COVID-19 fallout: People need people now more than ever
By Barbara Pierce
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
— The Beatles
“What do you do when you’re feeling down or distressed during this pandemic?” the online survey asked.
I volunteered to participate in research on how to cope.
Yes, during this pandemic, I do have days of feeling down — feeling like the world is grey and life is on hold.
How do I manage to get past these bad days, I thought? What helps me move on to a better place?
I remembered a few weeks ago, when I mentioned to my sister I was feeling down, she suggested: “Call a friend.”
Good idea, I thought, and ran through the few friends I had, choosing Jackie.
Jackie and I talked, commiserated and laughed a lot. When I hung up, my world had perked up; my mood was considerably better.
So, I knew the answer to the question of what I do when I’m feeling down: “Call a friend.”
Next to my family, my friends are most valuable in my life right now.
Their value rises when life gets especially tough, like now. The Beatles’ song, “With a Little Help From my Friends,” is especially relevant.
The list of my friends is short. Each is so valuable. It’s short because, a few years ago, after a divorce, I left my current friends behind to step into a new life. I moved to the Florida Everglades, to a home isolated deep in the rural tropical wilderness.
“It’s going to be up to me to create a life here in the middle of nowhere!” I thought with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I knew no one in this remote area except the man with whom I would be sharing a home.
I was eager to put people into my new life. Though I’m introverted and reserved, I do have a deep need to be around people.
Before I retired, making friends was easy at work. Without a job, it would be harder, but I was confident I could do it. I’d moved to new areas before and started over: I’d lived on a boat in Mexico, crafting a life with new friends. Then again, after leaving the boat.
But, this time, it was to be much harder than I anticipated.
“Volunteering will be a great way to meet people,” I said to myself. “I’ll start with that.”
I didn’t like to drive, so finding something that didn’t require a long drive was my first criteria. However, there was nothing except homes and nothing else for many miles around. Possible places to volunteer all were nearly an hour’s drive, one way. I bit the bullet and started volunteering at a few, but met no one to hang out with.
I was so lonely; they say you have to identify your need to fulfill it. I longed for a woman friend to meet for lunch. I sat alone day after day, deeply longing for people with whom I could have relationships.
“Churches are always a good way to get people in your life,” I thought. So I tried several; they were mostly unfriendly places.
I missed people. If two or three days went by as I sat home alone, I ached for people; I went a little crazy. I went to the supermarket or the library just to be around people. I was achingly lonely.
“I’ve got to find people; I can’t live this lonely life,” I said. “Surely there’s got to be a church that will welcome me.”
I found another church to try; it was small and friendly. I volunteered to stand at the door and welcome people and began attending the women’s group.
Jackie was the first one who I hooked up with. The retired nurse was calm, nurturing, and our connection occurred probably because she thought the same as I did on major issues.
Then Lynn came into the women’s group as a newcomer. I was attracted to her outgoing personality as she readily talked about details of her life with a group of strangers, a contrast to my quiet self.
Then Marylou, Daisy, and Junaice. Seeing these friends every Sunday became the highlight of my week. Going out for lunch with one or the other. Sharing joys and sorrows, laughs and hugs.
My life was complete. Finally, now I have people who care about me, and I about them. I’ve finally found what I was looking for and I’m so happy.
Right now, they’re my lifelines. When I’m feeling discouraged, or don’t see any color in the world, I call one of them. Though we don’t get together in person, we talk, lament, laugh, and bring each other hope.
As this pandemic drags on, it becomes harder to cope.
Talk with a mental health professional if you aren’t getting over your down times.
Barbara Pierce is a retired licensed clinical social worker with many years of experience helping people. If you would like to purchase a copy of her book, “When You Come to the Edge: Aging” or if you have questions for her, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.