In a world where we’re constantly connected, we seem to be more disconnected with ourselves and with the world around us.
We have information at our fingertips and thousands of friends online, drowning in notifications and messages…and yet, a lot of us will still struggle to identify a few good friends who we could invite over to share a meal and a glass of red with; or to open up to people about conversations that truly matter.
The phrase “social distancing” has been tossed around by politicians and media outlets for months. In Australia, every cafe or store you walk into, you’re greeted with hand sanitiser and a glaring sign that says to “Keep your distance. Please ensure you stay 1.5m apart. Do not fart or sneeze in public or you risk ending the human race”.
Within all that is a subtle, subconscious reprogramming of our minds: keep your distance from one another. Social connection (a kiss on the cheek, a warm hug, a firm handshake) is frowned upon. Wear a mask so you don’t accidentally breathe on an elderly man and see him collapse on the spot.
But it’s not the physical distance (a much more appropriate phrase) I have an issue with. It’s the belief that we’re now somehow potentially a problem or threat to others. So we internalise that belief, we withdraw from social outings and we distance ourselves not just physically, but emotionally from people in such times as these. We submit to voluntary house arrest and some of us have loved this time and others have suffered. When social structures such as friendships and places of worship and sporting events or movies or sources of entertainment – something many rely upon for their mental wellbeing – is taken away, we can succumb to being prisoners of our own thoughts. As a result, we can begin to bury how we truly feel, such that it’s easy to ignore the emotional, internal sickness that we might be experiencing – without us even realising it!
The question “How are you?” Is often asked by way of being polite. We throw it around to the cashier, or start a phone call with that question before we dive into the real heart of the conversation. However, I believe it’s a question that's meant a lot more and has felt more genuine when I’ve heard that asked of me over the last few months. I’m grateful for that, even if it’s been brought on isolation at home.
So I’d like to ask you the same question, dear friend.
How are you?
Have you thought about your answer in detail? Have you allowed yourself to really sit with yourself and wrestle with the feelings that might be present for you? Or have you found yourself defaulting to the universal, socially acceptable answer of “Good”.
Yes, physical distancing has its merits for keeping contagions at bay. But may we not let the physical distance create chasms between us connecting between one another. We have to eliminate the social distance between two hearts.
“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things.”
May we be the kind of people who don’t just talk about loving people, but actually ones who practice it. Who don’t just wish for community, but are active in creating that. Through an honest conversation or by being vulnerable. To have the courage to call your sister you haven’t spoken to in five years and forgive her for the nasty things she said to you when you were 12. Or to reach out to a friend you haven’t heard from during the pandemic and check in and see how they are.
You see, love is a thousand things, but at the heart of it is a choice. It’s a choice to show up and love people; to be kind and vulnerable and messy and honest and forgiving.
The world is not going back to what it was.
That can either be a really thrilling or really daunting realisation for you to have. Amongst job losses and businesses collapsing; of news of people dying and numbers of domestic violence cases and relationship breakdowns, can also be a place of beauty and introspection. To re-evaluate life and re-assess who exactly it is that you are and what it is you wish to commit your time, energy and money towards in the future.
Some questions to ponder:
- What is the life I wish to create for myself when all of this is over?
- If I could choose a new direction for my life, what is it that I’d like to do?
- Who do I need to become to turn these circumstances into a reason to succeed; to prosper; to see it as an opportunity and reap the rewards?
I certainly know these times have been stressful for many of my loved ones. It’s placed pressure on relationships to generate the finances to survive through redundancies. It’s brought up a lot of stuff in relationships where two partners are now spending more time together than they ever have before and are learning to live in the presence of each other without wanting to punch the other person in the face!
I want you to know that if you’re feeling a lot right now, that it’s okay to stop and breathe. It’s okay to say you need a break.
Make sure that you indeed share those genuine thoughts and feelings with those closest to you – rather than withdraw and keep them to yourself. Or you can always reply to this email if you need an ear to listen.
We don’t have a rulebook to life. We’re all just winging it. It’s not a race; or a thing that you win. It’s not a contest. You’re here for more than a wedding ring, a university degree or a job with a fancy title and a pay check. Life isn’t about your status, or religion, or your perfectly curated Instagram profile. There’s no reward for faking it (just an inflated ego and empty accolades).
Many of us are figuring out what we wish our lives to be like and are navigating through a global pandemic, together, for the very first time.
So if you’re hurting, it’s okay to say that you’re hurting. If you’re unsure of what to do next, it’s okay to say you’re stuck. You aren’t the only person to feel this way and there are others who can meet you there, wherever you are, in your depths.
I want you to know that you are more than your pain. More than the empty wine bottle or fresh scars on your wrist. More than the sad tears that fall on your pillow at night. More than the letter you’ve written and never told anyone about. More than your addictions.
To know there’s more to this life than pain, is to have the courage to close the (social) distance. To reach out. To ask for help.
It’s never too late to put your hand up and say, “Hey, I’m actually not okay right now.” There’s still time to start anew: be that in a new relationship, a new job or a new city. It’s not too late and you’re not alone.
In this space, where we fight to close the social and emotional distance between people, I’m arguing that we be people who create spaces and communities where people feel safe enough to share; to be vulnerable and to let people know that there’s nothing they cannot talk about. May we banish elephants from our living rooms and instead, open up space for people to be met in their triumph and their sorrows.
This email is for you as much as it is for your neighbour (or your enemy).
You see, all we have is right now.
So in this moment, I ask you, “How are you?”
Can we have that conversation?
Can we have a conversation where it moves us both? Where we connect in with each other’s stories and we meet each other exactly where we are?
Perhaps we’re both here to remind each other of the dreams on our hearts and what is still possible. Even amongst the uncertainty and the $0.00 balance in our bank accounts.
We’re still here, aren’t we?
Still breathing, still kicking.
It’s not our time to throw in the towel, yet. To give up. To quit. Even though that’s very tempting to do so!
You and I, on two sides of a screen, spread across the world.
The sun will still rise today and then the moon will settle in. And the day will kick on.
That gives me hope that things can change in your favour, as the only constant is change. I’m glad you’re here and reading this.
So whilst I’m not exactly sure of your story during the last 3 months of crazy Corona, I just want you to know that it isn’t your time to give up. To not give up on your story or the people you love.
“Friendship is a diminishing of distance between people.” – Keith Richards
So can we close the distance now?
Let’s stop withholding our love from the people who matter most to us.
If you love someone, tell them.
If you miss someone, pick up the phone and call them.
If conflict is present, can you let it go and seek peace?
Destroy the silence that exists between you and others. Laugh. Cry. Forgive. Apologise. Make amends. Buy flowers and chocolate and show up on doorsteps if you need to. Write letters and send smoke signals or a carrier pigeon if you must. Start again if all else fails and reinvent the whole relationship.
Life is short yet friendships are amongst some of the richest, most fulfilling experiences we can have.
You are a character in your own story, playing a part that’s truly unique and treasured and priceless. No one else can play your part. And a great story never has just one person in it, does it? You are the main character in your story, but there are so many others that are here to love you. To see you. To understand you. To empathise with you. To heal alongside you. The ones you can lean on and could call in the middle of the night. These are the folk who step in when things get hard, to remind you that you are loved and that you matter. And that they’re willing to cross the distance, jump on planes and travel oceans to see you.
You’re not alone in your story.
So please don’t be shy in reaching out to those you love.
To reconnect and rekindle.
To be more social.
There is still so much of our story to live.
That’s something to be truly excited about!
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