I feel vulnerable right now, sensitive. In part it’s because rain has come to the Bay Area (along with a flood warning) and I have seasonal affective disorder. However, I feel vulnerable and sensitive right now also because I’m in a weird liminal space. An in-between space. The pandemic is raging on, but many people have returned to life as normal, or something like it. They’re going out to eat, they’re hanging out with friends indoors, they’re going to parties, they’ve returned to the office, or will soon. Life looks pretty much like it did before the pandemic except for wearing a mask certain places and perhaps flashing a vaccination card here and there.
For me though, there’s not really a normal to return to, at least when it comes to certain things, like community. The community I had pre-pandemic has been decimated. Not because anyone died, but rather because so many people have moved away. Not everyone — I still have local friends — but enough to be noticeable. The things I did in community — meditating as a group or attending a 12-step meeting — take place solely online now. And it’s possible they’ll stay that way. I can’t say for sure, but it doesn’t really matter because in the moment, what I want doesn’t exist: in-person community.
I have lots of online community (Zoom calls out the wahzoo), but the kind where I can bump elbows with someone? Where I can see more than their head and shoulders? Nope. As the world opens up and people are getting together again, they’re reaching out to friends and community members. I’m noticing that’s not an option for me. I have numerous individual friends, but they aren’t friends with each other. They don’t know or hang out with each other and have no reason to unless I corral them together. Frankly, I miss that — people united around a common interest and developing comradery because of it.
My spiritual teacher says, “You should have more and more contact with people, contact with whom will be helpful in your development.” And elsewhere he says, “Even a good person or a sádhaka [spiritual aspirant] needs proper maintenance, for in a world of constant change, care must be taken that the change be always toward the better or the higher. Keeping good company is essential for this positive development.”
Good company is crucial and there’s something to be said for the kind that you can touch. I have a need for presence that is very much not getting met. I don’t write this to seek solutions. I’m writing it to express myself and also put into words something other people are likely feeling. Somebody out there must be going through what I’m going through. If so, you’re not alone. I’m over here too, wishing for the same thing.
I dream of a world where we each have a strong, in-person community, or even more than one! A world where we spend time together in large groups because we recognize how important it is. A world where we understand good company is crucial for our mental health. A world where we understand we aren’t alone and we connect with people who are like us.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.