Creative Closeness

Two weeks ago, most of us had never heard the terms “flattening the curve” or “social distancing.” But this is our new normal. Dr. Anthony Fauci, once an unknown immunologist, has become America’s most trusted family doctor. While Charlotte’s bars and restaurants have not closed, Dr. Fauci let us all know Sunday that we need to prepare to “hunker down significantly more.”

So what can we do in the coming weeks and months with all our new “me” time that doesn’t just look like binge-watching “Love is Blind”? Gillian Brockwell with The Washington Post wrote how when faced with the Great Plague of London in 1665, Isaac Newton used his time in social isolation to continue to do equations. The time he spent musing about mathematics was the same time he contemplated the apple tree outside his window which eventually informed his theories of gravity.

While we may not all be discovering laws of physics during our coming quarantine, what are ways we can remain safe and sane? Here are seven ways to stay physically away from each other while becoming creatively closer to friends, family and ourselves.

  1. Memory Lane—My iPhone tells me I have 11,743 photos yet I have no idea what they are. As a mother of four daughters, I once had a very organized system of cataloguing each of their photos and our family trips which in all my busyness, I abandoned. While the Cloud is now keeping all my images safe, I still can’t see them. It might take a full four-week quarantine to properly find and sort them, but I can start by deleting ones I don’t want and preserving those I do. Last night when I was making way for canned goods in the laundry room, I even found some brand-new, never-opened photo albums that were filled only with good intentions. I might even take on that project or make some digital books that have been on my To-Do list for years.


  1. Phone a Friend—Whether you are working from home or just home alone, it’s going to be easy to sink into scrolling. Social media can provide endless hours of content for all of us. But last night, our family called each other—all of us at once. As we had a virtual family dinner through Facetime, my daughter invited some of her cousins onto the call. I talked to family in Oregon, Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, North Carolina and New Hampshire as if we were at a reunion. After all the day’s escalating news, it was a relief to remember how easily we can connect. It reminded me that through technology, I can do more than send an emoji. I can actually speak to them. That college roommate, that high-school bestie, that co-worker who moved, call them. Find out what they aren’t saying on Facebook.


  1. Garden Party—While there is never a good time for a pandemic, it certainly is better to be confined in the spring rather than the winter. As I loaded our freezer, I was grateful to remember it is unlikely to think we will lose power in an ice-storm at the same time we battle a virus. It also made me realize, how far away we have gotten from our own food and our own gardens. Whether it is a window box of lettuces and herbs or a full-fledged vegetable garden, it’s a good time to digging in the dirt. Planting seeds or tending seedlings not only offers a distraction for today, but some fresh food for the future.


  1. Color Your World—While most of us do not consider ourselves artists, you don’t have to be Rembrandt to enjoy an art project. Now is a good time to pull out that adult Mindfulness Coloring Book your friend gave you for your birthday or order one on Amazon. Don’t forget the deluxe set of colored pencils so you have full bandwidth of blues from periwinkle to navy. If you want to get really crafty, order up some canvases and a starter set of paints. Or go really big and get a bucket of paint and create an accent wall in that living room you will be really be living in. Then, turn off the twenty-four hour news cycle and get lost in your inner Picasso.


  1. Get Smarter—School children and college students are already discovering that the virtual classroom awaits them. While you may only have watched videos for laughs, there is an entire world waiting to teach you. Want to build a robot? There’s a video for that. Go to the YouTube Learning Channel and type in “How to Make the Perfect. . .” and pick any one of the suggestions. Khan Academy can teach you Economics. The History Channel can teach you about the Spanish flu of 1918. TEDTalks offer inspiration on everything from Activism to Zoology. Learning has over 700 courses in Photography and Design. Maybe this novel coronavirus will make us all a little smarter.


  1. Grant a Wish—While most of us will be hunkering down in our apartments or houses, there is a much different reality for those who were hit with this pandemic at the same time they were experiencing homelessness. Charlotte’s shelters and relief organizations can’t close during this time so staff are covering for volunteers while creating new ways to feed hundreds of people. The traditional lunch line at both the Men’s Shelter and the Urban Ministry Center are being transformed into “grab and go” service. Check out their Amazon Wishlists for ways you can send items they need. Crisis Assistance Ministry, Salvation Army Center of Hope, The Relatives, The Harvest Center, Camino Community Center and Charlotte Rescue Mission are all helping and all have ways you help those who don’t have a home to go home to.


  1. Find What You Believe—The fact that many houses of faith are closing to comply with COVID-19 precautions is the most distressing part of this new normal for those who have a spiritual home. It is anxious times like these where many need the solace of their faith community the most. Whether you belong to a church, synagogue, temple or mosque or have no affiliation, a worldwide pandemic will get you asking bigger questions. If you have a church community, most are offering online resources so make use of them yourself and offer them to friends. If you don’t, you can find all kinds of local houses of faith with ways to connect virtually. But if you need to start at the beginning to find what you believe, there are books and websites for that, too. You can start with an ancient mystic and poet like Rumi and move through history with Thomas Merton and onto present day thinkers like Richard Rohr and Barbara Brown Taylor. Or understand social justice by reading through works of Martin Luther King, Howard Thurman and Bryan Stevenson. Whether it’s poetry, philosophy or theology that gets us thinking, it’s a good time to discover our highest and best selves.