If ever there has been any doubt that we are all connected, the events of the past few months have surely put that notion to rest. As the novel coronavirus has leaped, crawled and insinuated its way across the world, so, too, has its invisible thread bound us to one another.
Even as we strain to separate ourselves, pulling apart the distance to maintain a gap of safety, we are woven in a net of relation. I missed visiting my 92 year old mother in New York State by 2 days as her assisted living closed its doors to non-essential visitors. What started as a place of community has turned to one of isolation as residents are in their apartments as much as possible. I’m not sure I can walk my mom through the technology for us to be able to see each other on FaceTime.
Like any crisis, this virus has placed an enormous magnifier on what is. People’s tendencies have become at times an exaggerated version of themselves. Anxieties have taken hold in some areas, denial in others. There is a pull to continue life as it always has been, next to the demand to make dramatic changes, and make them NOW.
The fear that is borne out of lack of information tries to square with the fear borne of scientific fact. As people try to get a toe hold on what to expect, how to prepare, we sometimes trample each other’s toes, unaware that we’re doing it. The feeling of scarcity drives us to the market in the effort to DO something at a time when our biggest, most powerful weapon is to NOT do. It is a mammoth challenge to not act, to refrain from gathering, and to have our most blatant form of solidarity be that of keeping space.
The other invisible web knits us together, providing unprecedented meetings telemedicine style. As a social worker and therapist in private practice for over 30 years, my currency has been largely face to face meetings. I love this format. I love the connection; the information that is conveyed in a glance, a shift in posture, a gesture. And I love the freedom to move about in my own chair, to tip back or occasionally tuck a leg underneath me.
I have done some meetings by teleconference before and know that they can work well, particularly with people I already know. I was certain that the transition would cause little interruption with some clients. I also anticipated that it would be an unacceptable alternative for others, and despite my encouragement, they prefer to wait until we resume in-person meetings. For some clients it alleviates the travel to my office and this is a relief, in addition to everyone’s sudden freedom in scheduling.
We are all adjusting. I hear questions from those who are physically vulnerable, immunosuppressed, one who wonders what it will be like to deliver her baby in six weeks and another who sees the ramifications for employees who have already lost jobs. People cannot visit loved ones in faraway places, or venues that seem far away because they are quarantined, like my own mother’s facility.
I breathe in the fresh air of my little town, not knowing how soon or how heavily covid-19 will make its presence known.
I think back to the long ago days of last week, when Italy’s plight seemed more distant from our own. I received a gif via Messenger from someone who lives there of particles being blown from one set of hands to another. I gasped out loud, as it seemed a perverse passing of the horrid virus. It took a second glance to note that it was gold glitter dust, a wish of good feeling, of love and sparkle that she was sending across the world.
The virus makes its choices indiscriminately, choosing every age, race, gender, and religion with fervor and determination. This gif, though, these good wishes were being spread with intention, can travel countless times more quickly, and need no incubation period.
While our fragility and resilience are given similar voice, while the sweeping new ways must temporarily shove aside our familiar means of connection, I am glad to take the time to make my intentions clear, the love of one another to be the telephone game that bellows out.