It started so innocently.
With much of the country under a shelter-in-place order (except for a few states; you know who you are), people became desperate for any sort of human contact. Virtual happy hours, group meetings, coffees, meditations, and many more activities that we never participated in in person began to clutter our calendars.
At first I was excited. I'm a homebody and an introvert, so this was like heaven for me. I get to participate in a virtual knitting tutorial and not leave my house? Sign me up! Events that I never get to go to because of my kids' school schedules were suddenly an option. No client could even suggest we meet in person - everything we did had to be done in the comfort of our own homes.
Maybe it's because I'm an introvert, but the bloom was off the Zoom rose about two weeks into this new normal. I suddenly looked at my calendar and realized that I had scheduled more than I do when I can actually leave my house. I began to dread clicking on that little blue Zoom link for the third time in a day. I was Zoomed out.
Last week I was trying to have a virtual therapy appointment and my therapist's sound kept going in and out. For those of you who use Zoom, you know it's AWESOME...until it's not. When you're trying to have a meeting with 8 other people and one person has a bad connection...it takes the entire meeting to figure out how to work it out.
Anyway, the sound wasn't great, so she called her IT-expert husband in to see if he could figure out why.
"Zoom's traffic has gone up 180% in the last two weeks," he said. "That could be why."
I knew that Zoom was having a moment, but 180%? Seriously, people. Can't we just be in our own company every once in a while? Do you really need to talk to the woman who was your cat's babysitter 15 years ago just because you can't stand to be on your own?
In the last week, I've seen several friends post about their virtual activity. "I'm even busier now than I was before all this started!" they say. Some are talking about stepping back and opening up their schedules more. But more often than not, I see pictures on social media of screens so full of people that they look like The Brady Bunch on steroids.
What Have We Done?
It's remarkable to me that Americans (I think it's just us. But if you're reading this in another country and want to speak up, please do), when forced to stay at home, can still find a way to overschedule themselves. We have completely lost the ability to just stay in and relax. We don't know how to NOT work 50-60 hours a week. We don't know how to sit in silence. We don't know how to be our own best company.
The worst part is that we did it to our kids, too. My kids and I laughed out loud when we saw the color-coded schedule that was going around at the beginning of the pandemic. I mean, I get that most kids respond well when there is some sort of schedule in place, but sweet Jesus. Talk about the birth of an over-scheduled, burned out, over-Zoomed generation.
Don't get me wrong. I get that there is work to be done; I have friends who are still working 12-hour days in their home offices. But in most cases, I don't think we need to do as much as we think we do. We're just in a panic because we're not allowed to go at the pace we've always kept.
I realize that this is coming from the perspective of a self-professed hermit. While I miss TJMaxx, the shelter-in-place order hasn't changed my day-to-day routine all that much. In fact, it's given me permission to read a book, work on my Netflix watch list, and listen to endless podcasts while I take my daily walk. And even I fell into the trap of over-Zooming.
My friends who are usually out and about every weekend or used to being in a busy office environment are really struggling right now - and that's no joke. I understand that being socially cut off for some people could easily make someone fall into a depression. And for those people, I say Zoom away.
But for those of you who are suddenly looking at your calendars and seeing that Zoom link pop up over and over again and feeling like it didn't have the appeal that it did two weeks ago...remember that it's okay to say no. It's okay to see blank squares on your calendas for a few days. It's okay to take a nap in the afternoon. It's okay to binge something on a Thursday. It's okay to not have every moment of your life scheduled...even if you just let go for a short time.
What we're living through is not normal, so it's okay to allow some things to change.