We are resourceful creatures, we gotta give ourselves that.
As soon as the coronavirus took over our lives – and for many of us, that was five or more weeks ago – we adapted. As soon as some of us were sheltering in place, we were looking for ways to reach out beyond our four walls.
We turned to Zoom to hold meetings in person, at least visually. Our happy hours migrated to Zoom chat rooms, and boy, did they get creative. The hardest I’ve laughed in the past month was when two co-workers entered a Zoom happy hour as cartoon potatoes.
Yes, potatoes – with only my friends’ eyes and toothy smiles visible. It was hilarious. The happy hour went downhill from there – with googly eyes, morphing heads and silly background scenery. Boy, was I grateful for the levity.
I’ve hosted and attended many of these Zoom parties – with running friends, college friends and long-lost friends. One pal who lives in England stayed up till midnight to talk with us over wine.
But here’s my greatest feat of connecting: Several friends and I are using WhatsApp Messenger to do yoga across the miles twice each week. While I’m over here in Arvada, my companions are in Atlanta; Bozeman, Montana; Alicante, Spain; and Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. (I wasn’t kidding about the miles, people.)
We meet at 8 a.m. MST, which calls for late afternoon yoga for those two on the other side of the world. We agree on the YouTube yoga workout before the session, then Kathy, our organizer, calls each of us using WhatsApp. We struggle through the sessions that sometimes last an hour, and when they’re over, we talk before we depart. We hope to Zoom a meeting soon, so we can see one another, some of us for the first time.
Others are figuring out how to remain socially connected in imaginative ways: My daughter Grace and her boyfriend – she here, he in Scottsdale, Arizona – did an Orangetheory Fitness workout using FaceTime last weekend. Daughter Hope has reconnected with three high school friends via a party app called Frankly (and frankly, it may be too dicey for some of us). She “hangs out” with her college friends while playing Minecraft, sometimes eight of them playing and talking at once.
A co-worker plays bridge with her quarantined mother online. Several friends and their children play board games online, one with a grandmother who lives in another state (Monday is Farkle night while Thursdays are reserved for Yahtzee).
The board game Pandemic is a surprisingly good game right now, friend Jill reports. Players work together to treat viral hotspots while researching cures before a plague gets out of control. It sounds like the board game version of the movie “Jumanji”: Players win or lose together.
And I love this idea: A colleague’s family hosts weekend puzzle contests. Several families start the same puzzle at the same time, and the winner receives a prize.
One more: My friend Magalie uses the video chat app Marco Polo to leave and receive messages for friends and family throughout the world. She also hosts Zoom knitting parties.
Even though I’m hunkered down with a husband, a daughter and two dogs who take long walks with me, and despite talking with co-workers throughout every workday while I work from home, I hunger for these additional connections. And clearly, others do too.
This need for connecting has led me to some amazing reconnecting – with friends I haven’t spoken with or seen in years. The specter of death is not remote. Many of us know people who’ve died from COVID-19 or we know someone who is at extreme risk should they fall ill with the virus. This thing is real, and it’s really troubling.
So we connect.
Connecting is soothing. It reminds us we are in this together. We are not alone.
Nowhere do they do this better than in Telluride. Residents of the ski resort town in San Miguel County, the first U.S. county to attempt countywide antibody testing, have been sheltering in place since mid-March. And dancing – in the streets, their homes, everyone together, but separately.
The Telluride Dance Collective started this Dancing on My Own Project, coordinating with local radio station KOTO-FM to play a dance song after the 6 p.m. nightly news. “Every day we’ll post a song prompt for folks to dance out all the feels,” reads the dance company’s Facebook page. Telluride has been kicking up its heels for the past month!
Hats off to Telluride and its residents’ indefatigable energy and optimism.
May we all shelter in place so well that we get out of this hell soon.
I’m not sure this extrovert can take too many more Zoom happy hours, despite how funny those two spuds on the screen were.
Jennifer Forker is the communications director at Regis University in Denver.