‘Scotland's back in business’...
I try to resist glancing across one of the newspaper headlines, standing in a queue on my lunch break today. As most of the restrictions are lifted from this endless extended year of COVID-19, it got me thinking about what I missed and the things I didn't.
But it's also got me wondering where the buffer for our mental health is as the pendulum swings back towards a perceived ‘normal’. Being let back out into the wild is and should be different for everyone, despite the headlines.
Some are ready to jump! Miley Cyrus's wrecking ball style straight back in, whilst others like myself have no desire to rush into any social gatherings, restaurants, crowded shopping centres, and may even have developed a level of social anxiety in inhibiting communal spaces and workplaces.
The media narrative centres around how much we have missed ‘normality’ and our ‘Loved ones', that we have surplus money to spend, that we all have the same risk and the same loss.
But what if that isn't your story?
Some are not returning to the so-called normality of the shared workplace.
Some are in parts of the country where restrictions are not lifting due to the new variants.
Some organisations and individuals are still pivoting and evolving.
Some are still mourning their losses and still accessing their risks.
Whilst there are pros and cons to the idea of the flexibility to work from home. The real impact of the loss of daily human connections being replaced by Zoom and screen interaction on Mental health and well-being remains to be seen.
Before we rush back in, should we take a beat to ask ourselves,’ what have I actually missed’ not what the government or consumer narrative would like us to think we have?
Whilst working from my bedroom, I have found myself pondering the smaller, more incidental connections that I missed and that goes into the richness of our daily lives.
I am lucky enough to live in a city where the best mode of transport is on foot. The daily commute has meant seeing a host of peripheral characters to my life's plotline. This cast are not what we conceptually see as ‘friendships’; they are the ‘acquaintances’, and I'm pretty sure they would make for a very awkward zoom quiz mix.
The first few steps in Rawlins stages of friendship are; limited role Interactions, General public interactions governed by the rules of civility, learning someone’s name and general small talk.
Rawlins hasn't met some of my acquaintances or experienced my conversations with strangers. These seem to fall very much out of the realm of ‘small talk’.
Working from home means opportunity for these unscheduled interactions has been limited but made me aware of how massively underrated they are.
Working in hospitality for several parts of my work life, one of the many work hats I’ve worn is Barista. I came to value the role, not for the long hours or the bad pay and conditions, but for the many acquaintances, I met along the way.
Some have become meaningful friendships, but some were precisely what they were supposed to be; People on my path, for that moment of time in my life, people whom I connected with.
My job was not just to remember their coffee order but also to know where we had left off in the episode of their life in our last conversation.
And unlike the conversations with your ‘friends’ or family, there is no expectation for you to assist or intervene, just to Listen.
Asking... ‘How are you today is more valuable than anything possibly purchased.
I probably spent a lot of my time having big conversations. These somewhat informal exchanges are what I have unexpectedly missed.
Discussions of COVID-19 dominating our dialogue these last 16months with a narrative of separation and fear. I relish the opportunity to stop in the street and talk to a stranger about the weather. Their extras, who without, my life wouldn't have such a rich storyboard.
Valuing my acquaintances and acknowledging that connections can come in many forms has been good for me; they help solidify my storyline.
Give yourself some time…
I think it's essential to find your own headline in the story of all the news you hear, that just because Dehaharms sends you an email that says Brb, the pub is calling 📞(this is precisely what I found in my inbox) doesn't mean you have to answer.
What's important here is finding what you missed, what you authentically feel you connect to.
Give yourself time to establish your boundaries about handshaking and social reintegration; for you, that may be fancy dinners and trips away, maybe the more minor more incidentals.
That you may be more, hold up, slow down, wait a minute, I'm not ready! Then let's get this party started.
Give yourself time to press decline, pause and rewind. If you are not ready to gather, gather your emotional strength and bring forward with you what you wish to leave behind.
Blog by Nina Abeysuriya