Just like all of us, Hannah is looking to survive the social distancing and lockdown. Only, there’s already a heap of distance between her and her partner BK, who lives in the USA.
In some respects this week was easier, in that everyone was now being told to do what I’ve been doing for a week or so. Those that thought I was being paranoid suddenly embraced social distancing, not going out, and digital interactions. Then staying in became UK law and life under lockdown began. This has led to a huge boost in video chatting, sharing of suggestions for passing time alone, and new social media content. Everybody’s lonely, and everybody’s looking for new ways to connect and be social.
Being in the same boat as everyone else only goes so far though. As I saw memes, articles and top tips being produced telling you how to survive isolation without wanting to kill your partner or kids, it only served to highlight my predicament.
Over in the USA, BK was getting a rough ride. Right in the middle of one of our FaceTime catchups, the house started shaking violently, as a magnitude 5.7 earthquake hit Salt Lake City. This is the strongest they’ve had in nearly 30 years, and as BK fled for the shelter of a doorway while things fell off walls and tables, it really felt like the end of the world was coming. With aftershocks continuing all day, we hung out for a fair amount of the day via FaceTime, just working with each other in the background. Almost like sharing an office, this felt pretty good.
Since then, however, there hasn’t been too much hanging out. BK has been busy trying to save the world, and I have been fretting about how you co-parent and home educate and work from home in a pandemic. As a result, we’ve not made deliberate space for ourselves away from COVID-19 related news and stresses. As I sat down to write this, I realised that was a mistake. We’d had lots of contact, but no down time. Whenever we’d been in touch, it had been about some sort of virus-related difficulty.
When everything face to face and physical is taken away, all you have is words. You can’t lay a hand on a shoulder to soothe, you can’t hold someone until you feel the tension go. You can’t squeeze a hand while you speak to reassure, or emphasise. You can’t sit in silence, leaning on a shoulder, just listening to each other’s breath. Try sitting on a video call and just staring at each other – it’s weird. All you have is words, and when there are already too many of them – screaming at you from headlines, Twitter feeds, emails and texts – more words just adds to the noise. The most gently crafted of sentences can be just another call on your attention. If you spiral into snapping back, disagreement, discord, how do you add more words into the mix that help you crawl back out of that hole? You can’t make someone a conciliatory cup of tea, cook their favourite meal, do something non-verbal to bring the mood round. All you have is words.
Martin Luther King (I’m not going to pretend I knew this, Google is my friend) apparently said ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends’. In this world of noise, removed from the physical and social interactions we’ve needed since we were picking fleas out of each other’s fur, we now need to find ways to be silent when all we have is words. BK and I have been figuring this out for ages now, suddenly the rest of the world is getting a taste of what it’s like.
Phew. Long intro. All that leads to the fact that this week’s distractions are not so much things I’ve shared with BK, as things I’ve seen and wished I could share. This week, we’re going to make the time and space for them.
I came across this via the ‘Ride On BMX’ Facebook group – a rider group for the over 30s. It’s a good subtly comic edit, very British, and makes the ’90s look like a very long time ago.
Via the same BMX source, I love this for the ‘getting it done’ factor. I’m not a huge flatland fan usually, but this guy mixes it up with park and street tricks in a way that I find much more entertaining to watch. There’s something very improbable about a big guy on a tiny bike displaying such agility that had me hooked. I say I don’t much like flatland, but since we’re confined to home, I can foresee a bit of a resurgence of bike dancing activities in 2020!
The Revolutionary Cyclist
Looking for some educational screen time for your kids? I found this ‘Great Big Story’ series, which covers a whole array of random and interesting things. Having watched this story of Annie Londonderry, one of my kids spotted this, which turned out to be pretty mind boggling – and if you’re looking for a new hobby to pass the time while in lockdown, it looks like a good bet, and will make sure you have plenty of calories on hand.
Rare Words and Dead Words
Not bikey at all, just coming full circle. Once upon a time I studied linguistics, and I write for a living, so it’s perhaps no surprise I like words. Playing to the differences in British and American English is also a constant source of amusement to us. It took me quiet a long while to realise that BK really didn’t understand about 20% of what I said in the beginning – he wasn’t just teasing me. Weirdly, there’s rarely a time when the Americanisms don’t translate, but British English – coupled with my accent – apparently makes for quite the impenetrable language. Pass the time alone, or turn these quizzes into a virtual pub quiz with your friends: rare words quiz and dead words quiz.
Thanks for joining me again this week. Until next time, use your words wisely, and if you’re lucky enough to have someone to hold, enjoy the silence.