Feeling Disconnected

In the midst of this pandemic isolation, have you found yourself feeling a bit over connected? I know how strange that must sound. After all, we have been staying quarantined, social distancing, and in general, disconnecting from each other socially. So how could I possibly feel over connected?

Through this ordeal, the one area we didn’t disconnect, was the internet. The internet, with email and social media, and then Zoom or whatever virtual meeting program you were using, has if anything, kept me electronically connected while I physically and emotionally disconnected. While I was still working, not that I ever really stopped, I often resented the fact that I was bombarded with emails and texts from clients and coworkers who could find me anywhere and everywhere. There was no escaping them. I had developed a habit, no, a calling, that made it impossible for me to not check those connections constantly. Hours, often minutes, wouldn’t go by without me checking my email and texts for that next question, request, or demand of my attention. When I finally entered my pseudo retirement phase, I concentrated on slowing that down. Hell, I had actually got to the point where I could go several hours without looking, and sometimes even pass my 24 hour rule, without replying.

And then COVID-19 dropped on us and we went into physical separation and a renewed internet connection. Our disconnect physically meant that the internet via, in my case, Zoom became the replacement. Where I had finally accomplished the art of slowing down and only agreeing to meetings in my volunteer career that fit into my schedule, I was now at the mercy of the internet meeting. During my first trip up North, don’t worry, we were quarantining in our cottage, my schedule was peppered with Zoom meetings with co-volunteers, committee meetings and client sessions. In a normal time, I would have just said no. I know some of you who know me well, are snickering, but I had actually begun to to use the word. But, and it’s a big but, these were and still are, not normal times. COVID-19 was not only isolating us individually, it was shutting down businesses and my retirement career has been helping small businesses find their way.

My requests for assistance ramped up exponentially, and with it, my inability to stay away from that electronic connection. I was back in my old rut. If you needed me, I was accessible 24 -7. Schedules didn’t matter. I would get the Zoom meeting request, time and link and I had to try to pretend I hadn’t seen it. Something had to give. Enter my family for an electronic intervention. I was asked, point blank, if I was enjoying my volunteering? I reminded them that it gave me a sense of purpose and that I enjoyed being able to help clients navigate the business start-up environment. So they asked, why was I so stressed and at times so apparently angry? I had no answer. I subconsciously wasn’t hearing myself complain. It seems while I thought I was learning to use the word no, I was not saying no to the right requests. I had somehow gone from mentoring my clients, to agreeing to two committee chair positions and membership in a third. This, not my client requests, was the cause of all those emails and Zoom meeting demands. I was over connected and all to the wrong purpose fulfilling activities.

I am on my second trip North to our cottage, but it will be different this time. We are still hiding in isolation and social distancing if we have to venture out, but I stepped away from those committee obligations, well at least one, and have a week without work. I left an ominous away message on my email account and refused all requests for Zoom meetings. If I have a Zoom session this week, it will be because I chose it and it will be to socialize with friends I am missing physically. I am finally feeling disconnected.

I will continue to miss the physical interaction and if and when this pandemic lifts, I will be the first one out socializing with friends and even strangers. But going forward, I am definitely focusing more energy on disconnecting from the demand side of this electronic hook. I will use the internet to enjoy the connections I choose and avoid the temptation to be on call 24-7. I will enjoy the moments I feel disconnected and savor the moments to reconnect to life and the things that truly matter.

What’s in the Title

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and millions of dads will be honored by their children. I will hopefully be one of those receiving at least a few accolades. Before you think me boastful, my daughters will also remind me of my nerdyness and my insufferable habit of telling corny jokes. But, that is in part what dads do. It is expected of them. I for one, am committed to not letting them down.

