Ask Amy: Pandemic amplifies long-distance loneliness
Dear Amy: Not long before the pandemic started, I moved across the country. I’ve tried staying in touch with people where I used to live, and I spent about six months in my new home getting out and about and meeting people.
I created a few acquaintances, but that’s it so far.
I’ve tried suggesting video or phone chats, but people I know (in both places) aren’t able to/interested in more than texting to keep in touch.
The past three months have been isolating, and I have a health condition that puts me at high risk, so I don’t see an end in sight without a vaccine.
There’s not really any way to make new friends currently while staying at home, so how do I deal with texting being my only form of contact for the next year or so? — Isolated
Dear Isolated: I certainly hope it won’t be a year before you are able to move around with a feeling of safety concerning your health. A year is a very long time to be isolated from most human contact.
My first recommendation is for you to adopt a pet, if you are able and if your health allows. Shelters are offering adoptions via appointment, and if there is a way for you to do this safely, I hope you will consider it.
Many people who are still working (remotely) are completely exhausted with videoconferencing. What seemed like a fun novelty four months ago (“Zoom cocktails, cool!) now feels forced.
Texting is not an optimal way to stay in touch, but if you put some effort into becoming an engaging correspondent (not initiating too often, being responsive to others, and occasionally sending fun memes and videos), texting can be a somewhat satisfying way of staying connected.
You could also see if your hometown friends might want to create a standing date to play an online game like “Words with Friends.”
Understand, however, that many people are struggling right now — just as you are. What I’m trying to say is — it’s not you. It is everyone.
Your local library might host a (virtual) book club you could join. Doing this would help you to connect in-person when the world opens up.
Yes — you can make new friends while staying at home. There are numerous online communities for any interest you might have — or acquire. Reddit.com is (basically) the internet’s bulletin board. I just randomly looked up “Portland/knitting” and felt instantly cheered by the photos and comments of knitters in Portland. (And I don’t knit — OR live in Portland!)
Dear Amy: I am retired. I never married and have no children. Thanks to the careful budgeting of my parents and an uncle, I am what would be called comfortably well off. Now that I have the time and my health, I have indulged in traveling.
If all goes well, I’m planning a trip to Europe later this year. I offered all three of my nieces a chance to go with me. All three turned me down for good reasons, so it looks like I am going by myself.
My brother called me and asked me how it was that I can afford to take the kids to Europe and not help him with other bills. I am likely to get overburdened with his bills, and I didn’t feel comfortable signing a loan for him.
My brother told me that I was not to have anything to do with his kids. I am a consenting adult who can decide for myself who I will and won’t associate with. Furthermore, all three nieces are consenting adults and can make their own decisions. I’d love to hear your take on the situation. — Loving Aunt
Dear Aunt: I’m volunteering to be your “companion,” like a character in an E.M Forster novel.
Otherwise, yes — you are all consenting adults, and your brother does not have the right to control either you or his adult daughters. However — understand that parents are able to pull all sorts of strings with their children, and there is nothing you can do about that.
Dear Amy: Your reader, “NOT Born in the USA” wanted to become more “American.”
I suggest he/she start learning about baseball.
Jacques Barzun, a man who’d covered baseball for 55 years, once said, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules, and reality of the game.”
That said, I’m not completely sure that is true anymore, but it’s a start. — Baseball Fan
Dear Fan: Great suggestion!