Keeping Connected


January 12, 2023 by Jean

book group clipartAs I enter the fourth year of the Covid pandemic, I know that I need to be intentional about staying socially connected through the winter months. Winter can be isolating out at the end of my dirt road, especially when both houses within sight of mine are currently vacant. My introvert tendencies can take over in this situation, and it would be all too easy for me to hunker down into hermit mode. I know that isn’t good for me, so I have made a rule for myself that I must engage in at least one real in-person social interaction per week. (Quick exchanges with strangers in the supermarket don’t count).

In most of the winters since my retirement, I’ve met my baseline requirement for social connection by participating in a choral singing group with weekly rehearsals. Any interactions beyond that, like the monthly meetings of my book group, were a bonus. This year, however, I am sitting out the choral singing season because the chorale Board of Directors decided in the fall to drop all Covid precautions. Choral singing is a high-risk activity; singers are expelling air from their lungs (along with any accompanying respiratory viruses) with greater force and for greater distances than is true with ordinary speaking, and singers are also breathing in that shared air more deeply. I could wear a mask to rehearsals, but having my mask be the only barrier between me and another singer’s unrecognized Covid infection did not feel sufficiently safe.

With those weekly singing rehearsals gone from my schedule, though, the monthly meeting of my book group remained as the only substantial social interaction I could be sure of, and I knew I would need to make an effort to keep connected. My first strategy was to join another book group. This one focuses primarily on non-fiction and meets monthly at the small local library in my rural town. So far, I’ve been to one meeting of this group and found some people I already knew and more who were new to me engaging in a thoughtful and stimulating discussion. I enjoyed myself, and I’m looking forward to my second meeting of the group later this month. The two book groups meet some of my need for social connection, but still leave two weeks per month without any in-person scheduled social interaction. My second strategy for getting to my once-a-week baseline is to invite friends here for lunch. In recent years, I have limited my entertaining to the summer months when my house is easier for people to access and (especially since the pandemic) when we can eat out on the screened porch. It’s time for me to be more socially inviting during the winter months.

I began by hosting a group of old friends here for lunch two days after Christmas. We get together every year during the holidays, and I took the opportunity to offer to host the gathering this year. I served pumpkin soup, turkey sandwiches made with Christmas dinner leftovers, and apple pie, and we all did at-home antigen tests the morning of our get-together so that we could relax and feel safe gathering and eating together without masks. In the two weeks since that gathering, I’ve gone out once to dinner with a friend at his house and had another friend here for lunch. I have a long list of friends I would like to invite in the months to come, and I will continue to use at-home Covid tests to make these lunches as safe as possible. Not only will these invitations keep me connected through the winter months; by the time spring rolls around, I should have broken the habit of thinking that I can only entertain during the summer months.

2 thoughts on “Keeping Connected

  1. The Misadventures of Widowhood says:

    Love how proactive you are and methodical you are at keeping yourself social. In my entire life I’ve can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve invited someone over for a meal. It’s just not in my comfort zone so I really appreciate when others invite me.

  2. Janet Powers says:

    Bravo for your intentional social interaction, but I’m sorry that you have temporarily given up the choral group. I know that was all very special for you! I am not socializing much other than meetings for various organizations, but they are my tribe, and so the meetings do count, I think, as meaningful communication. At any rate, I still feel very happy if I have a day without meetings or tutoring Afghans!

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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