One of the most notable things about the current crisis is how easy it has become to use words such as crisis, pandemic, unprecedented… And another is how easy it is to speak of thousands of deaths as if each one of those statistics didn’t refer to a unique and cherished individual.
For me, another of the most notable aspects of the last few months is how much contact I’ve had with people all through this “social distancing” time.
My diary is fuller than it ever was, with webinars, conference calls, Zoom networking and Skype one-to-ones. I made the mistake of starting out by colour coding all the online and virtual events in pink, and the calendar got so full it made me feel slightly bilious. They are now a nice relaxing green and I am feeling a little calmer.
I know that I’m not the only person who has been trying to do more social media posting than I would normally; after all, out of sight is out of mind, and it’s important that business is seen to be going on as usual despite the fact that we aren’t meeting up. But it’s not only because I’ve been more visible online that I’ve had conversations and written exchanges with people from all stages of my past.
There was an email from a guy I was at Uni with, forty years ago, who wanted to know if I was still in Spain, and if so, whether I was OK. We lost touch after Uni and then exchanged a handful of emails some ten years ago, but nothing since.
Another bloke I knew from my time in Madrid, who I hadn’t spoken or written to in 15 years, popped up on a timeline on LinkedIn and I’m now back in touch with him. Yesterday I heard from a friend in Spain who wanted assistance with a poem she had written in English for a memorial ceremony.
Other business contacts I met over networking years ago but never actually had any dealings with have popped up again and we’ve exchanged emails or text messages, and several ex-employees of clients I still work with have also dropped messages into my inbox.
This whole remote working set up would have been impossible only a few years ago. But the internet has made it possible to be in touch anywhere and at any time. It’s also made keeping in touch and reconnecting simple, whether or not it’s actually desirable.
This poem was written years ago, but seems relevant now.
Voices from the past
My past has caught me up: this afternoon
I checked my e-mail, as I always do,
and found a message from an old flame who
I hadn’t seen since school. Out of the blue
a bolt that sends me tumbling through the years
to adolescent angst and teenage tears,
to poems scrawled in chalk while classmates jeer
and playground fights that fade when Sir appears.
I was his One True Love, there’d be no other.
At sixteen I was far too young: I fled.
But now he’s tracked me down; who needs the men
from Pinkerton’s when Google is your friend?
(Though Google’s failed me time and time again
in my attempts to trace his younger brother.)