So here, enjoy some Kenny Loggins. And a dancing gopher:
So, Day 24 of social distancing is drawing to a close.* After last weekend’s bluesy mood, I surprised myself by keeping in pretty good gear during my workdays this week.
What drifts away from productivity happened had nothing much to do with my own emotional journey through these COVID days. They were the sorts of drifts a number of my colleagues and I have been noticing and remarking on in our meetings.
You all know the drill. You’re gathering for the start of a meeting, and someone asks “How is everyone?” We all reply “I’m fine” without even giving it much thought, and then buckle down to the business at hand.
Except now, when we gather on Zoom and look at each other in our Hollywood Squares, the exchange carries so much more weight now than it did.
We ask the question “How are you?” like it matters.
Because it does.
At this point, there’s not one of us who is more than a single degree of separation away from COVID-19. Not from the physical illness, not from its economic repercussions. So when we’re asking “How are you?” we know that things could have very much changed since we last talked 1, 2, or 4 days ago. Maybe someone’s become sick, or maybe they’re on the mend.
Even if nothing significant has changed, we’re all feeling our own version of the emotional roller-coaster that comes from living through this pandemic. Which means that from day to day—or even from meeting to meeting—my internal landscape, or my colleague’s could be very different than it was when we last talked.
In usual times, “How is everyone?” is so rote it scarcely exists as a question anymore.
Now the mystery and the question are back in full force. Because we really don’t know how each other are. And we want to take the time to find out.
And so our meetings are becoming a little less productive because of this. Because we’re using our time a little bit differently.
To be sure, that rote-ness of “the before times” ignores the truth that the humans we cross paths with have always-already been fighting their own secret battles. So in all honesty, we never really knew how each other were.
In this historical moment, that silent truth has been brought to the surface, pushed into our awareness in a different way. At least for me, it’s different.**
‘Cos even though I knew at some level that everyone is living their own life with their own joys and challenges under the surface, my usual aloofness and isolationist tendencies meant I would basically ignore that knowledge.
But now I’m asking the question like it matters.
Because it does matter.
And because I truly want to know.
* Since I’m in a medium-risk category, I started working from home a few days before our Governor started taking statewide containment measures. So I’m counting Thursday, March 12th as my Day 1.
** It is highly possible that there are many of y’all out there who were much more attuned and aware and generally non-assholeish than I have been wont to be….
Image credit: GPA Photo Archive on Flickr. Public domain.