My enormous little world

There’s so much going on right now, the world is in crisis, so much is in flux, so much depends on the decisions made by so many, the future is so uncertain. We literally don’t know what the world will look like in a month, let alone six months, let alone a year. It’s overwhelming.

But the opportunities for growth during this time are as unprecedented as the times themselves. As with everything in life, the key is in our response.

I’ve long followed the news, and more important, history. I get that it’s all very important.

But these days, I’m focused on much more immediate things. I’m diving deep, looking at things I’ve barely looked at before, in new ways. I’m getting to know myself better, to question attitudes I’ve long held, ideas about myself and my life that I’ve long taken for granted. I’m seeing my underlying assumptions about life challenged in this environment.

I am, in a word, changing. It is extremely challenging. And I like change!!

But this…this is a lot.

I have friends who are wrapped up in politics, and I get it; but rather than following every twist and turn, opining all the way, arguing and defending points of view, I am simply taking quiet action: I am volunteering time to assist in making a change that, if we succeed, will improve things. A little. That’s all one can hope for, I think; but I know for sure that it makes more of a difference than opining online does.

I have friends who are wrapped up in the ups and downs and ins and outs of viruses, vaccines, public health and etc. Again, lots and lots of opinions. Arguments being made, theories discussed, shade being thrown. And again, I am simply taking care of my health, continuing to isolate, being socially responsible as best I know how when I do go out, and keeping in touch with the vulnerable who I know.

I have friends who are already bracing for the Second Wave, who are building defenses of various kinds, and others who are looking forward to trips in the fall, now that travel looks to be opening up; I’m just trying to figure out who I am now, what’s important to me that didn’t used to be important, and even more, who is important to me.

The last is crucial. I’ve seen close friends go a bit nutty during this crisis, and it’s a sad thing; I’ve had other friends really hunker down and be barely responsive to my overtures; I’ve also heard from people I never expected to.

Interpersonal relationships have taken a real beating in this time of social distancing, and that, even more than the lost freedom of movement I’ve taken for granted for so long, has been the most impactful thing. Some of the “distancing” has been more than physical.

Some of it, sad to say, feels permanent.

I’ve really struggled with that, and I know I’m not alone. I’m used to physical distance; no matter where I am, I’m far from people I am close to. My lifestyle has meant that I’m always the one who has to reach out, even to close friends; they can say, “I never know where you are,” even though I’m always right by my phone. I know that it’s my responsibility to make overtures. It’s always been that way, really.

I’m not sure why that is, but I am familiar with it. Lifestyle choices have consequences; this isn’t a terrible one.

But nowadays, rather than fight it, rather than resisting the distancing of others, I’m trying to go with it. It’s not easy for me. My inclination is to reach out. But this time is an opportunity to go deeper, and that often means, almost by definition, going it alone. There is work you can only do alone; talking it out has limited utility, and in any case, others have limited bandwidth, and their own stuff to deal with.

That’s always been the case, but like everything else, it’s more intense now.

I can only assume that a lot of people are in this mode right now; social distancing may be something of a relief in our overly-connected world.

This is good; this is opportunity. This distancing means that a friend who has long struggled with alcohol can take the time to really dive in and see what’s going on; that way, when he comes out of this time, he has gotten some deep stuff figured out. I support that, and he knows it; but I know that my usefulness to him in that process is very limited.

The hardest stuff we have to face, we have to face alone. This would seem to be the perfect time for that.

But this time alone won’t last forever, and when we come out of it, we will need to take action on the things we have discovered, whether they are interpersonal, or creative, or professional. Some of us already are; some are still in the process; some of us are doing both.

Some still haven’t begun, and are fighting going inward tooth-and-nail. I suspect that the push against social distancing isn’t as much political (about “freedom”) as it is about a fundamental inability to stay with oneself and do the hard work.

That’s a shame. This time is a gift, if we take it that way. I’m doing all I can to take advantage, though at times it is painful. That means that I’m available for some things, too available for others, and not interested at all in others. The same is true for everyone, I imagine.

That doesn’t mean it’s fun, or easy, or even, sometimes, doable. But it’s essential, I think. Life has changed, and we have to change with it, or the disconnect is going to lead to some ugly inner conflict, interpersonal conflict, and ultimately, societal conflict.

We will emerge from this different. That’s going to be a real challenge for everyone, even those – perhaps especially those – who think they’ve ridden it out intact. Relationships we thought we understood, or always depended on, may not have survived; relationships we took for granted, or thought were inessential, will have proven to be much more important than we thought.

It’s all good. But it’s a LOT. I have to remind myself of this from time to time, and I’m writing this to remind others. What we have been through, what we’re still going through, and what we’re about to go through – because this whole thing is FAR from over – are changing our world.

Perhaps more than ever before, the world is changing us. We see how connected we are, how our actions can affect even strangers, and we also see how disconnected we are. It’s almost overwhelming to fully comprehend; in fact, we can’t fully comprehend it.

But we can observe how it is affecting us, in ways we didn’t expect; we can focus on how we can steer those impacts towards new growth, for ourselves and for our relationships. It’s a lot of work we didn’t expect to have to do, it’s a lot of work we perhaps didn’t want to do – but it’s good work.

I wish you well with it.

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Thank you for checking out my blog - it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I am working on projects regarding music history, Japanese culture and my songwriting.

- A week-by-week music history website, music1967.com
- An upcoming book on Japanese culture, Japan from Anime to Zen
- A YouTube channel, featuring random songs and thoughts for the pandemic
- Original music on Spotify, with links to Patreon and Amazon 

David Watts Barton

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