Greetings from my humble abode that has also been my quarantine quarters for the past few weeks. And, may I just say, screw this!
Seriously, some of my friends used to call me a social butterfly because I go out all the time.
I am not a butterfly, however; they are pretty and delicate and flitter about. I am a social beast. I love parties, all parties (even the ones that are not that great, I still enjoyed)!
So you can imagine that COVID 19 has turned my life upside down. No parties, fundraisers, theater, drag brunches; hell, I feel like I am a character in the Hunger Games when I go to the grocery. And do not even get me started on WalMart. That place was scary before this virus; now I would feel safer in a shark cage with an open cut surrounded by great whites.
But alas, here we are. My friends joked that I would go to the opening of an envelope if I was invited (and sometimes as someone else’s plus one) and that is true. I am also part of the hospitality community in which I worked as an event planner for my company for five years. It seemed like just yesterday, I was laughing with my friends, about how crazy work was and looking forward to attending Pride of the Americas in Fort Lauderdale in April. Oh yeah, that was right; it was like yesterday. I cannot believe it has only been two weeks.
Well, that was then and now, I find myself laid off, no social interaction and cut off from my friends and family. For lack of a better word – alone!
Or so I thought. At the beginning stages of the pandemic, my friends and I tried to work around it, like having cocktail time by the river or in a courtyard a few feet away from each other, but we soon realized as the infection rates escalated (and the panic), that was not a prudent idea.
I am Italian so social distancing does not work well for me. I know why the virus took hold in Italy with a vengeance. Italians love people and life, we talk with our hands, we hug and kiss each other whether or not we know them, and, god help us, we cannot stop touching our faces. Seriously, it is in our DNA. Someone said on Facebook something about not kissing your dog because pets may be carrying the disease and that was my breaking point. Fuck it, I do not want to live in a world where I cannot hug and kiss my fur baby.
This entire ordeal is hard for social people who crave interaction with others. The day I was laid off from my job was a dark day. I have never been unemployed in my life; even through Katrina, I still worked. Now, I found myself in alien territory without a job, scared and unsure about my future.
I took my time to grieve, going through all the stages from anger and depression to finally acceptance. When I finally took a breath, climbed out of my pity hole, and accepted my situation, however, I turned everything around. This is not an easy step and please do not think there are moments when a wave of emotion overtakes me and I feel the tears coming out of nowhere. I allowed myself to feel bad, but that is not productive. That was when the realization hit that I already do so many things by myself that I can handle this situation. I love to read, go for long walks, watch movies and cook, all things that can be social but are also perfect for doing solo.
What I also noticed is I am not alone in this and that is important to remember. There are millions of people now out of jobs, scared and lonely.
I decided drastic times call for unique new measures, so I would be a different kind of social. Each day, I call two friends and check on them and see how they are doing. I mean actually call them. I do not text or send a Facebook message; I pick up the phone and listen to their voice.
Trust me, it will help you tremendously just to speak with other people. You can FaceTime them if you like and see them, although sometimes they may not be quite dressed for visual guests. You know when you see friends and say, “It has been years, I have been so busy.” Guess what? You are not busy now, so reach out and as the saying goes “touch someone.” Over the phone that is.
I also schedule virtual happy hours with friends. Hanging out and laughing via Zoom is the best medicine and the cocktails aren’t bad either.
Watching bands and singers perform live from their porch like Anais St. John does once a week or checking out Laveau Contraire and Tarah Clads who did their Cyber-Distancing drag extravaganza for three days in a row over the weekend, all help to fill the void from social distancing. By the way, keep an eye open for their next one, it will be fabulous.
There is even a person who performs on his didgeridoo from his rooftop.
I have also found myself more connected than ever with the world on a more global level. I follow a French music producer and DJ, Bob Sinclair, every morning during my walks. He spins from 2 – 3pm his time, which aligns perfectly with my morning exercise routine and I love all the people tuning in from Amsterdam to Alabama and little ole me in New Orleans. It just makes me feel like I am part of a global community and makes me so happy.
Support your artist friends in town and globally by tuning in (and tipping if you are able). It is amazing that people in politics want to cut funding for the arts when it is the artists we turn to most in times of crises. Musicians and entertainers keep us smiling (and sane). Museums are even doing online lectures and tours.
I also get out and walk every morning and every evening to get fresh air and sunshine. Staying cooped up in the house all day does not help your psyche and your mental health is important at this time.
If you cannot walk, sit on your porch or balcony, go in your courtyard, or hell take a walk to the end of the block and back. Exercise not only supports your fitness, but it strengthens your immune system.
And finally, I suggest virtual cocktails or happy hour with friends. At first, I was not warming up to this idea since I very rarely drink at home alone, but now I am becoming a pro at these fun tune-in sessions. In fact, so many people are having them as well as virtual drag shows, poetry readings, cooking classes and musical performances my calendar is starting to fill up again.
Our life has been definitely changed and probably will take a long time to return to normalcy if ever. But there is a light at the end of this tunnel. How we handle the trials and our actions moving forward will define us (and the way others look at us).
Everyone knows right from wrong, and no political, religious or celebrity figure can change that by what they say. Their actions and words are their own, you control yours. Let’s move to being better. We will come through this together; YOU ARE NOT ALONE! And one day soon, the social animal in us all will run free again.