One weekend night during this endless quarantine, after my husband and I put the kids to bed, we brought a laptop out into the living room and logged onto a Zoom meeting with three other couples and played Jackbox games for hours. We are close to all of these friends, and have been for more than fifteen years, but as we live spread out all around the country, we've never done a digital hang out like this together. Our situation is not unique. People everywhere are connecting and reaching out to close family members and long lost friends alike. In a time of extreme social isolation, we are all connecting to loved ones in new ways.
Of course, everyone is wondering, "Why haven't I been doing this all along?" That seems to be a questions that can apply to so many things. I was recently chatting with a friend while on a walk, something I didn't do as much pre-pandemic, and I started thinking about the mental space that has been freed up in my life that has allowed me to reach out. During a normal day, I go to work and interact with people all day long. I work in a large office, and there are endless people to chit-chat with. I'm realizing now that my social engagement outside of the home really drained my "I need to talk to other people" energy, so when I returned home I went through the dinner/bath/bed routine and sometimes interacted with my husband before crashing every night. Now, though, we don't have those day to day situations with other people nearly as frequently (at all?), so it gave me mental space back to engage with my friends all around the country.
As I said, this doesn't just apply to friend hang outs. I feel like there is new found space for me to engage in lots of activities that in "normal" life I just couldn't get going. Consistent work outs, nightly yoga and meditation, writing, date nights with my husband (confined to our couch), these have all become routine, and it only took a pandemic for me to build the habits I've been chasing for years. It's definitely not because I have all this free time. Did I mention the two kids under four and the full time job? It's because in a crisis, there is an opportunity to push away all the habits that don't serve you and boil down your actions to the essential things that make you continue to feel like a whole human being. I have experienced this with the birth of both of my children. Those early newborn days are crisis mode for most parents. They certainly were to me, but out of those crises I developed a few skills that started to make me feel like a person and not just a sleep deprived milk monster. I've been building upon those recently, and while this is incredibly hard, I'm really feeling like I'm taking care of myself during this pandemic better than I was when life was normal.
The internet is filled with people learning new languages, repainting their houses, and becoming master bakers during this time of isolation. I'm nowhere near that, but I am making it a point to go ride the exercise bike in our garage or reach for my phone to video chat people more often than before. I'm going to be thankful for that extra mental space and enjoy reconnecting to the great people that have shaped my life for decades.