As someone who is disabled and primarily homebound, I have an unfortunate amount of experience with ‘social isolation.’ Coronavirus has introduced the world to this as a temporary way of life. Multiple sclerosis dumped it on me in a more permanent manner.
From my perspective and experience, I would like to reassure you that there can actually be some benefits to social isolation, particularly if you have Internet access. I frequently remind myself that I am much more fortunate to be in my situation in modern times, then I would have been even 100 years ago.
1. Take Time to Think.
When was the last time you actually took time to just think? I don’t mean think about a particular issue or problem. I mean to think about the big questions of life and the world. Why are you here? And I don’t mean in the biological sense of perpetuating family and species. I mean why are you on the earth, at the time and in the place that you are.
2. Set New Goals and Prioritize Existing Ones
As the old saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Robert Burns wrote that, by the way, a long time ago, in November 1785. Here is the original, and the modern language translation with which we are familiar:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
(The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
oft go awry, And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!)
And what do the words of that 18th century Scottish poet have to do with you? Well, the goals and plans that we make for life frequently don’t work out the way we want them to, for 1000 different reasons. Meanwhile, day to day life is so hectic that it’s hard to find time to really think about the goals that we should change or update in some way.
While you are social distancing, take some of that new time available to close the distance within yourself. What are the goals you have for yourself? Are those goals still purposeful for you? Are there new goals that would now appeal to you more, but you have not put them through yet really?
In order to meet new or adjusted goals, there might be some changes you need to make in your thoughts or actions.
3. Really Hear Loved Ones
It’s no secret that there is a difference between hearing somebody speak and really listening to what they say. When life is running at its usual pace, it can be challenging to find patience to really hear people because doing so requires we put forth the effort to engage in active listening.
I readily admit that sometimes I find myself not really listening to my kids. At those moments I hear them, much in the way you might hear a bee buzzing and bumping into a windowpane, or the sound of an air conditioner whirring in the background. You hear it but you don’t really acknowledge it or recognize it for what it is. At those moments I have to consciously catch myself and remember that the moment that I am not really paying attention is a moment that will never come again. I know that my kids are the most important part of my life. Tomorrow is never certain for anyone, so I have to make sure my kids know that too, and I think truly listening to them is a good way to accomplish that goal.
4. Rediscover the Luxury of Reading
I am going to skip over ruminating about how lucky we are to have books available to us so readily these days. Books used to be the luxury of a very privileged echelon of society. Literacy itself was a rarity. Now, too many people seem to take both for granted.
Books are a reliable, trustworthy, entertaining and informative friend. Many people say they are very busy, they have no time to read. Well, now you probably have a lot more free time. You don’t even need to go to a bookstore. Read on a Kindle from Amazon or on a Nook from Barnes and Noble.
You can also get the Kindle App! That is what I use, on my tablet. You can try Kindle Unlimited in your Amazon account (assuming you have an Amazon account like most people seem to these days). Kindle Unlimited (KU) lets you “borrow” up to 10 books at a time, free. After a free trial period KU costs $9.99 a month.
You pick a book, and it gets delivered automatically to your Kindle or the device with your Kindle app. Even it wasn’t for the need for social distancing, it’s like magic. I remember walking a half hour to get to my local library when I was growing up and walking back with an armful of books. Then as an adult, needing to find my library card and drive to the library, find a parking place, search out books that interested me, check them out, bring them home, read them and don’t misplace them, and get them back to the library on time. Don’t get me wrong, I love libraries! I truly have great memories of libraries locally and in college. But if you’re social distancing, or disabled, or just pressed for time, being able to access books electronically is a fantastic thing.
If you need more motivation to find time to read, consider that among some of the world’s most successful people, reading is a priority. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the richest people in the world, reads about 50 books a year. Gates has shared that reading is the primary way he learns new things. Reportedly, he always has a book with him anywhere he goes.
Legendary investor Warren Buffett (CEO of Berkshire Hathaway) credits many of his great money decisions to his devoted reading habit. He says he starts every morning reading multiple newspapers. Buffett estimates he spends as much as 80% of his day reading. The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, when asked once about the key to success, pointed to a nearby stack of books, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
Oprah Winfrey, media mogul, herself wrote, “Nothing, not one thing or activity, can replace the experience of a good read—being transported to a different land, a different realm, through words and language.” (Read more at: http://www.oprah.com/inspiration/oprah-on-the-joy-of-reading#ixzz6HKxtJWVj)
So, don’t take it from me … consider the words of those super successful entrepreneurs, and find time during your social distancing to get closer to books or magazines or newspapers, or to reading more than you already do.
5. Learn Something New
Have you ever thought of something you wanted to learn to do, but didn’t have the time? Social distancing is handing you a lot of time these days. There are so many things you can learn to do by watching YouTube videos! Add to that other online videos, instruction manuals, chat groups, and you can learn something about almost anything right on the Internet.
Now you may not have the supplies for what you want to know how to do, well you may have to order supplies online, or be creative about substitutions.
Maybe there is nothing in particular you want to learn how to do, but questions about which you have always wondered. Like ‘How do cheese doodles get puffed up?’, ‘Who created modern paper?’, ‘Why is the sky different shades of blue on different days?’, ‘What causes different flowers to have different scents?’
Now you finally may have a chance to go online and figure it out – get the answers to things you have wondered about!
6. Explore the Past
People get so busy dealing with the normal daily grind, they barely find time to plan for the future, and rarely find time to think about the past. Now, I don’t mean the genealogical past of your family, or questionable decisions in your dating life. I mean The Past.
- What did people in the United States eat during the 1700’s? The 1800’s?
- How did people treat infection before antibiotics?
- Did the Aztecs really invent hot chocolate? What was it like?
- How did the ancient Egyptians make those pyramids?
- What did people use before there was modern toilet paper?
- Before modern technology, what kind of games did people play for entertainment within their families? Think charades, chess, nine men’s morris, short answers, card games and so on.
7. Plan for the Future
The coronavirus is not going to control our lives forever. Unlike my disability imposed social distancing, yours is going to gradually come to an end. When you are in the unmasked, disposable glove-free future, how is your life going to be different?
Will you have a greater appreciation for just how interconnected our world really is now? Will you realize that most fears we humans have are pretty universal? Maybe you will have discovered that people in your household are funnier, smarter, more interesting than you thought before.
I hope we will have all discovered that we can simultaneously make better use of technology, and completely step away from it as well.