Confinement, Connection, and Courage

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A year ago today, I was in the hospital, recovering from a fall. It was a fall from many things; from grace, from old dreams, and from habits and thoughts that were holding me back. Injury that takes you down to the bed for weeks has a way of humbling you, of forcing you to reflect on what matters, why you think the way you do, and in my case, what it meant to realize I was living the life I’d always wanted, yet still tried to flee from it and return to a phase in my life that no longer existed.

As I contemplate the anniversary of that fall in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s clear that the past year has been one of confinement for me. At first, being unable to walk for 12 weeks, then recovering via physical therapy and exercise through the winter only to emerge at the end of February with a road trip across the Southwest, culminating with a night of dancing with hundreds of others in early March while a “plague ship” hovered ominously in the San Francisco Bay, only to now be in confinement once again. Yet this time, the rest of the world is confined along with me.

There are many levels to confinement and at first it’s quite isolating, especially when you didn’t choose it. Monks choose confinement. My introverted son finds relief in it. Yet for most of us, confinement that is thrust upon us is shocking, threatening, and lonely. The rest of the world goes on without you and stuck in your chair, room, house, yard, etc., you begin to understand FOMO and wonder if you’ll ever get to be out in the world again.

It can lead you to do and think some crazy things. (I’m looking at you, Karen[1]).

It can also lead you to dream of wonderful things. Alone with your thoughts, entire worlds open up; worlds you never could have explored without the time out. When I was injured, I learned to speak French, contemplated consciousness and morphogenetic fields[2], read about courageous men like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, and planned a trip to France. During the covid-19 quarantine I’ve finished the rewrite of a new novel, researched the effects of social media and technological advancements in communication on the human mind, written a PR plan for the release of Blood and Chaos, book two in my Ancient Egyptian trilogy, and yet again, contemplated consciousness and morphogenetic fields. I even solved a major plot issue with the eHumanity rewrite I’ve been working on.

And yet, within in the vastness of time that confinement brings, I miss connection…

When I was injured, connection came through my community. They brought me meals and visited me as I lay back in my recliner. Eventually, when I could crutch around, I took tea on the porch with them. I also connected via social media and regular calls to my mother so she knew I was okay. I couldn’t go to the parties I loved so much, but my local friends reached out in ways to let me know I was still alive, still a human in this world.

Covid-19 confinement is vastly different. In order to save my mental health, I had to leave Facebook and disengage for the most part from my social media. This loss of virtual connection at this moment in time has been hard, devastating almost, but necessary for me to have hope. Instead of Facebook, I’ve discovered Zoom and have enjoyed connecting with my family in this way. Rather than a separate phone call with each one, I love opening a bottle of wine at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday with my parents and sister. It’s like we’re together again and our connection is better than it was before. I’m doing the same with an author friend of mine. We used to see each other quarterly, but we’ve Zoomed at least three times since the lockdown. And best of all have been the calls with my college girlfriends. The four of us “girls” are located in different parts of the country and getting all of us together has been difficult, until the lockdown. With less to do, and Zoom at the ready, we’ve seen each other three times in less than three months.

Which makes me wonder: Why at this time, when I’ve been separated from my local friends, am I using technology to reconnect with those who live far away? Why don’t I do this with the ones I’ve loved so long that live down the road? The ones who brought me food just a year ago when I couldn’t walk?

Me and my local friends have become silos. Small groups gathering, leaving everyone else out. This is what we’re told to do, encouraged now. It’s the same with colleges, they’re enforcing social “pods” where only a few can be in and the rest are out. Just last week, the Bay Area school districts announced they would continue distance learning and Facebook came alive with moms desperately seeking homeschooling “pods” where a teacher commits to self-quarantining with 3–5 other families who promise to do the same so their kids can have an in-person education.

I have a “pod”; a couple that my husband and I want to grow old with, plus three dear friends who gather with me in the woods to pray, reflect, and sometimes hike. Without them, I’d be less than human. I know this. But there are people missing, people I once knew very well, but now no nothing of their lives, especially since I got off Facebook. A friend of mine told me of a pre-covid regular coffee buddy who wouldn’t meet up with her and another friend for a walk, yet hosted a small gathering at her own house, leaving out said friend. We all have to decide, “whose air can we breathe?” Most don’t make the cut. Does that hurt? Yes it does. Yet we live in a world where “pods” are now the norm, if you want any touch at all, and that hurts me more than anything else.

On the other hand, I’ve connected with a new writer and am working on a piece with her. I was invited to take part in the impromptu Ditchley Foundation Summer Festival, and because it was held online, more of us were invited to participate than normally would. There are things about this online world that are both limiting and limitless.

Connection is key to being human and it takes courage to weave back together…

When I was injured, I never thought it was courageous to allow my body to heal, to trust in the timing of my bones as they re-knit themselves back together, to listen to my doctors as they guided me toward uprightness. As I see the entire world now in a health crisis, I wonder, perhaps it is courageous to surrender to the biological processes of life? To admit we’re unhealthy and in need of healing? Both from the standpoint of our sick bodies and our sick society. So much of what we called normal were just sick structures floating on thin ice. Like the polar bear stranded on the floating ice caps, our health care, education, caregiving, and political institutions are in peril, each one stranded in the freezing ocean of a global health crises. Like Humpty Dumpty, it’s all fallen down, and the king’s men can’t put us together again.

Only we can put ourselves together. We must have the courage to look within our homes and create the health we want to see outside. The smallest community is a partnership-be it a marriage, a pairing of roommates, a father and child-it doesn’t matter. Where two or more are gathered, there the work begins. What sort of world do we want to live in? First, we make that world within our hearts and then within our homes. After all, we’re stuck in them, for better or worse, for quite some time. Once we are on the path of health, we can reach out with courage to one another, and build the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.[3]

[1] Look up #karensgonewild on Twitter. Better yet, don’t.

[2] But do look up Rupert Sheldrake

[3] The title of Charles Eisenstein’s magnificent work. I recommend you read it during this time, for what we envision together will be our future.

Originally published at https://nicolesallakanderson.com on July 22, 2020.

Novelist and blogger of all things technology and consciousness. www.nicolesallakanderson.com. Order my latest novels, “Origins” and “Blood and Chaos” on Amazon

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