Our world has become smaller in the pandemic, but also magnified.
A year ago, we were traveling across the country by plane to visit our relatives. Today, those trips are unthinkable on so many levels. Too much work or cannot leave the state due to unemployment rules. Too risky. Too much money as incomes fall. So, the trip in person becomes virtual and smaller, a video chat or a phone call, a text, a message, a comment, and a post.
Every day I watch my neighbor kids confined to their own yards, apart from playmates and school friends, who they visit now virtually like a memory or shadow. It is so hard for kids to lose school, birthday parties, and all of those in-person connections. They paste pictures in the windows and shout hellos across the street to their neighbors. Some parents find one or two safe playmates for their children. Compare that quiet experience to seeing dozens of kids every day.
Then I see what is magnified, like the little five-year-old girl next door learning to ride a bike with her parents both trotting by her side. As an only child, her parents are her primary playmates now. Two teens set loose on skateboards to give them that sense of freedom. In this smaller magnified world, the siblings who previously hung out with other kids their age instead walk together. Siblings are now friends; they laugh, talk, and support each other.
One day I saw two teen girls riding six feet apart on bikes, chattering like old times. They came back up the street with two more teens. Four girls on bikes meant they could stay six feet apart, see each other, exercise, feel better, and still chatter up a storm.
Their world is smaller but magnified. There is sorrow in giving up their childhood and teen rituals plus a magnified joy of finding new ones that work in a pandemic.
Our world is magnified when we sit in our backyards day after day. All of a sudden, we can see the ants at work, those birds who live in the bushes, and that bug that we never noticed before. It’s all smaller but magnified.
Before the pandemic, we went often to see our friends play and sing at live music shows. We’d walk in, hug all of them, kiss a few, sweat, dance, and chatter in tight booths for hours over drinks and food. Those were the times we’d catch up with 10 to 20 people in a night, and that experience is what we miss the most.
Now we choose carefully who to meet or who to talk to by phone or video. When we do meet, we don’t hug. We wear masks, stay six feet apart, and reduce the number of people we meet with to a handful. We turn down events that are too risky, like a memorial gathering for a dear friend who passed recently. Too many emotional people; too hard to avoid contact. There is burnout in the video meetings and talking with large groups virtually. Too much competition and noise. If you have done meetings virtually all day, it’s exhausting to do it at night or on weekends.
So, we are all reducing our contact with each other, looking at it, turning it over, blocking it, filtering it, and cutting it down to the core. We now know who is most important in our lives, a small group of dear ones. Our conversations are deeper and more emotional. Us adults, like the kids, have found our lives in this pandemic smaller but magnified.