Isolation, On The Other Side Of The World
Updated: Sep 30, 2021
I guess I/we have been reluctant to write about the elephant in the room as we’re all currently still wading through the muck of it, in one way or another. Much like the term of the previous American president, we all just want the utter shitness of the pandemic to end. That’s really what it all boils down to, doesn’t it? End of post!
But that obviously doesn’t really help. Merely clock-watching doesn’t bring that horizon any closer (a la the detention room clock in The Breakfast Club).
Texting, voice-messaging, emailing, and video-chatting with y’all has helped tremendously and been a lifeline for us (so thank you, first and foremost). There has also been plenty of insightful writing on the subject of survival techniques from notable mastheads the world over, which have really helped us (the recent Irish Times piece on languishing comes to mind). We’re grateful to have all of you and these helpful resources in our lives. We only hope that we have been, or can be, as supportive to you and yours in your hour of need.
This however has been extremely difficult as deep down when one person’s tank is running low, and another’s is empty, there is very little fuel to go around. Certainly it makes the task of nurturing and looking after one another as we normally would very difficult. I think most of us have thought about this—or felt a variation of it beneath the surface—during this Covid era.
Adding to this the inherent limitations of today’s communications technology and its a miracle that we can even get our intentions across at all. “Zoom fatigue”—yep, obviously real. It just doesn’t cut it compared to the nourishment of real company, instead clearing the low bar of being “certainly better than nothing”. Texting/messaging: this suffers the “mental bandwidth” problem on the input and output stage, not to mention the absolute pain in the arse that is having to hunch over and exclusively use one’s opposable thumbs to operate (perhaps there’s some savage irony in that from an evolutionary perspective). I know I’ve had my fair share of messages that I’ve rightly bollocksed-up the intentions behind. If you have received one of these from me during this time (or prior) then I am deeply and genuinely sorry and intend to rectify this.
But it doesn’t stop there. We can add to the severe shortcomings of communications technology the full-scale information assault we face in our daily online existence and the “fog of war” maddening-effect-of-prolonged-crises-with-unobservable-endings. It really is a bloody miracle that anyone can currently stay in touch over long distances at all.
Anyhow, here’s something that might help. I’ve been thinking about Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs recently in relation to this, and I wonder if it might give us some better perspective on ourselves and our relationships.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Image courtesy of Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs#/media/File:Maslow’s_Hierarchy_of_Needs2.svg
As a napkin exercise (or serviette as we Aussies call them) I have taken each layer and tried to quantify based on our circumstances right now, starting with the bottom (first) layer and moving up to the fifth at the top. I’ve issued each layer a value between 1 and 5, 1 being uncertainty/lack of needs being met and 5 being certainty/sufficient needs being met. So if you’ll indulge a peak millennial talking about himself flagrantly on the internet:
4.5 – our mattress leaves a lot to be desired, but otherwise we’re “grand” on all things at level 1.
3 to 4 – civil disobedience here at the moment makes this a grey area to me. The current gov has responded poorly in many regards and demonstrated a lack of genuine leadership, sure, but we’re not in the position of Brazil—or India. Far from it. It can be unpleasant walking through town after dark with groups of lads getting on the piss, but they’re just going mad like the rest of us. We don’t know their circumstances, and while the littering is bad as a result there are no riots, looting, or anything close to that sort here. Thank God.
2 – The hardest part to all this for us has undoubtedly been going into lockdown the moment we finished getting set up in March last year. Yes, we have had each other through this and we are so very grateful for that, but if you are reading this now its most likely that we haven’t seen you since 2019. Again, not to state the bleeding obvious, but nothing beats that real in-person connection and the ability to plan to do so. We miss y’all.
3 – Prestige* aside, this is where I see the languishing splitting us right down the middle. Finishing Mr Robot and every other show on Netflix, or Prime, or whatever stupid streaming service—yes it is a valid accomplishment (hence the middle score of 3). But alas, it is a pyramid after all. How do we know when we can return to focusing on this level? Do all the lower levels have to be satisfied, or become more certain to us, before this can improve? If “survive” is at the lower levels and “thrive” is at the higher levels, then this feels like one area where upward progress stagnates—and it is hard to stay hopeful about. Yet in spite of this I have no doubt that as restrictions start to ease in Ireland grabbing a pint with friends will be both relationship needs being met and an accomplishment.
3.5 – OK, why the high score here? Surely the highest level would yield rubbish results? Well, personally, I can say that during this time there have been bouts of pretty bad depression that have returned for me, but also pockets where it has been a creative boon being furloughed from work. I’m an enterprising and creative person, yet I’ve always worked in service industries/roles (because…life). I have attempted to use this time to get to some creative projects completed before returning back to the later. Some of the time I have recently spent on these projects has been incredibly positive. On the other hand, I know for a fact that this isn’t entirely the case with Aoife, who has worked her job through this entire time, so I’m sure her score here would contrast mine. This is one way in which we want to identify and address each others needs to make sure we both build up to thriving together over time. Starting with a bloody holiday ASAP! Amirite?!
So to sum up, mine looks more like the leaning tower of Piza—or an in-progress game of Jenga—than a pyramid. No wonder things feel wonky and uncertain.
I also have a theory that, due to the pandemic, many of us find it hard to relate in conversation when one or more people of the same social class or generation have found their needs structure hollowed out suddenly and due to circumstances completely out of their control.
This exercise has helped me to identify some of what has up until now been quite hard to pin down, and once I was able to do that I realised I can do at least a few things about it. Starting with owning a better understanding of what I’m going through and hopefully being better in all relationships as a result.
What about you? Feel free to do the exercise either privately or you are welcome to leave it in the comments below.
*Re. prestige: IMO one reason Instagram et al. is complete dog shit is because we default to showing a perfect pyramid when actually we are but rickety scaffolding underneath at best—held together by duct tape and each other’s love and support. Just my 2c!