This morning I passed a regular walker whilst taking my dog to exercise at my local park. I was glad to see a familiar face. But she suddenly ceased walking in the middle of the oval, ‘stop-signed’ her white plastic gloved hands almost as if I was holding her at gun point. She then muffled something behind the blue face mask. We were over 10 metres apart but I confess to feeling a bit hurt. I sensed her awkwardness and waved but continued to walk in the other direction. I was never going to breach the 1.5 metre restriction, but it hit me that we are depriving ourselves of safe forms of connectedness that are essential to our well-being.
I remember feeling so upset early on in my stroke recovery when I had lost the ability to communicate and how disempowered and devalued I felt. Despite not being able to speak or move well, I still was able to make good eye contact. However, many times this means of communication wasn’t seen as crucial to them as it was to me. Yet, their disregard of my need really hindered my feelings of self-worth, the rapport I built with another and my recovery.
I write about this in my book, Reinventing Emma –
“… I remember in about my second week of rehab the first time I really tried to communicate with one of my doctors. He was walking down the corridor on my ward at the end of the day, carrying a pile of notes. I couldn’t call out or wave my arms about to get his attention, so I fixed my eyes in his direction. I knew he could see me, but he was busy reading the notes so he kept looking down and continued walking. I know I have done the same myself as a therapist, but the impact his behaviour had on me that day, when I already felt so stripped of all other means of communicating, was huge. I felt so forgotten, like an odd sock. Powerless. If he’d said ‘Em, I’ll see you tomorrow” that would’ve been fine. The disregard that I received that day really made me see how powerful communication is, and how simple things like eye contact and body language can really impact your relationships and recovery…”(p.129)
Understandably in the present situation, we do need to distance ourselves – we do need to isolate. However, what this term conveys to many is that we also need to be socially deprived. We are social beings and need to still connect with each other to withstand the huge disruption that’s taking place.
So, perhaps let’s try to keep up our social connectiveness when physically distancing – it is possible to do both! Surely, we have enough to contend with! Why not utilise some other ways of socialising remotely – a zoom chat with friends, a wave to a neighbour, a smile, write a letter or make a phone call. Especially essential to consider for those many people who live alone and are already isolated.
What can you do to get the dose of social connectedness that we’re all are craving?