Zooming In, Missing Out
Virtual activities still seem to be the norm and I miss the social aspect of in-person gatherings
A friend asked, "Did you get Covid?"
You were lucky."
Hmm…Yes, I was. I might have suffered…or died.
But like a tornado that leaves a trail of debris in its wake, the pandemic swept away the vibrant multi-colored social fabric I'd weaved around myself slowly and painstakingly over several years.
The pandemic swept away the vibrant multi-colored social fabric I'd weaved around myself slowly and painstakingly over several years.
Since I suffered the double disruptions of widowhood and retirement in the space of six months, I'd invested my time, energy and ingenuity in a daunting endeavor: finding and engaging with congenial people around shared interests. A hit or miss process, with many disappointments along the way, happily resulting in meaningful relationships and frequent face-to-face gatherings.
The pandemic shifted most of those group activities from in-person to Zoom and similar formats; in its wake they seem irreversibly stuck in those modes. For years I enjoyed catching up with members of my Tai Chi class every Tuesday and Friday when we'd meet in the teacher's home. Before and after class we'd catch up on each other's news and chat about this and that.
At lunch recently I asked the teacher, who's become a dear friend, "Would you consider resuming the in-person classes?"
Shaking her head she exclaimed, "No!"
Zoom Is a Loss for Me
I got the message. Why bother having people traipse in and out of her house for classes when she can sit in her living room and accomplish the same thing while baking a casserole for dinner or having her powder room painted?
No more twice-weekly mornings spent with a congenial group of people I'd come to know over a decade.
Zoom made her life easier but my heart sank because her answer meant a loss for me. No more twice-weekly mornings spent with a congenial group of people I'd come to know over a decade. Instead, I'd practice Tai Chi alone in front of my computer.
And my book club? Women I'd come to know well over years of meeting in each other's homes? A generation-spanning group I'd host in my home every fifth week, when we'd discuss the book du jour once over lightly, then chat about what we'd been up to, exchange tips about anything and everything, choose a book and set the date for our next gathering.
Missing Interactions with Friends
Between meetings we'd "see" each other on Facebook, exchange emails and even celebrate milestones or bring in the New Year together:
"Linda, it's your turn to host, right?"
"Does anyone know a good handyman?"
"Have you tried the new sushi place near Laura's house?"
I keenly miss the face-to-face conversations with those women, and the pleasure of their company when it's my turn to host.
Now we Zoom in each month from our separate locations. Unlike the other members of the group, I have no family in or near my home. I keenly miss the face-to-face conversations with those women, and the pleasure of their company when it's my turn to host.
No more memoir group meetings in the cozy ambience of our teacher's home, with time set aside before class for a "what's new with you" conversation and exchange tips about the nitty-gritty problems life brings, like a dentist who's retiring or a roof that needs repair.
I'm not the only single, retired individual still suffering from the pandemic in this profoundly personal way, having lost the social interactions that relieve the solitude of their personal situations.
Although I was married for 42 years, have 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren, I'm what is defined as a "solo ager" — widowed, living alone, stranded where I landed in suburban DC; family scattered to both coasts and the Southwest.
To relieve my solitude, I rely on interactions with friends and colleagues. So even though I'm grateful to have survived the pandemic without a single sneeze much less a serious, scary illness, I suffered — and still reel from — the toll it took on my quality of life.