One of my strongest personality traits is my ability to suppress desire for things I cannot have. This has served me well off and on, but especially for the past two months of Covid-19 social distancing. Many of my friends have adopted new skills such as learning to Zoom with confidence. Others have ramped up use of the long dormant skill of conversing by telephone. I have made a few phone calls, and I even tried Zoom once before abandoning the idea. Next week, I’ll try an alternative to Zoom, Jitsi, to connect with one of my core group of friends, but I hope never to have to rely on this.
During his recent press conference, our governor, Jay Inslee, outlined his guidelines for bringing Washington back to some semblance of normalcy. But his plan is entirely dependent on our ability to keep our numbers down. “Our numbers” include new cases of Covid-19 and hospital admissions. Our painful restrictions on socializing have really had just two goals: to keep people from getting sick and to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed. Gradually, we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
After listening to Inslee, I found myself sensing the re-emergence of desire for experiences I’ve been missing. What I desire is what I find most interesting: proximity to friends. Whereas some have substituted the term physical distancing for social distancing. and made a determined effort to maintain contact, conduct meetings, and shop and do business online, I don’t crave all that. I’ve engaged in regular email with friends who live elsewhere, but email and phone calls just don’t satisfy my desire to sit close to local friends.
When we can finally reunite, I’m not sure i even want to talk with friends; I just want to be with them. One thing that makes this pandemic so tragic is the stories of people dying without the comfort of even their nurses, much less the people they’re closest to. Skin must not touch skin. Faces must not be visible. Families must not be present. People who are sick at home must be isolated.
Proximity to my husband has perhaps enabled me to survive this aberrant period. I have worried constantly about him since a life-threatening accident many years ago. But for the past two months, he’s been right here where I can keep my eye on him, away from germs and other dangers. One of my desires has been fulfilled: to know that he’s safe. So, while the virus is swirling around the world, I’m calm, relaxed, happy to have him close.
I’m guessing its a similar fear for the well-being of my friends that is at the root of my desire to simply be with them. When we are first able to meet in person, I don’t want to know what they think about anything. I want to sit at a table for two while we enjoy lunch or a drink. I want to sit on the same bench in the park. I want to be at the table where book group meets, sitting in our regular chairs. I want to see with my own eyes that these dear people are safe and well. Conversation will return, but only after my eyes are satisfied.