I was talking to a friend the other day about how easy it has become to just stay at home, send a few texts or emails and order what you need via computer then think you’ve had a productive day. Technology has made it a snap to simply stay at home. The workplace has also changed so many people are working remotely and that just compounds the tendency to hang around the house. Unfortunately, too many days like that can run into each other and whether people notice it or not, the result can be an empty feeling, maybe even a mild depression that we can’t really identify but that seeps into our lives without any of us being aware. It’s unhealthy.
The last 18-months has made in-person socializing less commonplace which have been replaced by more impersonal forms of communication like ZOOM meetings, Facetime, emails and texting. I’m blaming the COVID terror that has swept over us in the last year and a half for this physical separation but I’m blaming technology for what it has done to our youth, who prefer to text over any other form of communication. The result has been mass isolation and less in-person socialization.
What’s made this even worse is wearing masks! Granted, most of us don’t wear masks as frequently as we used to—even in public—but the employees we interact with in retail stores or restaurants do! It’s horrible! They are like robot people with muffled voices scurrying around unable to communicate any genuine warmth or expression. They can’t flash a smile or suppress a little smirk when they know we’ve done something stupid. I miss all of that! It’s also sad that employees of these establishments are now like masked servants with covered faces and only their eyes exposed so they can see where they’re supposed to go. That dreadful policy has limited authentic interaction between employees and customers and has also contributed to that sense of isolation on both sides.
This all started with the COVID lockdowns, working from home and the media-stoked fear that something dreadful would happen if we were exposed to “other” people. So, in response, we whittled down our network of friends, limited family interactions and in some cases, totally eliminated visiting our older relatives. Months went by and there was always another excuse and then another we were given to perpetuate our social distancing, mask wearing and limited exposure. All of a sudden, it was 18-months later and many of us had developed a very lazy and predictable weekly routine.
It’s been a good thing I am a writer and at the time all this was happening, I was in the middle of finishing one book and then a second. Not surprising how writing manuscripts, preparing them for the publisher and performing all the pre-publishing functions made time fly. But now I’m back to earth and realize I still receive lots of texts and emails, but the phone rarely rings. I also am working with a promotional team I haven’t and likely won’t ever meet because of this new virtual work environment we’ve created. My team is scattered all over the place from Cape Cod to Guatemala and from Washington State to Ashville, North Carolina. A ZOOM call here and there is not the same. I’m suffering from human contact withdrawal and it’s dreadful!
So, I’ve decided to take action. I’m forcing myself to call people and set up at least three meetings a week outside my house, whether I need them or not. Some are with long-time friends to catch-up over lunch or ice-tea, others are related to book promotion and instead of dealing with such matters by email, I’m making it a point to stop by and am finding a logical excuse to do so.
For example, I have a launch party for my latest book scheduled for December 1st at a restaurant in Phoenix. I’ve been to that restaurant many times, over the years and know the room, I’ve eaten their food—not recently but am familiar with their menu and it’s not rocket science to pick the menu, make a few calls, see the room once and do the deal. Yet, I’m schlepping over there to physically visit the room one more time, sample their wine selection (for insurance), and finalize the menu items—maybe tasting a couple! I truly don’t need to do any of that in person but in the old days, that is precisely the routine I’d have followed.
There is an extra benefit in forcing myself to begin physical meetings once again. The process is uplifting, forces me to become fixed up in the morning—instead of dragging around the house with no make-up and in jeans and a t-shirt. This new routine will open the door for possibilities! Yes, I’m not too old for possibilities!
Years ago, I had a wonderful philosophy about life. I knew each day would bring adventure and delightful surprises my way, so I jumped out of bed with eager anticipation and that’s how I began each day. Guess what? That’s precisely what happened, and my life was rich and full of amazing encounters, experiences and opportunities that never could have been found sitting behind a desk, any desk.
Today, it’s no different. For example, if a person is single, who knows who might show up in a new coffee house or when parking your car! And, no, I’m not too old for that either! Being out and about encourages acting on impulse—dashing into a store, just for curiosity or giving in to the temptation to have just one scoop of fabulous gelato! That’s precisely when we run into old friends one hadn’t seen in decades and allows for experiences, we could never predict. That’s when the magic happens!
I’m not bored, I have plenty to do—in fact, I have too much to do. But my routine is boring, there is less excitement in my life these days and little chance for God to work His miracles! Trust me, no miracles are coming while I sit at home in front of my computer!
I’m therefore committed to breaking the isolation habit into which I’ve fallen headfirst! Instead, I’ve pledged to get out and interact with real live human beings again—at a pace reminiscent of the good old days. I can’t wait to see what comes from that shift in my weekly routine. When something delightful and surprising happens, I’ll be sure to make notes and let you all know in an upcoming blog.
Meanwhile, if you’re anything like me—a little change of pace might be a good idea for you, too!