But let’s look at the true picture. Fathers become fathers via the birth of their children, but not all fathers become dads. A father becomes a dad the day he takes responsibility for the child he now must rear. A dad is the man who weeps with his child when he or she is in pain. A dad is the man, who stands strong when his child needs support. He is their defender and champion. A dad is the person who tells their mother not to worry because their daughter is strong enough to care for herself but secretly worries each time she goes out. He is the protector, the fixer and the knight in shining armor. A dad knows his children are watching him even if he thinks they aren’t looking. In short, he tries to be perfect even though he knows that at times he will stumble.

A father is the easy job. He doesn’t need to be patient. He doesn’t need to be perfect. He just earns the title by a simple act. But a dad is a dad by virtue of all the hard stuff. All the sleepless nights worrying about his daughter on her first, second, third and every date she ever goes on. He teaches his son respect and the meaning of the word no. A dad holds onto their bike and promises not to let go as they learn to ride, and then turns over the keys to his child as a new driver and forgives the moment they scratch the car. A dad must anticipate their needs, react with support and be there every step of the way. A dad celebrates his children’s success and then humbly credits them with their effort. He will wish to be center stage, all the while knowing the stage belongs to his child.

Tomorrow, if he is still alive, hug your dad. Tell him you noticed each time he was there. Thank him for caring, for sharing and for above all, his undying admiration of you. Forgive him his imperfections and honor him for his efforts. And above all, tell him he matters and then show him he is loved.

Happy Dad’s Day…..job well done.

I Should Know Better……

This has been a historic time for all of us. First we are subjected to a pandemic. Isolation, quarantine and new normal are all we can talk about. Every night we are bombarded on the evening news with the daily statistics and every story leads right back to the pandemic. We try to escape it through social media with creative ideas and clever stories of how we are spending our quarantine time. These social media efforts are at least humorous and help us to relieve the stress but the reality lies thinly hidden behind those clever posts and tweets.

And then the next shoe drops. Through the unfathomable decision by one individual, the ugly reality of racism is thrown in the mix. The reaction is predictable but the scope still takes us all by surprise. But it shouldn’t have. We have spent lifetimes trying first to justify it, then denying it and eventually pretending to not accept racism. While there are those who openly demonstrate their bigotry, the majority of people falsely believe, that though it exists, it certainly doesn’t exist in them. We desperately want to believe that we not only have no biases, but that we are supportive and have worked to reduce the effects of racism in our culture. And yet???? Why do we still unconsciously stereotype black people?

I am one of those and feel the need to confess. Anyone who knows me, knows that I believe in equality among all humans, no matter race, gender or religion. And yet, I was reminded just the other day that I am not so innocent. We were watching a show focused on Black Lives Matter. One of the segments was an interview of a black pro athlete who was speaking of a program designed to answer the ‘uncomfortable questions’. As the interview proceeded, I turned to my wife and said “He certainly is articulate.” I was immediately called out by my daughter. “Why would I have felt he wouldn’t be”, she asked? Because he was a football player? Or was it because he was black? Or worse yet, because he was a black athlete? My first response was to quantify what I had said. But as I began to formulate my excuse, the reality of the situation hit me. That and the fact that I was not the politically correct, unbiased supportive person I wanted to believe I was. I started hearing myself saying “I have several black friends.” Why did I need to attach the adjective?

We all see and recognize the racism when it is blatant. We all wonder how anyone can feel that way? Some of us even take up the charge and march alongside other supporters as they protest the total inequity of the treatment. But change won’t take place if we simply succeed in silencing the racists, a task that is anything but simple. Change needs to be systemic. We need to look at ourselves and ask how can I drop the stereotyping and change the narrative. In many ways, it is the day to day narrative, the unintentional stereotyping and the acceptance of the black person’s plight that cuts the deepest and creates the environment we so desperately need to repair. Why go out of our way to identify someone as my black friend, or a black athlete or a black titan of industry. Why can’t we simply drop the adjective and acknowledge the individual for who they are and not what they are. Until we do that, we continue to give room for the racist to breathe their message of hate and for society to fail at honoring our Declaration of Independence, “All men (people) are created equal.” But not until we treat them as such.