Written by Ceallaigh Pender of Salvation Wellness
This evening at 7pm, my husband and I went to our roof and we clapped for our nurses and doctors who are putting themselves on the frontlines everyday. In fact, we do this every evening at 7pm. It is a much desired anchor in our very fluid days, and the impact of this simple act is huge. In a world where I can’t touch or hug so many of those that I love, in a world where I can’t smile at the people I pass on the street because we are all wearing masks, for a few minutes everyday at 7pm, I feel that I am connected to my community. I hear their exuberant yells meeting ours, their screams of appreciation, their noise makers reminding me that I am not alone. It is the only connection I have to the outside world, that doesn’t rely on technology.
Having this deep and brief sense of connection everyday has me thinking a lot about my need for intimacy. How do we process this required confinement as individuals, being creatures that NEED touch and community? How do we cope as a culture? When staying away from Mom and Dad is an act of love, and not visiting Grandma on Sunday keeps her safe? I imagine it will take a long time to recover from this, and when we do, it will be in a world that looks very different than before COVID. While I am luckier than most (I have a VERY snuggly husband and super fuzzy puppy with whom I interact everyday – and who I actually enjoy living with), I am very heavily impacted by not getting to touch people.
You see, I am a Massage Therapist. I work with 12 other massage therapists who love touching each other as a way to say hi, and I am used to touching A LOT of strangers. I have been doing massage for (OMG I CANT BELIEVE I’M ABOUT TO TYPE THIS) 21 years. I don’t know who I am without massage, and I could never have imagined going this long without just… using my hands to heal. I know so many therapists who feel the same way. So what do we do? Collectively as a community of “touchers” it is an exigent question. But first, I think we need to define what intimacy means, or maybe “redefine” is a better term. I have always defaulted to the act of physical touch when thinking about intimacy, but in fact it’s actually the feeling I get through touch. Intimacy is a feeling. It’s that beautiful affinity I feel for others around me. It is quiet and gentle and connected. It can happen even when there is distance, even when we are isolating. So I want to share with you 5 ways I have been creating socially distant intimacy with the people I care about. Want to try some with me?
Note – these are suggestions anyone can do, even if you are living alone right now.
1 – STOP TEXTING, START FACETIMING.
If you have a smartphone, do this. I mean it. Stop reading and go FaceTime your mom. You’ll only see half of her face most likely, as she holds the phone too close, and it’s the best. I’ve been FaceTiming with my neighbors down the hall, with my family in California, with my friend who lives a few blocks away. We chit chat, we do work together, we have a drink, one time we watched a movie together. There was a time delay. It was weird. But otherwise, it’s been great. It’s not like touching, but it really helps.
2 – DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING (cuz they aren’t)
Every Saturday night, there is this EPIC digital dance party one of my friends invited me to. I put on some strobe lights, put on some pink sunglasses, grabbed a drink, and danced my ass off for 3 hours of funk filled fun. It’s kind of like being in a club; as the DJ spotlights different people throughout the night. One minute I’ll be checking out that chick with the cool hat, and then all of a sudden I see my friend Sarah! It’s like “Oh hey girl!” Just like at a party. It’s really fun. You can find these kinds of party invites all through FB and IG. The one I really like is Uncle Jesse’s Dance Party.
On Tuesday Nights, if you’re into jam music like me and my husband are, Phish streams some of their best shows. If you were at the show they are streaming, it makes it even better because you can kind of get to relive it. I did it on my TV, and then did a watch party with my friends. I propped the phone next to the TV and partied just like we were at MSG… except the bathrooms and booze are WAY better in my house.
3 – PLAY SOME MUSIC.
Today, I had a meeting with my staff. It wasn’t a ton of good news, but at the end of it, two of us got out guitars and started playing. Some of us sang along to a Bob Marley song, and laughed at ourselves and cajoled each other. It didn’t sound great and it didn’t need to; that wasn’t the point. It was an intimate and lovely memory we were creating with each other. I know there are a lot of people who don’t play music, but I hear there are a bunch of digital karaoke parties. I haven’t tried one yet, but if this thing lasts much longer, you can bet I’ll be there singing “That’s What Friends Are For” in no time.
4 – GET CREATIVE
My birthday happened during our stay at home orders and one of my dearest friends made me 14 handmade envelopes with hand written cards inside – one for each year of our friendship – telling me all the ways she thinks I’m great. I cannot think of anything more endearing and intimate than getting or making a homemade gift like that. I keep it on my desk and it reminds me of how lucky I am to have some amazing friends. I love making things. I think we are all built to create and be productive. So why not do something that gets you thinking about your loved ones, even when you aren’t with them? Make something for a friend, and if you are stuck without an idea, there are like, millions and millions of DIY videos out there. While I am doing some of this on my own, I am also making an art project with a friend. We have both come up with a concept that we are working on separately, and then showing each other our progress. We talk about our challenges and solve them together – when we see each other next, we will exchange art pieces. Like a little COVID gift for one another.
5 – SIGN UP FOR AN ONLINE CLASS
It’s NOT like going to the gym, but let me tell you, wanting to impress the teacher and the other people digitally working out next to me, IS REAL. And it’s also a really great way to support local businesses. There are yoga classes, drawing classes, meditation classes, psychology classes, hypnotherapy classes, and you are in a digital classroom at the same time as so many others. It really makes a difference in my day, and helps me feel that affinity to my world. I still go outside to jog, staying 6 feet away from people, and I still go outside of my building where a lot of people congregate to just chit chat, but if you don’t have that option, get online and let your favorite teacher kick your butt!
While I have enumerated my top 5 ways to connect, they aren’t the only ways. There are a lot of people connecting by playing interactive online word games, online video games, having watch parties for all kinds of things, and no matter your interests you can still find people out there who are into the same things you are. Hey, I found my husband on the internet, so literally anything is possible. So look, while this situation isn’t ideal, there are so many things we can be doing for ourselves! It just takes a little extra creativity. When you start learning that new thing you’ve been wanting to try, share it with your bestie! When this is all over, you might end up getting closer to them – even though right now, you’re far apart.