Distanced But Not Disconnected

By Lori Hartwell

These are unprecedented times. I have been safe at home since the beginning of March. Yes, I go out to see the doctor and have my lab visits, and I stroll around the neighborhood, but other than that my home has become my sanctuary. 

I work from home, as does my husband. We have four dogs, a cat, and a parrot named Johnny. We have lots of fun with them. Just when we feel the world is on the brink, Johnny soothes us as he happily chirps away. It’s helpful to have pets. But times are hard, and we all need to figure out new ways to communicate to meet our needs.

I often hear the term “lock down,” but this phrase upsets me because there are so many ways of connecting with the people we care about. We have so many things we can do.

If someone told me a year ago that I would be Zooming almost every day, I would have accused them of being crazy. One silver lining of the COVID-19 virus is how it has forced us to learn new technology and adapt to our situations. So many people who would never have thought of connecting online prior to the virus outbreak now do so with ease.

For example, RSN offers Zoom classes that range from exercising to exploring creativity. I’d love to meet you at one of our online classes! You can connect with us in other ways too, such as joining our various support groups. It is so much fun for me to see your smiling faces on my computer screen.

Sadly, my husband recently lost his father. We now hold a regularly scheduled online happy hour with his mom and other family members as a way to stay connected. My husband’s family reunions normally take place quite a distance away so it has been difficult to get there every year. This year it took place online, and we were so glad we could attend.

My husband and I also took an online comedy class to give us a reason to laugh. We devoted five Sunday afternoons to the class. We tested our material on each other, which made for some interesting dinnertime entertainment! No, we will not be giving any performances, but we sure did laugh.   

I have also taken this time to work on my mixed-media art techniques. I think my talents are improving and that makes me feel good. There are so many YouTube videos to watch and social media groups to join to find like-minded people. I took one class that taught how to collage napkins into your art. If anyone had told me I would be trading napkins with others I would have thought they were cuckoo. It is so much fun to get the mail now, in anticipation of the delivery of more collage materials.

Another benefit is how we have become closer to our neighbors. Back when toilet paper was hard to find, I scored and was able to get 96 rolls. I shared some with my neighbors who, in exchange, brought us eggs and fresh bread from the bakery. We now have front porch soirees as we sit six feet apart to chat. One neighbor is a musician, and she often plays on her front porch. Live music is the best. I am cooking more now, too, and I share recipes with a few friends. Everyone likes to talk about food!

The entertainment industry is doing its part, too. I am so grateful to them for providing countless hours of good TV. Just when we think we have seen all the good serial shows another one pops up that is better than the one before. And there is no shortage of awesome podcasts available; we have a few favorites that we listen to regularly. And we have watched some amazing concerts online. Previously, whenever we attended a live performance, I’d stress out about walking the long distance to find a restroom. Now all I do is click on my computer from the comfort of my own home. It’s not the same but it does have its advantages.

Still, I long for the day when we can again sit together in a crowded restaurant listening to the clanking of pans, ordering margaritas, and hearing the sizzle of hot fajitas arriving at our table. And it will be wonderful to go to a mall without worrying about wearing a mask and staying six feet apart from others.

In the meantime, I am going to keep looking for ways to connect with people, to learn something new, and enjoy the slower pace of life.

Lori hartwell - Renal Support Network - PresidentLori Hartwell is the Founder & President of Renal Support Network (RSN) and the host of KidneyTalk™, a radio podcast show. Lori was diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of two. In 1993 she founded RSN to instill “health, happiness and hope” into the lives of those affected by chronic kidney disease. Lori is also the author of the inspirational book Chronically Happy: Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness and is a four-time kidney transplant recipient.

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