Words influence how we interpret the world. The words “social distancing” are not an accurate description of what we need to be doing.
And I am not doing it.
I am physically distancing and socially leaning in. Hard.
I have plenty of experience social distancing, and so do many others who have dealt with infertility and family-building challenges. It was a mix of choice and, at times, necessity.
Do I attend the baby naming or the party full of kids that will make me sad? Can I skip some time with my family at the holidays so I don’t have to deal with them asking about having children? I just had another hormone surge, or bad test result, or failed cycle, or pregnancy loss and I don’t think I can handle being social. How do I answer if someone asks me if I want a drink, and I’m not drinking because I’m trying to get pregnant. I might lose it if one more person asks me when I’m going to have kids. I’m just not going to be social right now.
That is social distancing.
Staying at home because we are trying to protect ourselves and the vulnerable in our community and our health care system by slowing down the spread of a virus requires physical distancing.
Our entire society is desperately trying to be social while doing that.
I have been blessed to have three children through the course of my fertility struggles. Between them, we have an average of seven online kid gatherings per day. We talk to our neighbors’ kids through the fence. I’ve had two online girls’ nights.
Online meetings are continuing as usual at work. Our neighbors join us for “happy hour” standing in our driveways, physically separated, with whiskey, wine, tea or hot cocoa. Already they’ve been saying this ought to be a tradition. Online trivia nights on Sundays also have started.
Our life is quite different than it was two weeks ago, but we are connecting socially.
To be sure, we are stressed and strained. Emotions run high and, hour to hour, we may struggle between motivation and the drain of being physically isolated.
The feelings of social distance are real, but this is a result of physical distancing. We cannot change that for a while, but as I learned from my own experiences with infertility, part of social distance is a choice. We can also reach out to break through some of it with whatever means possible. More on that in a minute.
One of the core ideas in Judaism, and in spirituality in general, is that humans live through relationships — with community, friends, family and God. Our spiritual lives are based on connections. We experience everything and everyone through our relationship with them. Now is the time to focus on those relationships, lean in to them, hold them as tightly as possible, keep them strong, even if there is physical isolation.
This is a beautiful concept for adults to appreciate — and kids, too.
My children have a book about the invisible lines of connection we all have to people even when we don’t see them. It’s called love. As adults, we know this love has many levels: social, emotional and spiritual. In these times of facing Covid-19, everyone of all ages can take stock of those connections, socially, emotionally and spiritually.
Take a moment alone or with others in your home and be still. Close your eyes and do a social connection inventory. Who do you care about? Who could you help with a call, an email, a food drop-off, a card, etc.?
Think of the ways that others have helped you. Recall a moment of holding hands or sitting side by side near someone and feel the presence in your body of those others in your life. Try to feel connected to the Life Force that surrounds you or whatever your idea of God may be. Then bring yourself back to where you are.
Maybe you can turn these connections into action. Either way, let the connections sustain you for a while.
Social distance can be a choice. Right now, our physical distance is not. So rather than making social distancing part of your physical distancing, lean in. Maintain or expand your connections socially (and beyond) as much as you can.
May they sustain you through the physical distancing.