I’m feeling a little bit like poor Ginger, here…
In all honesty, this whole COVID-19 experience has been pretty emotionally exhausting, what with all the worry about what if I catch it and die?! (which is a totally valid concern, and one I share with a lot of folks)… and then all the people running around like Woo Hoo! Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die (and take everyone around us down with us, I might add).
It’s not every day that people get to stare their mortality in the face, quite like we’ve been forced to do.
And it’s not every day that we have to take responsibility for our impacts on others, quite like we’re currently unable to avoid.
So, yeah, this is a very unique situation we’re in. And like Ginger (above), I’ve realized that I’m just NOT cut out to be an emotional support person to the entire world.
Okay, okay, my immediate family excluded, of course. I’m not going to stop supporting my partner or my other loved ones. But lemme tell you… everybody – and I mean everybody – I’m coming across, these days, seems to need some sort of emotional support in the midst of this storm. I mean, that’s how we’re built, right?
It seems to me, the more separated we are by our social distancing and the moratorium on close personal contact, the more needy everybody’s getting. Have you noticed that? Maybe you’re one of the people who’s increasingly annoyed by this. Maybe you’re one of the people whose neediness is spiking through the roof, the longer you’re not allowed to be around a lot of other people. I don’t blame you, if you are. It’s how we’re built.
Because here’s the thing — and this is core to the whole concept of my book, Beloved Distance — the human being is built to connect. Or maybe I should say, the human doing is built to connect. After all, connection is what we do… while separate is what we are. And the more we are kept from connecting, the more our drive to connect is strengthened and enhanced. See, we have about 90,000 miles of neurons in our bodies, sending the signals that make life possible in a nearly infinite variety of ways. From sensory experiences to movement to complex thought to basic reflexes, information travels our “wiring” with mind-boggling speed.
But while all those miles of wires interlace our system, the one thing that actually makes them work – that makes them transmit the information we need to live, breathe, and go about our lives – is the distance embedded within. For our neurons are not directly connected. It sounds strange, but they just aren’t. They are divided by “synapses” – tiny gaps across which neurotransmitters pass, to send the neural messages that keep us alive. In fact, if we didn’t have those gaps, we probably wouldn’t survive, because the electrical signals actually degrade when they’re passed along a physical pathway, and the neurotransmitters “jump start” the strengths (and natures) of the signals when they get to those synaptic gaps.
Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
What a lot of people don’t realize (actually, just about everybody doesn’t realize), is that the whole reason we are able to think and move and live and breathe and exist and do much more than exist, is because of the distance that is embedded in our systems.
Rather than distance being something that blocks us, it’s actually something that animates us, that enlivens us, that makes us who and what we really, truly are.
So, there you go. Our connections matter to us. Our direct connections mean so much to us. But when you get down to it, it’s the distance that actually strengthens our connections. Just like not being able to directly contact our extended family members, makes us all the more eager to reach out in new and different ways, the gaps in our neurology sparks our biochemistry to get our bodies’ messages where they need to go.
When you don’t have that distance, and you can’t catch a break… well, you can end up like Ginger, up there.
So totally over it.