Hell is other people.
We’ve all thought it, whether crushed by a backpack on a train carriage or hiding from a rowdy stag do in a bar.
But now, under the Coronavirus crisis we are told to stay at home. Don’t go out because you might come into contact with other people. Stay distant.
And now, other people are needed. We want to talk. We want to connect. We need to make sense of it together.
I’m chatting to friends and family daily, checking in, seeing how we all feel and offering support. I stop and chat to neighbours whilst standing far enough away. I have virtual drinks and coffee with colleagues. I post on all social networks.
There doesn’t seem to be a reason not to anymore. If this virus does reduce us, we want to speak first. To leave some kind of memory. To celebrate life with whoever is nearby.
I’d been thinking for a while I’d like to build closer connections in my own community. I exchange pleasantries with the locals, but we’re always rushing around with our own priorities. I can’t find my people. There is no time.
For a while I went to the same place for breakfast on weekends. It felt a bit like home but with better service and shinier cutlery. But the thing I really liked was being recognised. Just someone remembering who I was and not treating me like a stranger. Then the staff left and it became unfamiliar again.
Perhaps what I haven’t done enough of is making the effort to build those connections. To go to the same places, ask questions and make the time. There were reasons I moved around and sometimes craved anonymity. In big cities, it’s what a lot of us do and how we choose to live. But in a crisis it doesn’t serve us well. Communities do.
To be known is good. Maybe it will keep us safe.
There are positives to come and one of them could be the realisation that we’re all in the same boat. We can create communities, even without chaos. We will rebuild.
For now, I’m making a list of things I’ll do once this is over.