was even aware that she was teaching me how to be present. How to care for friends in these crazy times is an uncomplicated thing––pick up the phone and place it to your ear instead of your fingertips. What a beautiful gesture that can be done from the comfort of our quarantined homes.
Phone calls are feeling like a notion from the past due to the increased amount and ease of leaving text messages and social media comments. I’ve been guilty of leaving a birthday or anniversary message on a virtual wall rather than picking up the phone or sending a card. I’ve experienced the warm fuzzy feeling of receiving a call or small care package, announcing that they were thinking of me. Before getting lost in the be-all end-all virtual world that we’ve been living in (and got thrown even deeper into thanks to coronavirus), I talked on the phone to friends many times a day. A personal goal of mine is to retreat back to the good old days of phoning a friend. Picking up the device that is seemingly used for all the things but making a call. Reclaiming human connection during a time when social distancing is strongly encouraged. I will phone a friend. I’ll ask about her world. I’m going to nose-dive down to the depths that border on uncomfortable, because she may just need that nudge to open up. And I will gently remind her that my ears are a safe place, a quiet place, amongst the chaos of this noisy, virtual world.