Put a checkmark on your door if you would like to hear from others. Photo submitted

Put a checkmark on your door if you would like to hear from others. Photo submitted

COLUMN: Connecting with others, despite COVID

Mike Stolte offers suggestions for checking in with each other

By Mike Stolte

Are you feeling numb and without energy these days?

I certainly am. COVID-19 has changed much over a short period of time. Many people I talk to are feeling numb and directionless. They are feeling anxiety about an invisible menace, financial insecurity, lay-offs, being stuck at home with kids, lack of “real” contact, and grocery shopping.

The news is like watching a slow-moving train wreck — it’s hard to look away but it leaves one feeling even more distressed and helpless. This numbness is natural and a possible coping mechanism for grief around our losses. Yes, our losses. We have (temporarily) lost our freedom, routines and dreams (trips, graduations, an envisioned future, etc.).

Four years ago, I lost my life partner, Fiona Mooney, to cancer. This COVID time feels a little like that time of grief again. I would be numb for a while and then experience wild swings of emotions. This is tough for a guy born into a stoic upbringing where emotions were to be suppressed, and not experienced, and certainly not expressed. During that time of grief, I broke with my upbringing, and resolved that I would, above all, nourish myself.

This meant stepping into a daily practice where I noticed and wrote down things I was grateful for, aimed for good food (there were some chip binges, of course), good sleep, exercise, journaling to learn more about myself, poetry (and other forms of creative expression as an outlet), connecting with people who energized me (often reconnecting with old friends), sun, walks in nature, limiting my intake of media, and going very easy on myself. Fiona, who dove into being a health crisis coach even as her cancer progressed, would say “Never waste a good crisis!”

In that vein, here are a few brand new homegrown initiatives that hopefully will connect our community even in the midst of this.

1) Neighbour Check: If you need something – food, to hear a friendly voice — and cannot get out, put a small sign in your window/door with a large check mark on it that your neighbours can see from the street. If you want, also include your phone number or email so they can connect with you, without physically coming into your space.

Neighbours, as you are out walking the dog or exercising, please check out houses within a couple of blocks of your house to be on the lookout for the Neighbour Check signs. The rest is up to you. Please call or email your neighbours to help them with their needs. Also check out Nelson Helps on Facebook. This is another great homegrown initiative that is connecting neighbour to neighbour.

2) Conversation Café via Zoom Video: Every second Wednesday at noon, beginning April 22, we will have a free Zoom video meet-up to explore different topics. I will present the first one on Grief and Gratitude. Participants will get to discuss their experiences. Pre-registration is required.

3) Community CLICK via Zoom Video: Every second Wednesday at noon, beginning April 29, we will have a free Zoom video meet-up at noon to explore photos you have taken on different topics. The first topic is Isolation and Connection. Please email up to three photos to me by 5 p.m. the day before so that I can put them into a slideshow. When your photo(s) come up in the Zoom meeting, we invite you to explain your photo(s). Pre-registration is required.

For the Conversation Cafes and Community CLICK please check out the Kalein website (kaleincentre.org) and the new Compassionate Nelson Facebook page over the coming weeks for more info on topics and a registration link. Zoom is a free online video platform that can be used via computer, tablet or smartphone.

Mike Stolte is the director of dialogue and education for Nelson’s Kalein Centre and part of Compassionate Nelson, a Nelson-based movement that envisions a more compassionate Nelson. He can be reached at mike@kaleincentre.org.