When something goes wrong, you check in: a sick friend, a wildfire, a hurricane, a car accident. Bad things happen to people, and sometimes they happen to people we love—so we call, we text, we write. We make sure our friends are OK.
But I’m tired. How, during a pandemic, do you check in with your friends in a way that’s meaningful? How can you possibly check in with everyone you know? We are all in trouble.
And on top of it all, I’m tired of looking at a screen. With everything online now, sending a message to a friend in Chicago, or New York, Spain or three miles down the road means more time with my nose in my phone.
Even when I don’t have actual messages or emails from people, there are days I can’t help but open a news app and check the status of the world, China, Europe, Mexico, each State in the U.S. where I know someone, my county, and my city—obsessively.
This morning we went for a long walk, and later we went on a bike ride. Both times I left my phone at home. Multiple times a day I just turn it off and throw it on the table. It’s the only way to stop myself from feeding my impulse.
Sometimes I pick my phone up to check something or send a message, and it’s a relief to discover that I’ve turned it off. It gives me the two-second pause I need to think about whether what I want to do on my phone is worth it.
It rarely ever is. I usually just put it back down.
I’m not speaking much Spanish to Bilingual Baby these days. I don’t know why. As you can imagine, she’s not answering me in Spanish since I’m not initiating it.
Yesterday it was rainy. Rained all day. And we spent so much time indoors in front of screens that I finally closed up all the devices and dragged my daughter outdoors. We put on our boots and our coats, raised our hoods, and marched across the street to the parking lot to splash in puddles.
We pretended we were unicorns or characters from Paw Patrol and Spirit. We made up obstacle courses with the curbs, puddles, trees, and rocks. I pretended I was afraid to jump from a ledge and she pretended to be the brave one, coaching me until I could do it. We did this for an hour and a half. And as we walked back home, I realized that almost all the pretending had been in Spanish.
When she broke character she would say: “pause the game.” And when she went back to being a mythical creature or little girl named Diamond, she went back to Spanish. We had no interruptions and nothing to get back to.
And I have no pictures of our rainy afternoon because my phone was back at home sitting on the kitchen counter.
I think the answer is that I can’t check in on everyone at once. But just a few messages a day will go a long way. There’s time to check on everyone—I have a feeling we are going to be in this for a while.