Depending on where you live and your personal situation, you may still be living in isolation. I have some neighbors that are starting their sixth month without leaving the neighborhood.
If this is you, then going out to do things and having any sort of spontaneity may be a distant memory.
But it doesn’t have to be. I would like to propose spontaneity in isolation. And, more importantly, social interaction in isolation. A friend of mine stated the opinion that he wished they hadn’t called it social distance. We don’t need to be socially distant; we need to be physically distant. Not the same thing.
And while a lot of people are just now discovering Skype, Zoom, and other live video-conferencing apps, there is something to be said for doing it old school. You have extra time on your hands, why not try something new that’s actually old.
Here’s one for the kids. And by kids, I mean anyone under thirty. That texting device that is attached to your (I assume) opposable thumbs? It can actually be used to communicate verbally over great distances. When I was a kid, it was called a telephone.
I know it goes against some sort of code of ethics, but how about giving someone a phone call. It’s kind of like Skype, but without the visuals. If your friends think you are weird about using your phone that way, call an older relative. Trust me; once they get over the shock of hearing your voice, it will make their day. Call an aunt or uncle, or if you are lucky enough to still have them, a grandparent.
Talk to people. You might like it.
This next one, I’m really going to go out on a limb and will probably lose a few of you.
Write a letter to someone.
If that gives you the jitters, take baby steps. Write a postcard. They still sell them at the post office, or you can pick some up at Walmart. Put words down on paper. Think of someone who is stuck at home, maybe worse or longer than you. Imagine the joy when they make their daily outing to the mailbox and see a note from you.
It will only take a few minutes, and believe it or not, it will make your day better too. Thinking about the person you are writing to and imagining them reading your words will put you in a mood you may have never experienced before.
And, once you get the hang of it, you can go longer. Think of it as writing in your diary, but you are going to share it with someone else. Write to an old friend you aren’t close to anymore or a relative that you haven’t seen in a while. I know most of us haven’t seen anyone in a while, but I mean longer than that. Fill them in on what has been happening in your life. The words don’t matter so much as the effort you will put into it.
Okay, you’re probably exhausted from that last exercise, so this next one will be easy.
It’s okay. Just go outside. Walk around your neighborhood. Maybe meet some neighbors.
Our neighborhood is relatively small and mostly elderly, so many people have taken to short walks while they can’t do much else. I have met people that live a block away that I have never met. For me, that’s the exception, as I know most of my neighbors.
But in the past, I lived in communities that are probably like where you live. I know one or two people, and the rest are complete strangers. Get out and walk around. If you see someone in their yard or walking by, stop, and introduce yourself. You can still maintain distance — you don’t have to shake hands or hug or anything.
Just talk to them.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”
This isolation thing has been tough for you, but you don’t know the struggles of others. That lady down the street working in her garden? She may be totally isolated. Reach out and make a new friend.
We have been careful during these times, but we still get out a few times a week. I thought this was relatively normal until I stopped and talked to people on the street.
I was walking one day, and a woman I knew was just driving around the neighborhood. She stopped and rolled down her window to talk. She hardly began before the tears came. She had been very active before this thing hit and was now stuck inside her home. She said to me something that struck deep.
“I’m staying busy. I have plenty to do. But I am so lonely I can hardly stand it. I wasn’t this lonely when my husband passed. I’ve never been this lonely in my life.”
Another woman, I passed as we were both walking. We shared small talk for a bit, and I happened to mention that I was going to the market later and did she need anything. She looked at me with an expression of awe, fear, and sadness.
“I haven’t been to the store in three months. I haven’t left the neighborhood in three months.”
Everyone has it rough in these times, but I can guarantee you that someone who lives very close to you has it far worse.
There is an older couple in our community that we know hasn’t left home since it started and is even afraid to come outside. But every few days, they open their front door to find a basket of fruit or a bag of groceries.
If you were like us, you might have lived in your house for years, decades, and not know more than a couple of neighbors. Now is the time. Get out and walk around your neighborhood. Meet people. Talk to them. Share your stories.
You may even get enough neighbors together to enjoy some sort of group activity. If you have a park or large greenspace, put out some socially distant chairs and have a picnic.
And for those that are still uncomfortable with that, come up with something everyone can do separately, but together.
For three months now, our neighborhood has had a local food drive. Every week a different home is designated as the drop off point. Bags of groceries appear on the porch and are brought in daily. Once a week, that household or a neighbor takes the load to a local food bank.
Meet your neighbors.
Now is the time to find out that sometimes, old ways are the best.