Meg Luce: The unexpected intimacies of social distancing
Have you noticed how people are finding ways to connect during the stay at home orders? Zoom happy hour parties, drive-by birthday cheers, chalk messages on the sidewalk. Or saying thanks to essential workers with clangs of pots and pans. There are so many creative avenues that people have found to reach out, show kindness and share in each other’s special life moments.
Of course, nobody wanted this pandemic. The world feels strange and uncertain. Since COVID-19, it’s hard to feel a sense of solid ground. It’s terrifying for the hundreds of thousands nationwide who have contracted the virus. For the millions who have lost their jobs, it is a serious hardship. For those with no safety cushion in the budget, it’s tragic. Others lucky enough to work from home feel oddly disoriented. (What day is it again?)
But despite all, many people are showing grit, kindness, and creativity. And unexpected intimacies have emerged as a part of life while social distancing.
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My husband showed me a meme a while ago that went like this: “Day 2 without sports. Found a lady sitting on my couch. Apparently she’s my wife. She seems nice.” Skip the gender typing and it’s kind of funny with a bit of truth. No sports on TV, regular activities halted, less busy schedules, and there are some vaguely familiar people hanging around the house during the quarantine. For some, it’s been a chance to slow down and get to know each other again.
I’ve heard many people say, almost in a hushed tone, I am enjoying some aspects of this quarantine time. They say things like, “We are not rushing around.” “We are home every night having family dinner.” It’s an unexpected bright spot in this whole mess.
Many parents are finding out just how hard their children’s teachers work as they try to offer class at home. Common Core; statistics; what is a polynomial again? How about cursive? Anyone? But despite the stress of it, there are some good moments to be found. One amazed mom shared how for the first time ever, she had her children doing chores. And they liked it! Things had slowed down enough that she could finally get to it.
And while date nights and sexy talk are practically non-existent for many couples due to the nonstop presence of the children, there is something to be said for the marital friendship as people settle into this chapter. While your spouse is not perfect, they can be darn good company during the long twilight-zone hours of quarantine.
During social distancing people aren’t waiting for physical contact to let others know they care. It seems family and friends have become more important than ever. I have enjoyed sibling group text chat and even my brother makes an appearance now and then; an unusual treat. Whether it’s a phone call, game night online with friends, extended family Zoom check-in, or sitting just outside the window and having lunch with someone while they are safely tucked indoors, people want to hold each other close.
It seems like in some ways the pandemic reminds us how important our relationships are. Touching base, sharing fun, and keeping each other’s spirits lifted seem to be essential activities. One young woman adopted the habit of sending an email out with a daily poem. How lovely to wake up and read her choice, Wendell Berry, today. She is sending this out to so many each day and invading the space the virus holds with this thoughtful beauty.
We are in this together, and these unexpected intimacies remind us so. Just as in the allegory of the long-handled spoons, where people couldn’t feed themselves and would starve. Or they could feed each other and flourish. When we care for each other, there is a little bit of heaven in all of this strife.
I don’t know what we will all take forward as we move into a new normal, whatever that may be. But there are some riches in this strange experience that are worth taking along.
Meg Luce, M.S., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Grass Valley specializing in helping couples create satisfying relationships. You can find her contact info at https://NevadaCountyTherapist.com
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