We’ve been hearing about “social distancing” so much over the past few weeks as this pandemic is shaking up life as we once knew it. Of course it’s natural for us to feel many different reactions and emotions as we sort out how to deal with this crisis: grief and longing for our old lives and routines, hope for answers, frustration and despair when reading news, endless scrolling through news and social media, absent-mindedness, to name just a few. And then there’s the new space-time phenomenon in which last week seems like it was really months away because so many things have changed so suddenly.
In Asia, we’ve been living with this since January. We were closed down more or less for all of February when the rest of the world wasn’t paying the attention they should have been to this emerging crisis. For the past few weeks, I have tried and tried again to write about our lives and reactions here. But, the words didn’t seem to come out right. And that’s ok. Our lives and emotions have been turned upside down as we’re searching for answers, new routines to guarantee safety, and ways for normalizing these sudden changes.
While we all try to come to terms with our new reality, I would like to pause for a moment to take note of the words we’re choosing. “Social Distancing” is the recommended course of action meaning that we should more or less isolate ourselves to prevent spreading infection, however, this term is a complete misnomer.
You see, the distance we are supposed to be creating is physical – not social.
While we may no longer enjoy group activities with friends and family, we are fortunate to have technology that allows us to connect with friends and family down the street or around the world with a simple click of a button. How amazing is that? While our family has been living overseas for more than a decade, we have become used to this way of communicating with our loved ones. But I am seeing more and more interactions come to fruition this way: board games and happy hour meet ups, pop-up online classes on topics ranging from fitness to cooking to learning, and generally, more texting and checking in on each other. So while the physical space between us might seem pretty big at the moment, our social connections seem to be much closer.
As for many others, our plans for the immediate future have changed dramatically and remain uncertain (no, we still don’t know where we’ll be living after this summer), however, I feel socially embraced by those reaching out and checking in. And, I am sure to not only return that act of kindness but to also reach out more to those who might be far away and share experiences, tips, or simply a laugh. So, let’s keep this social embrace going to help us through this. This, too, shall pass.