I’ve been socially distant most of my life. It wasn’t due to any fear of contagion, but simply because of my anxiety, shyness, and general awkwardness. You might say that, now that social distancing is all the rage, I am on trend for the first time in my life. I’m very good at it.
On the other hand, I’m changing in my old age. I’m beginning to see what I’ve been missing. It took me almost 60 years to fight my way out of my fear and find my way into warmth, support, and connection with loving social families- both in my community and in my church. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! I feel like I’ve discovered chocolate for the first time ever.
I keep saying that I don’t feel any particular fear about the COVID-19 virus. That is absolutely true from a medical perspective. I still don’t feel scared that I’m going to catch it or that there will be massive deaths of otherwise healthy people. I am very scared about a couple of things, though.
I am scared about the economic effect that will result from the standstill of face-to-face commerce. I am especially scared for the people who will lose jobs or won’t be able to provide basic necessities because there is little or no business happening while the world is in lockdown. I am glad to see that many organizations and individuals are mobilizing to help and I will be supporting them. There will still likely be financial tragedies. I will do whatever I can to help. I believe, as a Christian, God calls me to lead from love and generosity, not from fear and panic.
For me personally, my biggest fear is that I will lose the social connection that I didn’t have so many years. It wasn’t like I became extroverted or without anxiety. It wasn’t like I made the shift to social connection suddenly or without discomfort. It took me a lot of maturity, courage, awkwardness, grace, sense of service, and encouragement to get there. The whole thing is relatively new to me. I am not sure it is firmly rooted or integrated enough into my psyche to survive being uprooted by a period of relative isolation. One of my biggest “leftover” anxieties is phone contact. It is still very hard for me to connect to people over the phone. I think it is because I am fairly intuitive and I pick up lots of cues about what a person if feeling and thinking by his or her body language. When I am without those cues because I am on the phone, I feel more anxious. Now that I must use the phone to reinforce a sense of community, companionship, and affection, I guess God is saying it is time to tackle that particular dragon of mine.
It isn’t just the fear of losing connection while the world lockdown is going on. I am also scared that we won’t be able to go back to “normal” once we are able to walk amongst each other again. Will people have become so lethargic and isolated that they will just hang back and forget how much richer we are with touch and face-to-face contact? Will the whole world be social awkward? Will I lose all the progress I’ve made in developing genuine, intimate, personal and communal relationships? The possibility makes me very, very sad. Once you’ve tasted chocolate, the idea of never having it again is pretty terrible. I’m going to do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen, even if it is not comfortable for me. I was brave enough to break my own patterns once. I am confident that I can do it again, with God’s help. Maybe I’ll be even better because the whole world seems to be in a more deliberate, mindful communication mode. It seems like a lot of people are expanding their connection skills to try to retain community, companionship, and affection. I guess I am not the only one who is fighting social distance.
You know how the Star Trek folks have that motto, “Live Long and Prosper?” I have a new motto. My motto is “This is temporary. Stay close in heart and soul while we ride it out.”
Are you seeing any “silver linings” to the challenge of COVID-19 isolation? Do you need a virtual hug or some electronic reassurance that you do have genuine connections with people? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a healthy day!