Both of these terms have or are trending. And since Alan is in that high-risk category, that is on our agenda. But like our governments, we all face personal choices about when and how.
Admittedly, for me as an introvert, that sounds like heaven. Don’t get me wrong I care about people, friends and strangers. But caring and needing to spend time around them are two different things.
I have often said that if it were not for Alan and @PanKwake, I could happily be that little old ‘witch’ lady that lives in the woods, grows her own, and bikes into town once a month for the things I can’t grow.
@PanKwake is my opposite. She needs her people. Every day. She is our worry when that time comes. Yes, she has hangouts. Yes, we are considering networking her Switch. But we both realize that she will need more interaction with us. And after over a year of relative mood stability, we face the possibility of meltdowns once again. The ‘I’m bored’s loom large in our lives.
Ironically, socially isolating is the last thing that any of us need during these times of crisis – to feel even more alone and disconnected in this world.
We need one another. Yes, even me.
In my earlier blog #PanicBuying vs. #Prepping, I told you about the women who raised me, those real Steel Magnolias. But there are a couple of stories from my childhood that I will never forget.
Miss Ethel was our next-door neighbor. She was also my Nanny’s (great-grandmother) best friend. These women were polar opposites.
Nanny almost never wore make-up, though I remember the smell of it. Her hair was gray for my whole life. She wore housedresses that were colorful sacks. (Oh, I might be becoming Nanny.)
Miss Ethel wore polyester pants suits, dyed her hair platinum blond, and always wore her makeup. In fact, this sixty-year-old woman would regularly sunbathe in a bikini in her backyard. A habit that cost her her life – she died of skin cancer.
My Paw-Paw died young and Nanny spent over thirty years as a widow, raising her teen children, grandchildren, and some of us great-grandchildren alone.
While my memories of Miss Ethel are strong, her husband Mister Willie is more of a figment of my imagination. I remember ‘Yes, dear.’ A man who idolized his wife, respected her, and put her upon a pedestal.
I remember much more about Mister Willie’s death and that hard winter after it. Miss Ethel would come over after dinner, at least once or twice a week. She and Nanny would drink instant coffee and smoke cigarettes. Sometimes Nanny would dye her hair or put it up in curlers. The other things these women would do was talk about the good ole’ days…and ‘poot.’
If you don’t know what the word ‘poot’ means, don’t worry; most people today don’t. ‘Poot’ is a euphemism for farting. Men farted or cut wind. Women pooted. Now, this is a common enough occurrence, a bodily function that we all do. But these women would be talking, one would lift a butt cheek from those ugly greenish-yellow plastic kitchen chairs, and let it rip. No excuse me. Pardon me. They just kept talking as if nothing happened. No matter the smell or noise.
These women told many stories that winter. Stories of their early years of marriage. Of two working-class couples with young families struggling to survive during the worst economic crisis of its time – the Great Depression. But the way they spoke of those days you would not know it.
My favorite story is Eggs, Onions & Farts. It always began with some comment about how cold it was that year. They would agree that winter was worse than usual, then one of them would say those words…Remember the year…
It was the middle of the Great Depression. Both women worked the night shift at the mill and their husbands the day. But even with dual incomes, there was barely any money left after the house payment and other bills to buy food.
One of them had a small vegetable garden out back, mostly potatoes and onions – things that would grow well even in a Southern winter. The other kept a few old chickens. That winter, these two women kept their families fed on just that. A couple of potatoes, an onion, and a couple of eggs fried up each night. Of course, at the beginning of the month, they might also have biscuits with the flour, butter, and milk from the company store, but by the end of the month that was running out.
As a mother now, I can only imagine the heartache of not being able to adequately feed my family. Thankfully, despite a lifetime of struggles, it has never come to that. And I am sure that these women were not laughing during those cold winter nights when they kissed their husbands and went to work knowing that their children would go to bed still hungry.
But as a little girl (five or six, I think) listening to that story as I played with my Barbies under the table, it sounded like some magical time. Of course, now, I realize that kitchen table was the site of grief counseling, unlike anything that modern psychology can offer.
And that women who had shared what little they had with one another through the worst of times, certainly felt no need to apologize for a simple bodily function like ‘pooting.’
Today we have hundreds or thousands of ‘friends’ and ‘followers.’ Yet, almost none of us has any friendships like those.
Over a year ago when I decided to delete my Facebook account, I wanted a way to stay in touch with my friends. So, we began to open our home every Sunday afternoon to those closest to us. I cook and we enjoy a few hours of conversation. I modeled it upon the salons of the early Transcendentalists who often met in the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson to discuss ideas. I called it F4 – Friends, Food, Fun & Filosophy. (Yes, I know how to spell that, but I thought this way we would not take ourselves too seriously.)
This year with the wedding looming, we had gone down to once a month. And tomorrow was scheduled to be that for March. Alan and I have been debating and putting off that final decision. Of course, with him being in the high-risk group, I am worried. But this small group is as close to that type of friendship that I have ever found. And it is unlikely that we have this opportunity again for a few weeks. So we have decided to go forward with it tomorrow.
The truth is that we all need people. We are all stronger together.
And this crisis threatens that, too. It will be all too easy to further isolate ourselves, emotionally as well as physically. And that type of social distancing will only make mental health more precarious.
So, here are a few ideas for how you can minimize this threat to your mental health:
Social Media – Yes, of course, as much as I am not a fan of it. Facebook or, in my case, Twitter is one way of staying in touch with friends and family during this time. I forget the name of it, but the Chinese version of Facebook proved vital to communications. But please – be nice. Right now we don’t need more political strife or polarization. Just ignore the bad and focus on the good.
Texting – Also a good alternative, especially for those of us without Facebook.
Skype, Hangouts, Discord, etc. – These apps are not only free but they offer not just written but voice and some the video call option that can be vital to bringing a human element to it. Internationally, this is a great option.
Okay, that is just SOP (standard operating procedure) for most of us, especially the younger generations. But here is where I get more creative…
Phone – Did you realize that thing in your hand has audio as well as a text function? Seriously, most of us default to text messages these days. But in this time of social distancing and self-isolation, it may prove vital to our mental health to hear a friendly voice. If in doubt, you can always text and ask ‘when would be a good time to call?’
Email – Somethings are too long to text. This is a good option for those. But far less personal.
Snail Mail – Believe it or not, this might prove a truly wonderful option. As long as postal service continues to operate, a stock of cute cards or postcards and some stamps might brighten people’s day.
Ring and run – For close neighbors, especially the elder or vulnerable, how about combining those cards, perhaps even hand made with a small gift to say we are thinking of you.
Waving and talking over the fence – Growing up, it was not uncommon for people to stop on the sidewalk and talk to us on the porch. Five meters seems to be the agreed safe zone, though even a couple is relatively safe.
Please feel free to add other ideas below…
Yes, even as an introvert, I recognize the value of friendships and people. We all need someone to lean on.
I encourage you now to consider who and how you will stay in touch during this crisis. Have a plan for connecting with others even with buzzwords like #socialdistancing and #selfisolation trending.