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.