What If: Social Distancing Changes “Community” Forever?

Anyone want to take a swing at this one for me? ‘Cause I have a few things to say and they may not be the warm fuzzies that people want to hear. Who is ready?

This has been one weird season of life. There is a very real sense that our world will never be the same. I’m still keeping count, and it has been 87 days since I have seen Mom and Dad. I didn’t go 87 days without a visit when I lived in the state of Kentucky. I’m freaking over this. And guess what? I’m gonna see their little faces in just a week. I cannot wait. It will be on a porch with some distance between us, but I’m here for all the social distance love. All of it. But, when I just get really freaking honest, I must admit something very real. I don’t miss many people the way that I miss my parents. At all.

If there has been one thing that has come rushing to the surface in my relationships during quarantine it is that with the passage of time and removal of expectations, my circle is growing smaller. I have spent many years believing that to be “nice” and “kind” and a “friend” I need to continually expand the circles. This experience has proven to me that the width of my circle means so little to me, but the DEPTH of my circle is an entirely different conversation.

I’ve done some excavation work the last 3 months. I have spent considerable time shedding false narratives that have convinced me that things are “fine.” As I have unpacked the fine-ness of my life, I have taken a good hard reflective and challenging look at the relationships in my path. While I can’t seem to be motivated to honor Marie Kondo’s clutter goals, I have very honestly asked myself “do they bring me joy?” on more than one occasion. And, the answer is not always affirmative.

While I do not think that this season of life has caused things to happen, I do think that the intentional slowing, the time to process, the space for thought and observation and response has magnified the things that were already happening in my life. In some ways, I think I received a gift of intensified pressurization and in the process, I was able to step into and out of some spaces that I had avoided addressing in the midst of life busyness. The full calendar, the routine, the structure – they can be good. But for me, they were muffling the cries of needed attention. One of the single most important areas of this truth is in the way I see community.

I can be with people all day long. I can talk and read and Snap and Tweet @you. I can “connect” in the ways that I am supposed to. All of these things can happen in the name of forming connection and community and at the end of the day, there is still a very good chance that you are not my community. My people know that “community” with me is often defined in the best meme. Making your way to my shortest of short lists means that on a really bad day, you might (and let’s be real, it’s a baaaadddd day when I actually choose this option) get a text saying “do you have time to talk?” Community is not a Thursday at 7:30 event. It is not a standing once a week obligation. It is not even a predictable pattern.

My deepest community is found in the hard, messy, real, foul mouthed, smoke blowing, pretending I’m not crying moments – where life is falling apart and you are the person that I trust enough to call. For years, I have lulled myself into believing that there was a way to schedule connection. But the honest truth is that until you are staring at the bottom, until you are sitting in the midst of the most painful and can’t move, until you are so scared that you don’t even know how to take the next step, you may not even know you need community.

This time away has reminded me that there are some relationships that I cannot neglect. I now know that they have been forgotten and need resuscitating. In the insane spaces of my insane “normal” pace I have failed to love people, and more importantly myself, enough to prioritize them. In an effort to appease, there are pieces of myself that I have given up for the sake of being a part of something that I don’t really need.

Has this season changed my view of community? I sure hope so. I’ve been reminded that the deep is where I am fed. My life already has too many things on the calendar. As I try to find new rhythms and normal patterns in this time of “excused” absences from groups of gatherings, I want to look for the types of community that my soul needs. We each deserve to deep dive into connection, AND give ourselves permission to choose only the kind of communities that make us leap for joy inside. Let’s shed the should’s so we can have room for thriving.

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