I’ve been thinking a lot lately about friends, or friendliness in general. I guess a lot of people have, given the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns across the globe. Locking humans inside homes breaks down their ability to build and sustain meaningful friendships.
In my 20s, my bones ached with loneliness. In the confines of a fundamental religious organisation, where one is supposed to experience connections, I felt disconnected. An outsider. Sent by the hierarchy into a small country town to run a church with no familial supports nearby and few options for building friendships, I struggled. I made up for the lack of meaningful social connections by dabbling in what the church would call sinful behaviours, mistakenly thinking that the pleasure of sexual connections could fill the void (and yes, I know that’s a clever pun!) It was also a transitory life, with the mostly male leaders moving ministers every two years. I had no voice, no power, few opportunities.
I left, disillusioned, and built a new life. One that I am happy with. And I’m proud of myself for leaving. Too often, people within this organisation stay within its structures, unable to leave. There’s many reasons for this, and if my book is ever published, buy it and you’ll find out more.
These days, am beginning to feel similarly to that time in my 20s. Yes, I have my family and I’m busy doing all things ‘mum’ and Hubster is a wonderful support to go through life with. However, women who I relied on for female companionship and caught up with regularly, pre-covid, are increasingly difficult to tie down for chats and gossip now. Who knows, it might have been the case anyway. Kids are growing up, ties to school mums are loosening as lives spread wide and in vastly different directions. But my experience is real, and my feelings cannot be overlooked.
Hubster and I also watched, gobsmacked, as our neighbours packed up on the weekend and moved, without so much as a glance or a wave to say goodbye. This couple, younger than us, have lived here for about four or five years, and have been very friendly. Not in your face, but always up for a quick chat when we saw them outside. They’ve had two babies in that period of time, and we’ve always taken a neighbourly interest in their sons. Spending time talking about leaves and garbage collectors when we see them out and about with their parents. Over the past two months, though, the chats became clipped and cool, short, with minimal eye-contact. Given my ability to ‘read the room’, I stopped engaging. But to leave without even waving? Well, that’s just odd. But hugely indicative, too, of the toll caused by lockdowns, and the fear, the economical damage and stress society is left to deal with.
Many of us are struggling, I believe. And it makes me wonder, how much more damage can COVID do to people’s lives. The research arising from this pandemic states that we’ll feel the emotional and social damage for years. Many years to come.
Now, more than ever, we need to stick together.