By Lindsay Steele
Although only a month in the past, it seems like a lifetime ago. Everything started to change that day. It was the last day diocesan employees reported to the St. Vincent Center before having to work from home indefinitely. It was the last day I saw any of my friends in person.
It was the first day I had to learn to live my life under the then-new concept of social distancing.
It was very difficult at first. I missed my coworkers and friends terribly. I shed a lot of tears. I was anxious and frustrated by the uncertainty of the situation. Would it be for a couple weeks? A month? A year?
We still don’t know, but a month later, I feel much more adjusted. Do I still have bad days? Yes. Do I still feel anxious? Yes. However, I have started to get used to this new normal, seeing it as a time of opportunity as opposed to a holding pattern. Here are some of the things I’ve done to cope and connect:
Zoom movie nights
Recently, I watched a movie with my friend and coworker Hugo through Zoom’s screen-sharing feature. My husband, Chris, and I tuned in from Davenport, and Hugo from Ottumwa, but it felt like we were all in the same room together! Hugo could see and hear our reactions, and we could see him sitting at his desk munching on popcorn. He used Zoom’s custom background feature to make it appear as if he were sitting in an empty movie theater, which added to the fun. It was a great night that made life feel a bit more normal for a couple hours. You need to be aware of copyright laws and protections when showing movies through Zoom, but I can see this type of concept as useful for karaoke nights, too. Share the screen while in YouTube and pull up karaoke versions of your favorite songs!
One of the most heartbreaking things about social distancing is that my son Bradley and my mom cannot spend time together right now. She works in a nursing home, and out of concerns for our family’s safety and the residents’ safety, my mom has opted to love her only grandchild from afar. It’s really difficult for her, so we try to FaceTime with her every day.
I could probably count on one hand the number of times I FaceTimed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’ve been using it a lot lately. Seeing people’s faces and reactions helps me to feel more connected in a time when I can’t see loved ones in person. We’ve FaceTimed with Bradley’s babysitter — my friend Bety — and her children. I’ve also FaceTimed with my college friends, Katie and Tori, who are also trying to cope with social distancing. It’s a technology I’ll probably continue to use even after social distancing requirements have relaxed.
When social distancing requirements began to take effect, and churches began to close, I felt a little lost because I needed my faith more than ever. I heard about a rosary group that was assembling in groups of fewer than 10 at my parish, Our Lady of Victory in Davenport, and decided to go. After the church buildings closed to the public, we took our group online. We’ve prayed the rosary over Zoom a few times, but mostly we keep in touch through a Facebook Messenger group where we offer each other a virtual shoulder to cry on and share inspirational songs, videos, memes and messages. I didn’t know many of the people in the group to start with, so to make new friends at this time has been a huge blessing.
A few weeks ago, while walking through the toy section of Walmart, I noticed something interesting: all the puzzles were sold out. This makes sense; people are looking for ways to pass the time, and a repetitive activity like puzzling can relieve stress. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay inflated prices on Ebay to buy a puzzle; I had one at home that had been collecting dust in the basement. It was a 1,000-piece Coca Cola pop-art-style puzzle. I set it up on my ping-pong table downstairs and completed it in two weeks. I was almost disappointed when I finished it; I did cave and buy a used one on Ebay for an inflated price so I can do it all over again.
Like puzzling, crafting can be a great stress reliever. For Easter, I made heart wreaths using wire hangers and tissue paper. I made them as gifts for my mom, my mother-in-law and Chris’s grandmother, and they were a big hit. Like many people, I’ve been making masks, too. My sewing skills keep me from making them in mass quantities for hospitals and homeless shelters, but I have come up with my own design using elastic bracelet string, bandanas and “shop cloth” filters. I’ve made a few for myself and for friends and family members.
Walking… and step challenges?
I have a group text with my college friends Katie and Tori, and whereas we used to talk once a week or so, we now talk multiple times a day. The other day, Tori expressed guilt that she had been feeling unmotivated to exercise, so she suggested a step challenge. The person with the most steps that day won. There were no real prizes involved, but the competition motivated all of us. I went on a four-mile walk and spent time doing yardwork and, as a result, I recorded my highest daily total ever (14,000 steps) and won the challenge. But, really, we were all “winners” because we had managed to get some fresh air, sunshine and exercise on a beautiful day. (Side note — I saw Bishop Thomas Zinkula biking on the Duck Creek Trail!)
What are you doing?
I’d love to hear what you, the readers, are doing to cope and stay connected during this time. Feel free to email me at email@example.com or connect with me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SteeleCatholicMessenger .
(Lindsay Steele is the diocesan reporter for The Catholic Messenger.)