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Strange New World?

It’s strange isn’t it. This new ‘pandemic world’ we are living in – regardless of your view. Things are starting to slowly open; people are feeling a little more comfortable to venture past their doorstep. The other day was my birthday and I had been feeling a little down, missing humanity. Missing being able to go grab a coffee, missing being able to go to Target for a bottle of ketchup because that is the only thing that we need, even missing filling up my gas tank without having to hose myself down with hand sanitizer (though I’m not driving very much).

My husband surprised me on my birthday and invited 4 of my friends over to social distance out in the back yard. It was amazing to be with a group and chat without weird audio interruptions on zoom, to have side-by-side conversations about different topics all at the same time. It was so wonderful and lifted my spirits tremendously! Yet, there was an awkwardness to it as well. When they rounded the corner of the house and headed for the deck, I wanted to hug them, but I couldn’t. If I did, would they be uncomfortable if I went in for the embrace? Worse, would I infect them or get myself infected? They brought gifts and tried to hand them to me, more awkwardness – do I take them or do they just put them on the table? Two brought their own wine, glass, cooler; two didn’t – yet they wanted to have a glass as well. One brought out her spray bottle of sanitizer and sprayed the bottle before pouring some, and then sprayed it again after pouring some into her glass.

It’s odd, you have to think about all of your interactions, you have to walk in parallel, not together. You want to hug, but you don’t know if you should. You want to show them the picture on your phone, but phones are petri dishes, so they extend their arm and you try to stay 6 feet away but still look at the photo. You want to sit across the table in the coffee shop and chat about your life. All interactions, however long or short, must be thought through and planned, you have to make sure that you are leaving space between you and whoever is in your circle. It’s isolating without being isolated. It’s like being in that awkward phase of a relationship where you don’t know what is expected, which quite honestly is a little exhausting.

This appears to be what we are looking at for a time. How can you feel less isolated in a time when social norms have changed and are undefined? How do you explain this to your children? Hug the people that you can hug to make up for those that you can’t. But maybe you can also look at from a different perspective and develop empathy for those that felt like this before the pandemic happened. Notice the people, the teens, the children who have always had to social distance, whether they chose to or not. Look at how you can change the way that you interact to make everyone feel included in some way. This is what you can teach your children – in a pandemic or not - open your circle, leave space for those feeling lonely now, and when this is over.

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