SAGE Advice: COVID connected

Don’t pan the pandemic, totally

by Liz Schoeben

Like everyone,  I have had to forgo many ceremonies, get togethers and celebrations. But as I was thinking back, I realized the pandemic forced us to be creative and find new ways to connect. In a way, it made my social circle bigger, not smaller. I feel more connected to my friends and family not less. 

My extended family is spread out all over the country and internationally. We rarely have the ability to all get together. I might call my sister in London one day, text my sister-in-law in Virginia on another day or have a quick FaceTime call with my mom in Ohio. But the pandemic introduced us to Zoom.  I remember our first Zoom, in April, with about 15 extended family members. Both of my nephews — one in Seattle and one in LA — were there. I hadn’t talked to them in over a year. Now here we all were chatting, joking, and creating funny Zoom backgrounds. This has led to numerous calls to extended family members. 

It’s so great seeing gramma and grampa interacting with all their children and grandchildren as they sit on their sofa. Often a pet or two joins the call. as well. We can show each other how we’ve organized that Tupperware cupboard or finally sorted through old familiar photos.

I recently relocated to Southern California, and I miss my close circle of girlfriends from Northern California. Some moved as far away as Fiji, some are still local and others moved out of state. Now we meet every Friday for a Zoom happy hour to share some laughs and a drink or two. We are all moms. Some with grown children, some with children still at home and some with children back at home due to the pandemic. It is so comforting to feel not so alone during this trying time.

I was also able to connect more with my neighbors. As we were all forced to stay at home, porch happy hours became a weekly high point for many of us. We had light conversations to pass the time as well as discovering some deeper connections. Neighbors I used to just wave to and say hi before the pandemic became true friends.

Like many of you we had big life events that had to go on. My youngest son graduated college last May. In lieu of a ceremony or party we created a wonderful video of friends and family with words of encouragement and congratulations. This is a keepsake my son will have forever. It’s over an hour full of past teachers, coaches, high school and college friends wishing him well. This is something we never would have thought to create without the pandemic.

My oldest son married this past year. After postponing once, we decided to have a small ceremony outside. Because many relatives were not able to attend we did a live stream of the ceremony. Everyone could be a part, however remote, and toast the bride and groom. The best man was sadly unable to attend, but sent a heartwarming video that we played at the reception. 

In addition to feeling more connected to friends and family far away, I became closer to my “pandemic bubble” family, consisting of my husband and middle son. They are both doing school at home — one as a college student, the other as a college professor. We slowly found a rhythm and routine that worked for us. We began doing yoga several times a week together and planning our weekly meals. We got more creative with our cooking for sure. We dusted off many board games and bought new ones. We talked more and I know more about their day-to-day life than ever before. I can listen in as my husband teaches Entrepreneurship or as my son takes Social Psychology–all from the comfort of my home office.

It is so easy to focus on what was lost this year; what we are still losing. I am hoping by sharing my experience in finding the silver lining, it will encourage you all to look at what you may have gained. 

Liz Schoeben MFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 25 years of experience counseling adolescents in academic settings in Los Angeles, Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the executive director of SAGE, a Project of Impact Philanthropy Group. For more information visit SageSoCal.org. Pen

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Written by: Liz Schoeben

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