You need one…

A quote that I saved from the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago seemed worthy of comment this morning – “Call it a clan; call it a network; call it a tribe; call it a family.  Whatever you call it, you need one.”  (Jane Howard)

Very few people are true loners, independent of the need to be around others. I suppose that some whom we might call hermits fit into that small group. There are a few individuals, whom we call mountain men, who seem to relish being out in the wilderness alone, but if you ask them, they never feel alone because they commune with nature so closely that they feel “nature’s family” all around them.

For most of us, however, Howard’s quote rings true. We need to be with other people and not just be around them but interact with them – to give and to receive attention and love in return. It is important to acknowledge others and be acknowledged in return. If one goes for some time without seeing and interacting with others a panicky sense of loneliness can set in. Have you ever had that temporary feeling like you were the last person left on earth?

I have a hard time even imagining what it must be like for those in nursing homes who have endured a year of being cut off physically from anyone other than the staff – no visits from loved ones or friends. Things like Facetime calls can provide a little relief, but I’m sure they would tell you it’s not the same as an in person hug or smile and conversation.

Back in my college days I spent a few the summers living in the frat house as sort of a summer caretaker. It was a big, old house that usually has 30-40 people in it; l however, in those summer months I was alone in the house. I would, on occasion, experience that strong feeling of being alone in the house and the town (college towns can get quite empty during the summer months, too). At those times I would walk to the nearby drug store and just spend some time “shopping”, just so that I could see other people. Have you ever had similar experiences?

One of the negative side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for many has been the increased sense of isolation that they feel because their “work families” have been taken away. The relationships that we have and the roles that we play at work provide a big part of our identities and support our sense of not being alone. We need that and the pandemic has taken that away for most. We still get work done from home, but for most the “water cooler” social time is gone, replaced (if at all) by Zoom time.

I recall a Zoom call that I was on not too ling ago where the question of what the impact has been of the need to stay home instead of going to work came up. My answer that was quickly agreed to by most on the call was that I had a sense of disconnect. Disconnect from the job and the people. That feeling of disconnect was and is disturbing. Certainly, I still had my home life and, in fact, the pandemic probably caused that part of my identity to take on even more meaning. What I didn’t have was “my place” in the work environment and the day-to-day relationships which that used to entail. Those things had been disconnected by the pandemic.

All of this is leading up to saying that it is very important for us as humans to be around and interact with other humans – to have the families, tribes, groups, whatever we call them. Even going to the grocery store can help us feel engaged with others – we are all part of the “mask wearers” tribe (or at least most are). Perhaps you joined the tribe in the early days who were the “seekers of toilet paper”. There has been for some time now the “survivors” group among those who had COVID, and among them the “long haulers” subgroup. Now we have the “vaccinated” and those still awaiting their shots as groups that we can identify with. And, as much as it “wastes” time on Zoom calls, the social interactions that are a part of every call are important opportunities for us to re-establish relationships with fellow “Zoomies”.

So, keep reaching out in any way that you can to others and establishing little networks, tribes and groups, because you need them. We keep hearing that “we will get through this together”. Yes, we will, in the many little tribes and groups that make up the “We” these days.

Have a great weekend and say “Hi” to the lady in aisle 8 at the grocery store – a fellow member of the mask wearers tribe.

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