Writing Challenge Day 1: Connecting in a Disconnected World

PREFACE:

To kick off this year’s Writing Challenge, I’ll address one of the most obvious, persistent, and pervasive issues we face: we’re not together. Not as coworkers; nor as friends; and not even as families beyond those who are living in our particular “COVID bubble” (which, sadly, is now a thing we say).

I chose the topic not only because it’s an unavoidable reality, but also to highlight the theme of the Writing Challenge this year: “Accentuate the Positive.”

You see, it would be easy to focus on what’s wrong. It would be equally easy to focus on how to mitigate, “hack,” or get around the problem. But neither of those approaches is the aim in this challenge. The trick this month is for us to find the silver lining—the nugget of goodness hidden behind the obvious difficulties—and to amplify it. By accentuating the positive in each writing prompt, I hope to chart a path through the problems we face and emerge stronger and better for it.

With all of that laid out, here is my contribution to the 2020 December Writing Challenge:

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It’s ironic how getting what we thought we wanted taught us how much we needed things we thought we were better off without.

Bored by idle chitchat, we wished everyone would focus on topics of global importance.

Uncomfortable with social gatherings, we craved solitude.

Overwhelmed by family obligations, we prayed for a convenient, guilt-free excuse. Distracted by constant interruptions, we bargained and even begged for work-from-home options... and so on.

It barely requires explanation the way in which those desires have been fulfilled, and the horrible, almost ironic, price we paid (and continue to pay) for it.

In the irony and horror, it’s easy to miss what was gained: unanticipated perspectives and unforeseen appreciations:

Asking “How are you?” and truly wanting to know;
...and actively listening for (and to) the response.

Making space in our day for “idle chit chat”—unassuming conversation about unimportant things;
...and cherishing the chance to put aside the burdensome weight of the world and lose ourselves in a moment of mundanity.

Reconnecting with nature and the physical world, far from crowds and spectacles;
...and rediscovering the simple miracles which continue to occur all around us.

Becoming reacquainted with quiet and solitude—either in our homes or in our heads;
...and relearning every thought need not be spoken aloud, nor every second filled with sound.

Praying without the hustle and bustle and pomp of the sanctuary and the service;
...and looking for (and even forward to) moments to connect to the Divinity both around us and inside us.

Maybe you haven’t found all of these, but I’m ready to bet you’ve experienced at least some. Now, nobody—least of all me—is implying those small sparks of light are worth the darkness currently in the world. But if you’ve experienced them, then failing to acknowledge them would make it all much sadder. Wasteful. Even tragic.

I’m inviting you to put down your mouse, close your screen, sit back for a moment, and see if (and how) those things have changed you. And then share with us in the comments below.

Anonymous
  • I've enjoyed the cutdown of fluff from idle chit chat. It's no longer idle since now the chit chat becomes a genuine reaching out, as we would actively make time for it. I found when I'm overwhelmed, I can message someone for a quick mental "recess" and they'll share that they appreciate it as well.

    For connecting in a disconnected world, it's also been interesting that I've started to connect with some college mates who I haven't talked to in a long time, which grew as more and more peers were added to our "sanity check" video chats. Never would I have imagined this scenario that would bring us all back together, but I've been thankful being able to spend virtual time with old friends.

  • This has been a unique challenge for me.  I've worked from home for 2-3 years now, for a company I've worked for for almost 18 years.  Many of my coworkers were people I had work in person with over the years.  Also, my wife also worked from home for the same company, so we shared an office.  Really, not much different than working in an office with coworkers.

    Then, I was furloughed in April, laid off in July.  My wife was not.

    I'm back to work again, 100% WFH.  So, now I'm learning to interact with people I've never met before, and my wife and I had to seperate ourselves, since it's not as convenient for the two of us to share an office.  So, now I'm truly WFH with no real personal interaction throughout the day.  It's been an adjustment, but thankfully, at least being used to WFH has made the transition easier, but it's still a sort of disconnection from coworkers that I'm learning to adapt to.

  • Since this all changed I have been working from home and have learned to appreciate the extra time that is allows to spend with my immediate family even if these are almost the only people I've seen for large portions of time. When we were all in lockdown I learned to appreciate being able to go outdoors for a simple walk with the children and that they even choose to do this over going places such as soft plays. When we got more freedom back, work places opened up and shops opened their doors the bonus was the paths in the local nature reserve were quieter and gives the kids even more space and freedom to run around and explore.

    Almost 9 month on and when I ask what the kids want they want to do, they will often reply 'go for a walk'. On the same paths in the same nature reserve but they will always find somewhere new to explore or a new game to play or a new conversation to have while walking.

  • It has been interesting working from home - but I now appreciate some things more.

    The drive home used to be a good decompress that I no longer have, even though I hated the drive.

    But the other part is that its really hard to disconnect and almost becomes "Living at Work" so you can't ever escape. Which makes learning to disconnect is even more important. 

  • The changes have been large and mostly not all good.  I haven't missed a single day of work because the type of work I do is considered "essential services."  In the early days when lockdowns first started I even carried around in my car a letter that said it was ok for me to be driving around to and from work.  The number of my companies employees working from home went from less than 10% to over 70%.  The big drawback to this is the few of us that work in the building everyday, due to working on networks not attached to the internet, have more to do now since so many can't touch anything from home.  I got my first virus test this week.  I've learned a lot about masks.  The biggest concern I've had is worrying about accidentally infecting my parents.  I still go visit them often as I'm pretty much totally in a bubble minus the people I work with (also in a bubble) and going to the grocery store (probably the biggest risk).

    I'm ready to be first in line to get vaccinated minus the oldest and sickest first.  Totally done with this virus and mask wearing for which the only research I've read actually says don't work unless they're N95 and even then aren't 100%.  I have some 3M N95 masks and they aren't fun to wear.