. . . we are learning —
“Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
In his essay Friendship, Ralph Waldo Emerson argues that “we have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken.” Despite our human capacity for “selfishness,” he writes, “the whole human family is bathed with an element of love like a fine ether.”
Recently, I posted a question to Facebook friends asking, “Thus far, what do you think you’ve learned from Covid-19?” I have little presence on FB, but nonetheless this time of mostly self-isolation caused me to wonder what my FB friends are thinking.
The post elicited many comments, most of which were original and not replies. Responses came from folks living as far away as Grand Rapids, Michigan; Boston, Los Angeles, Maryland, North Carolina, and Vermont. Most came from Northeast Florida.
The brief lessons learned from these willing friends are serious, provocative, and inspirational. Though in no way representative of a broad public response to what this time is teaching many of us, the comments nonetheless reveal that this time apart has allowed for deep personal reflection.
Solitude will do that.
Most of these folks feel grateful, to health care and other essential but all too often poorly paid workers; for being healthy thus far; and for being able to step back from harried busy-ness; for family.
For the quiet.
Most are profoundly conscious of how much meaning and purpose their friends bring to their lives, and how much they miss quality time together. Clearly being human has something to do with friendship.
Comments reveal a longing for in-person human connection, and while revealing gratitude for technologies that allow us to “see” each other, respondents lament the distance and artificiality and feel “zoomed out.”
Few mentioned the current political climate, and those who did sadly commented about economic inequities, the politicalization of health care, and continued divisiveness.
You can read the responses below, as one piece, without attribution.
Question: Thus far, what do you think you’ve learned from Covid-19?
One: A market response is inappropriate.
Two: From a practical view, working remotely is doable and I’m getting used to it. The traffic between my bedroom to my kitchen can be brutal though! 😉 I have learned greater patience except when I encounter people who don’t wear masks in stores and who view not wearing masks as a right.
Three: I’ve learned a lot about people in my circle that I didn’t know. Some . . . inspirational. Others . . . disappointing. Still others . . . disgust.
Four: I’ve learned to cope with disappointment, quasi-isolation, and formless days, but also to be grateful that no one I love has gotten sick.
Five: 1. The virus was in the USA last November 2. Fear is worse than risk 3. American didn’t need fines and punishment to comply with simple home quarantine recommendations as China and the EU required.
Six: I love my Virtual business. Love building an on-line business. I am in my element. Feel thrilled that I have worked at this for many years. So happy for the introspection and growth. I have to manage how I look at the world. The diversity of perspectives among my friends, peers and associates are amazing and challenging. I have had to delete and block many. I don’t care. They are not being loving or kind. I love, adore not having to go to events, meaningless events. I learned that the gap between the haves and have nots is way bigger than most imaging. Learned that supporting women in small business is one of the most important action steps I can take. I run several entrepreneurial groups for women and women of color. They are determined, fighters. True goddess warriors.
Seven: I’ve learned that it’s much easier to gain weight so we put a pretty nice gym in our family room over the garage. I’ve learned to appreciate, even more my hummingbirds, songbirds, bunnies, flowers. And I’ve found deeper faith. And last but certainly not least, I’ve learned not to take time with my family for granted.
Eight: We’ve learned a lot about who is an essential worker and who is completely useless in a world crisis. We’ve learned that poverty is a co-morbidity, as is being brown or black. We’ve learned that we pay one collective price for health care, and if we don’t cover everybody, even those who are undocumented, we will be all be at risk in a pandemic. On a lighter note, the birds have gotten dumb from the lighter traffic. I have had two graze my car as I drive down our rural Vermont road.
Nine: Learning zoom and getting the lighting and your background right. And, I’m sick of zoom and look forward to more in person visits, meetings and conversations.
Ten: I’m learning that I miss my friends and great conversation.
Eleven (a reply): I agree but last night, practicing safe distance, three couples met for snacks and conversation.
Twelve (a reply): My neighborhood now calls it “drive-by drinking” with people all over a driveway—you guessed it—drinking.
Thirteen (a reply): We spread way out, had name tags assigned for our seats, had all this slimy stuff to put on our hands, and just had some great conversations with elected and former elected officials there, former appointed officials there and two slights to the right of Ghengis Kahn! Conversation was delightful. For our next gathering, one, a former award winning florist, is picking out a subject and we all have to do a story about it to be read aloud!
Fourteen: I’ve learned there is a limit to how many books I can read. Miss conversations with friends, the education and excitement of travel, and working out every day at Brooks Rehab
Fifteen: Yes, l miss my gym!
Sixteen: I’ve learned a lot about true and deep friendship, and my dog has had all of her suspicions confirmed. I’m learning that motivation and inspiration are really nice, but discipline is where the action is and what yields results.
Seventeen: I’m learning that everything gets politicized these days, even human health, which used to be a shared concern.
Eighteen: I learned some new chords and picked up another instrument. My music friends very creatively connected us so we could at least hear and see each another. I also have learned to leery of crowds. I was in a situation the other night where there were more unmasked than masked people certainly not social distancing when l was picking up food. I was surprised how uneasy l felt.
Nineteen: I’ve learned to appreciate more than ever all service workers. We’d be in real trouble without them.
Twenty: I miss PEOPLE! (Friends!)
Twenty-one: I’ve learned how to take my life back. No biggie. Seriously, I’ve incorporated much more defined boundaries between work and life. I’m getting more sleep. Eating better. I’ve been reminded a thousand-fold of how much more important my family is to anything else. I learned how truly grateful I am—more than I ever thought before—of how lucky I am during a time of so much trauma, struggle and pain for so many others. And didn’t have to learn how much I would miss my friends—knew I would. And I sure could use and give some hugs.
