,

How to stay connected in a time of disconnection

Here in the UK, we are in our third lockdown in the past year. Physically, we are more removed from one another than we have been as a species since the Spanish Flu over one hundred years ago. I find myself thinking of another time of great collective trauma that much of the globe was embroiled in, World War Two. How did people get through that time? They came together, to sing and dance and dig gardens and to take solace from one another, even as the bombs fell from the skies.

Fast forward to 2020 and 2021 and we are not able to do that. I recognise my tendency towards introversion which in the past has resulted in a visceral aversion to getting on Skype or Zoom. I’ve alway been better face to face and in very small groups and although I do my writing teaching online, I’ve often avoided communicating with family and friends through video calls because it feels uncomfortable and unsatisfactory. It’s not something I’m proud of, but that’s the story I always told myself and I never sought to question it.

Alongside this, I also recognise that as a species we are hard-wired for community and togetherness. But what happens when, like now, we are deprived of this fundamental human need? I’ve been thinking about this a great deal recently and have come to the realisation that, given that we have no idea how long we won’t be able to come together with others, I need to change certain mindsets and question my ‘story.’

We need connection, even if it’s not the connection we would normally seek. So, how do we stay connected in a time of disconnection? These are ways I’ve been taking myself out of my comfort zone. I’d love to know how you’ve been feeling connected to others during lockdown or in this time of restrictions.

Book Club

I always vowed I woud never join a book club. Unashamedly vowed. Why? Perhaps because I guard my reading time like a hoard of priceless treasure; I could hardly begin to imagine others dictating what I should read when I have my own lengthy list of reading desires. But an old friend asked me last year if I would join a monthly zoom group. I um’d and ah’d and came up with every excuse I could think of until I ran out of them and thought, OK, would it really be so terrible if I just gave it a go?

You can see where this is going, can’t you? I honestly have not looked back. In my monthly zoom book club, I have come together with a wonderful group of women to discuss, laugh and celebrate reading. And yes, it has meant I have read books I haven’t hugely enjoyed, but the joy of community the group has brought me has far outweighed anything problematic about this. Plus, it has widened my reading horizons which can only ever be a good thing.

Phone Conversations

Phone conversations with friends often used to happen when I was walking from one place to another, or I put my headphones in and spoke to people whilst cooking or washing up. Recently, I’ve been far more intentional about doing video calls on WhatsApp or Skype or Zoom. I’ve made a point of stopping what I’m doing, finding a comfy spot to sit, making a brew and sitting with people. It really does feel after I’ve seen their faces more like I’ve spent time with people.

Group Reading

I am so lucky to live in a city filled with independent bookshops. Recently,  one of these shops that I often buy from let people know via social media that for one hour a week, they would provide a communal zoom reading space. I really didn’t know if this would do anything for me at all; after all, I am often reading anyway. BUT, it turns out this has done a lot for me. The organiser starts off the hour by welcoming us and saying a few words about what he’s reading. We all then type in the chat box what we’re reading and proceed to spend the next hour quietly engaged in our books with some lovely soothing music provided by the organiser. My whole family join in. This may or may not sound strange, but it feels inclusive, nurturing and deeply satisfying.

Writing Group

My writing group fell apart when Covid hit and limped along amongst the stop and start of various lockdowns. Following on from what I mentioned in the introduction, I felt really resistant to starting this up on zoom. I like being with people and sensing them, which I find really hard with the barrier of a screen. But we need each other, I thought. And it’s true, I really do need a writing community, particularly as it can be such a solitary pursuit and it would be all too easy just to let it slip. But I gave myself a little talking to and encouraged myself to send out that invitation to my group: who wants to go online? And here we are in 2021, meeting online every month.

Interaction

I have so little non-virtual interaction with people outside my household at the moment. Are you finding that, like me, you want to chat more to the lady behind the counter at the supermarket? The man with his visor at the post office desk? The postman delivering a parcel? I’m craving these small interactions, no matter how brief. With our masks on, we have to work even harder to convey feelings with our eyes. It’s not easy. But I find myself lingering longer than I normally would do, asking how somebody’s day has been, or even making small talk about the weather (us Brits are good at that.) And somehow, no matter how brief the exchange, I come away from this exchange feeling more connected.

Over to you. What is helping you to feel connected during this time of disconnection? What groups have you joined or what other hacks have you found to help you while we’re spending so much time at home?

If you enjoyed this blog post, compliment it with reading A Letter to my Future Grandchildren; a clarion call to creative resilience in the face of fire & a poem I once wrote as a Love Letter to public libraries.

, ,

Poems of a Teenage Girl

Last year, I spied a book in the window of my local bookshop, How to Grown your own Poem by Kate Clanchy. I loved the cover and the title and often use poetry to help my students with creative literacy, so decided to treat myself to…
,

Second Prize in Trip Fiction Sense of Place Competition

I was delighted to discover last week that I had come second in a writing competition which 400 people from 35 countries entered. The remit was to write a piece of fiction or non-fiction under 3000 words that had a strong sense of place. I…

📚Top Ten Books of 2020📚

I read quite a lot of books, so it wasn't at all easy to narrow this list down to ten. I have also discovered the joys of audiobooks this year which has significantly bumped up my book intake. I spent some time writing out my long list, crossing…

Creative Writing in Prison

Tilda Bowden is a friend from my Nairobi days who was in my writing group over there, The Turaco Tree Writers. In recent years, Tilda has been going into a women's prison to run creative writing and poetry workshops. I invited her onto the…

♡ Love Letters ♡

I wanted to write a quick post about this amazing initiative, The World Needs More Love Letters. The concept is simple: each month people from around the globe can nominate somebody they know who is suffering in some way (eg illness, bereavement,…
,

'Turning': Publication of my Poetry ebook

Each and every person have strategies to help them cope with challenging times. For me, you won't be surprised to hear that it's always been writing, for as long as I can remember: journalling, short stories, poems, haiku, fragments of words,…