2020 was an intense year, one that will forever be remembered in the history of humanity. Covid-19 dominated the news stories and media and suddenly what was once normal became abnormal. The concept, idea and expectation of being physically connected and touching other humans suddenly became forbidden. It turned into a no no; something to be avoided and shunned.
Human touch. Human connection. The desire and necessity for human touch and connection is like an itch that needs to be scratched. As much as we human beings like to brag about and are proud of being independent, the reality is we are social animals. We need each other, we need touch and we need connection. I think the necessity of human touch and physical connection are often underestimated. We take these critical tenets of humanity for granted and feel the void intensely when these elements aren’t there. We are not necessarily meant to exist in extended isolation, and it feels like torture to suddenly be isolate for a long period of time, if one is used to being around people.
The beginning of last year was quite nerve wrecking. The virus was emerging and we still didn’t know a lot of innate details about it because it was new. Suddenly, we had to be isolated at home and stay away from others. If we had a job that we could stay home and do, this is what was required and encouraged. The previous ability to be with our coworkers, freely meet others and hang out with friends together became a precious commodity. During this time period, many people were supposed to stay away from each other and some folks were genuinely afraid to meet each other in person. I self-isolated for many weeks as I taught my classes online from home from February until June. Honestly, I felt sad, lonely and miserable a lot of the time. It was very hard for me to bear and I shed many tears over this period. One of my saviors was my dear friend who I met in person on occasion. She was willing to meet and hug me; the physical connection of hugging and being connected to her reenergized me a lot. I felt like I was actually made of flesh and not just a crazy, unloved, robotic, isolated creature. It is amazing how the absence of physically connecting with another human being can make a person feel bad and unloved on the inside.
During my time teaching online, me and my coworkers used WeChat primarily to communicate. We still had to teach classes and work together for our classes. I was not sure how things were going to be once we got back together in person as a group. I feared that we would all be awkward around each other once back together again in the office. Surprisingly, to me it felt like we all picked right back up where we had left off in January before the pandemic seriously hit the country. I think our online time brought us even closer, because we had to communicate so frequently about our classes. Our bond continued when we went back into our center. It felt much better to be back around my coworkers and I appreciated them more after the long break apart.
One of the lessons this pandemic has taught me is to not take small things for granted. Living in one of the largest cities in the world, we think we can always be in contact with people. When this was taken away, due to social distancing, quarantining and taking precautions, it was a stark reminder to me about life’s fragility. Circumstances can change within seconds and the things we used to do before can suddenly disappear or become forbidden to do. I have learned to treasure the time I spend with my friends even more. Even when we hug each other, I try to give hugs that are warmer and more heartfelt. I also try to reach out to them more frequently and check on them more often. Nothing like a worldwide pandemic to drive home the importance of maintaining relationships in a mindful and thoughtful way.
As an expatriate living in a foreign country across the world many kilometers away from my hometown, what do I do to stay connected with my loved ones? I utilize electronic video & text communication tools such as WeChat, ZOOM, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, etc. can be lifesavers as a platform to stay connected with loved ones around the world. We can’t forget email and a good old fashioned direct phone call as well. I use a combination of these to stay connected to the people I care about and love around the world. I consistently use WeChat to call and sometimes video chat with some members of my family. This has helped me keep a steady connection with them. For those who don’t have some of the messaging apps, I will send them emails and lastly, I will call some loved ones as well. Using these apps to connect with family and friends is one way to stay connected to them safely.
I am aware that there are many people in the world who do live alone for various reasons and may not have anyone to physically connect to. How do you take care of your need for touch? One way I have found helpful is by massage. You can do a self-massage on your own body using your hands or a handheld massager. There are many kinds of massagers out there to buy which are amazing. Sometimes, I massage my arms and legs with my hands. Rubbing my hands together to warm them first, then gently massaging my arms, stomach and legs is soothing. Using the hand-held massager, I can massage my shoulders, back, legs and feet more deeply and this also helps to get the blood flowing better too. These are methods I have found to help soothe yourself if you can’t be with anyone else.
I truly hope that we can all learn about the deeper meaning of life and relationships during this time in the world. Life is to be cherished and respected. In moving forward, within the pandemic and afterwards, I hope that humanity never forgets the power and importance of human connection and touch. Let us all reevaluate our connections and bonds with others and find ways to nurture and cultivate them healthily. May we all connect with one another with more depth, understanding and love.
–This article I wrote was first published on http://www.thegreathumanconnection.com.