Friday, May 8, 2020

Zoom fatigue, snail mail, and poetry: Notes from my quarantine journal



Snail mail /  Cindy La Ferle

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"What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters to each other. You can't reread a phone call." ~Liz Carpenter

Friday, May 8 ....
Staying connected to friends and family presents a new set of challenges during a pandemic. With the national COVID-19 death toll topping 77,000 and rising daily, social distancing is the best preventative available to us now. But it's not the easiest.

On days when the plaster walls of my home are closing in, it's tempting to throw caution in the recycle bin with my used disinfectant wipes. What fun it would be, instead, to invite everyone to my home for bottomless margaritas! Of course, I know better, and I'd rather not take chances. 

Still, social connection is a basic human need. To compensate for our dismal lack of in-person contact, everyone is jumping on the video-conferencing bandwagon. Thanks to this innovative technology, we now have easy access to nearly everyone's inner sanctum at the click of an email invitation. Hardly a day goes by when we don't hear from someone who wants to host a business meeting or a happy hour online. 
Remy Skyping with his grandparents

Problem is, I'm not comfortable Skyping or Zooming with anyone but close family members and intimate friends -- the folks who've already seen me in my pajamas with my hair uncombed, looking like a troll from a Celtic warrior film. I'd rather not share background views of my (still unfinished) kitchen or messy bedroom with everyone on the call. Adding to the stress of these virtual visits, I often struggle to get the sound working on my computer.

Video chatting -- especially when it involves more than six people -- is overwhelming to my inner introvert. Maybe it's because I haven't fully processed the trauma of this insidious pandemic. Or maybe I'm more introspective and vulnerable than usual. Either way, I'm not quite myself these days, and therefore not as eager to hash things out in front of a live audience.  

Psychotherapist and author Irene Levine tells me there's a term for it -- Zoom fatigue. As reported in USA Today, there's plenty of social science that proves I'm not alone.

Poetry in motion

Still, I want to keep in touch when I can -- in ways that feel both sincere and nurturing to me. Being a writer, I am happiest sitting down with an old-fashioned box of notecards, a favorite pen, and a book of postage stamps, which is exactly what I did last weekend. 

While cleaning out a neglected drawer in my office on Saturday, I uncovered a stack of notecards graced with the wonderful poetry of my late friend and mentor, Margo LaGattuta.  Over the years, Margo inspired me to look at the world with fresh eyes, showing me how to cut through creative obstacles and move past the obvious. Her death in 2011 was a tremendous loss to Michigan's literary community, and we still miss her. Here is a link to a tribute I wrote to her, parts of which were published in Margo's local paper.

After I reread all of the poems on the cards, it was time to address and mail them out into the world; to give them to others who'd enjoy them as much as I did. It was a beautiful afternoon well spent, including the drive to the post office, and I couldn't recall the last time I'd felt so productive and content. It's amazing, isn't it, how the written word can help lift the darkness and make sense of the chaos around us?

Here is one of my favorite poems from Margo LaGattuta's poetry collection, The Dream Givers. The message is perfect for these unsettled times. 

The Wish Bracelet
By Margo LaGattuta
(Copyright 1990; Lake Shore Publishing)

"The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost." ~Fortune Cookie

They say you tie it on your wrist
and wear it every minute,
even in the shower, or in a hurricane, 
or in bed with your lover.

Mine is purple, green and orange

and came from Guatamala.
Mine is the color of joy,
the power of wishes tied in knots.

They say your dreams come true
the day the bracelet falls off.
My arm is heavy with the burden.
I carry the gift of loss around me.

I carry the gift of waiting
for small threads to fray,
for each color to begin bleeding,
for the friction dance on my skin.

To know wild colors now
is all hope in a circle.
Anything beautiful might be lost; I see
everything real keeps moving.

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