By Vicki McLeod
In March 2020, the government in Canada moved relatively quickly to provide emergency financial benefits to citizens to ensure that the population could stay home and stay safe. Canadians moved inside, doing our parts to flatten the curve. Now restrictions are loosening, and we are cautiously expanding our bubbles outward.
However, many are choosing to continue to self-isolate—those who are elderly, immune-compromised, or with pre-existing conditions or those who simply have a very rational fear of contagion and death. If the curve does not remain flat, further isolation may be re-imposed by governments based on age or other factors.
Here’s a sampling of what’s changing in our personal lives while we cocoon within the social safety net:
There has been a shift away from consumerism, and an increase in what I call “longhand life skills” such as home repair, cooking, gardening, handcrafts, letter-writing, and pet care. Concurrently, there has been a significant digital leap forward in the use of entertainment technology (streaming and gaming) and communication technology, such as Skype and Zoom.
Forced isolation, uncertainty, awareness of mortality, and the unprecedented nature of the pandemic triggered a host of reactions including fear and anxiety. Our bubbles acted as crucibles for personal awakening, an opportunity for increased self-compassion, mindfulness and introspection. (During lockdown, poet David Whyte offered an online series, “The Courage in Poetry.” More than 4,000 people signed up, making his transformational work accessible to the masses and creating a new business model for his team).
In Canada, there have been nearly 8,000 deaths from COVID-19. We are grieving together, apart. We have lost common public and private rituals for shared mourning and celebration. As well, those in the bubble are experiencing the very real pain of separation from friends and loved ones.
There is a subtle shift toward re-evaluating the public versus private nature of life in the digital era. There was a glimpse of this pre-COVID-19, as social media engagement shifted significantly from public news feeds to private messaging and communities-of-interest such as Facebook Groups. ("View from my window," a Facebook group started on March 30, 2020 has over 2.3 million members, 500,000 of whom joined in the past month alone.)
People will not feel completely safe outside the personal bubble until there is a widely available vaccine or public testing protocol, regardless of the absence of government restrictions. Still, while inside the bubble they will need goods and services, and to sustain vital human connections.
In an anecdotal poll of my friends, I asked what had changed most in terms of connection during self-isolation. Many noted a new awareness of the limits of digital communication channels. From the poll:
“I miss being in the beautiful field of love that is created when our friends come together, experiencing that soul to soul connection that is there when we make eye contact…”- FLH
“I need more than just visual proof of life.” -AT
What is the “more” we are looking for? What is afforded by proximity, real eye contact, and physical touch that seems not to be afforded by technology? David Allison of Valuegraphics asked a comprehensive sample group what lockdown activities and lifestyle changes they would continue in a post-COVID-19 world. These are the top four:
More time with family
Communicate more with family
More frequent communication with friends
Spend time on personal projects/learning/growth
In a world of physical distancing and cautiously curated social contact these activities will need to be pursued in new ways, from inside the bubble or remotely. What are the opportunities for flexible work arrangements, products and services that align with these priorities? More importantly, if we are to sustain physical distance over time, either by regulation or by choice, can we find ways, personally and professionally, to create a “beautiful field of love” and feel emotionally nourished?