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It wasn’t until the governor’s declaration that we had to stay home that I stayed home. I had been following the progression of the pandemic, but I had decided with social distancing, hand-washing and other recommended practices I would be OK.
I also knew that, since my partner lived with her mother who has some medical conditions putting her at risk, the quarantine directive meant I would at home alone.
I’m good being alone normally but I then had options. I didn’t have to be alone 24/7.
I like being busy! I have books to read, books to write, research to do, people to interview and projects. I could easily stay busy, but I need to move, be out and about. No gym. No movies. No restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I love being home, but the additional hours spent in the house quarantined seemed like a recipe for decline.
That first week I developed a close personal relationship with my couch, Netflix, Cool Ranch Doritos and guacamole (go figure). I was still getting up when the alarm went off each morning, but I walked around in my pajamas wondering what I was going to do.
I have used this time to reset, to think about not just how I could work smarter but how I would redefine the things that really mattered to me and make them the engine driving my activities moving forward.
These days when the news cycle is primarily filled with stories of the pandemic, I have used my weekly blog radio podcast, through its guests, to highlight ways communities are planting the seeds for our new reality. The conversations with the guests from across the state and country have been hopeful, inspiring and incredible.
We have talked about politics, diet, connecting with others, poetry and yoga — lots of yoga!
Being in quarantine means not being with the community, but it has also opened new doors to community. As LGBTQ centers across the country had to close their physical doors, virtual doors opened.
Like the book club and discussion group with lesbians across the country hosted by ZAMI NOBLA: National Organization of Black Lesbians on Aging based in Atlanta, Georgia, and an evening of virtual comedy with Karen Willliams attended by an audience of over 200 from across the country.
Monday through Friday evenings, the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice in New Jersey brings LGBTQ authors, artists and other notables including former U.S. Sen. Al Franken virtually to computer screens for LGBTQ audiences in many states. Even SAGE Metro Detroit virtually celebrated National Poetry Month. We may be alone, but we aren’t alone.
Let’s not forget Zoom, which has allowed me to participate in board meetings in Atlanta, attend an open mic in Princeton, New Jersey, and share poetry with audiences across the U.S. and work with an artist in India.
I’ve met new people in these virtual settings who shared their talents and ideas with me. Working collaboratively, we have been able to identify needs in our communities, bring together resources to assist those providing essential services and get those funds to them quickly. There is a lot of good going on out there in the real world. Crisis builds character.
Like so many others my biological family is spread out across the country — my brother in Los Angeles, my son in New York. Thanks to FaceTime, I virtually toured my brother and his girlfriend’s new home. I have been watching my son parenting and my granddaughter grow.
I FaceTime my partner and we have waved at one another from our cars maintaining the proper social distance. It’s not the same, but we’re all keeping it safe so we can live, laugh and love another day.
But best of all, in a world of social media and texting, I have rediscovered the joy of hearing the human voice by picking up the phone and calling friends. The joy in hearing their laughter, the slight change of tone in their voice, hearing about life in more than 160 characters, a GIF or a meme, and responding with more than a thumbs-up, heart or emoji.
“Reach out and touch someone” has never been more important.
We will get through this. Social distancing, personal protective equipment and virtual events/activities will probably remain a part of our reality but, hopefully, in the future we will stop to smell the roses and reach out to care for one another in a way where we can all prosper and thrive.
I am keeping busy, but, in this time of social isolation, I am finding the time and space to sow the seeds of my new normal, because we aren’t there yet!
Michelle E. Brown is a public speaker, activist and author. Her blog radio podcast “Collections By Michelle Brown” airs every Thursday at 7 p.m. Current and archived episodes can be heard on Blog Talk Radio, iTunes, Stitcher or SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/CollectionsbyMichelleBrown/.