Twenty-two: I really am an introvert! There’s NO substitute, for me, for being in the same room with the people I care about and those I don’t, I can mute myself on Zoom!
Twenty-three: I’ve learned that the same people who are kind and valiant normally are even more so during the pandemic. I have felt the intense loss of physical connections to my friends. I have learned that there is a lot more fear and mean-spiritedness among the haves than I had ever realized. I ache for the suffering of all the sick and jobless. I am appalled at the behavior of those who refuse to wear masks or to social distance. I am deeply grateful for my friends and family and for the champions of truth, social responsibility, science and civility.
Twenty-four: We are all the same. Well, most all of us.
Twenty-five: I have learned to truly enjoy time at home and in isolation, which I had feared would be difficult for me. I am profoundly grateful for my “housemate” (so much more than that!) . . ., who provides great company and constant entertainment, and my dog, who thinks he hath ascended into heaven, having both his mommies home full time.
Twenty-six: I’m learning that people are really kind inside, despite their best efforts to act otherwise.
Twenty-seven: I have discovered that even with the dangers of the pandemic our current lifestyle enables us to enjoy greater leisure, reflection and reading.
Twenty-eight: I’ve learned the way to slow time passing is slow down, be more present. I’ve learned a lot about “remote leadership” and love how the team has adopted and thrived in “working from home”….most enjoying the balance it gives them. I’ve learned to be more flexible than I was . . . looking for new ways to connect, safe ways to visit outdoors. I’ve learned how many of my dear friends and family aren’t near me, and without travel, I miss them! And, I miss hugging people when I catch up with them in person!
Twenty-nine: I miss lunch, including a Bloody Mary, with friends.
Thirty: Something new that we didn’t know before? Globally, not very much. Locally, no surprises. Personally…my husband has repressed his inner tailor for 50 years. Evidence? Cranking out dozens of masks for whoever would take them. I’ve learned Zoom and that my friends miss me as much as I miss them. Did I forget anything?. . .‘cause I’m glad to answer any questions.
Thirty-one: I forgot to mention… jigsaw puzzles are da’ bomb!
Thirty-two: I have learned not to count on tomorrow – you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I, too, have gotten pretty good with Zoom and actually attended some meetings that I probably would have passed up. I also learned that I really don’t like to stay home. I guess that is why I keep reinventing myself with a new job.
Thirty-three: I’ve learned to be even more grateful. I’ve learned that there are so many more kind people than there are nasty ones who get so much attention. I’ve learned that not only can you not fix stupid, you can’t quarantine it either.
Thirty-four: Learned how much I love and need being with friends in person. My dog has sustained me. Remembered how much I love music, books, poetry, movies. Aware of missing art of all kinds. I have always been a thankful person. I am even more thankful. Granularly thankful for kindnesses of all kinds.
Thirty-five: I’ve been reminded that all we have is the present moment
Thirty-six: How to look inward. Throwing out old photos from your parents when you do not know who’s in them. Getting rid of half of my shoes. Leaving notes on things in case something happens to me so my kids will know their history. The quiet – I like it. Watching the sun rise. And, how small we all are who live upon this large planet.
Thirty-seven: The quiet has been lovely.
Thirty-eight: How so many things we thought were important were not. Except for regular haircuts. They are more important than I thought. Part of self-esteem.
Thirty-nine: How adaptable one is. And how the things we worry about ahead of time are often not the right things to worry about.
Forty-one: I’ve learned how much I love a slower pace. We had all become accustomed to a hectic fast pace as normal. I so much prefer to slow down and smell the roses on so many levels.
Forty-two: I have learned that as I approach 80, I live in a country that has turned inward and balkanized. The concept of the general welfare is antiquated. Wealth and power are prized over a sense of noblesse oblige. Fear drives behavior that a decade ago would be unacceptable. Our Constitution has been corrupted. This makes celebrating Memorial Day extremely problematic. So, if you were looking for a touchy, feely response, make me non-compliant.
Forty-three: I found that I like quiet, sitting on the porch, listening and watching all of creation and am not happy that the noise of traffic and the chatter of frantic lives is returning.
Forty-four: How fortunate I am to live here [in Northeast Florida]. Always thought I wanted to live in Manhattan. it’s hard to imagine living in 500 or 600 SF with no access to a garden and sunshine for 8 weeks. My heart aches for New Yorkers, they are heroes!
Forty-five: I learned again the importance of a national health care system and Leadership. The importance of family and how lucky I was to marry my best friend even though it was not the norm or accepted at the time, different race and religion. I saw that nature is truly a wonderful thing and a walk is a way to appreciate it. I learned to slow my pace and appreciate a good book, a good movie and taking to friends on the phone or internet is satisfying for the soul. I learned to be grateful more for all the little things I had taken for granted. Even toilet paper.
Forty-six: The slower pace/cadence. The stillness has been refreshing to the soul! Its availability had been a gift that I had been denying myself.
Forty-seven: My lifestyle has not changed all that much, I read constantly, but did before. I disagree with the management of the city, county, state and the Federal government, but I did before. Biggest thing is m missing coffee or happy hour with my friends, both liberal and conservative, with whom sometimes I disagree but we are never disagreeable and at our age can’t remember what it was about the next day! Biggest disappointment since I spend time on Facebook is how stupid a great number of people are about government on the local, state and federal level. It is like Civics was taken out of schools about 30 years ago!