Zoom Comes Bearing Gifts

Although not as social as I once was, I certainly enjoy spending time with people. What I like most are one-on-one interactions where the two of us can enter a conversation deeply. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to catch up on any personal news I’ve missed, as long as that is not the substance of our interaction. Political discussions, exchanges about professional lives, books, museum exhibits—as long as they are sustained—I find very satisfying.

You can imagine, then, that group Zoom sessions are not high on my list of favorite ways to spend time. Pre-Covid, I couldn’t have imagined staring at a screen full of small rectangles for an hour or more. That amount of visual stimulation alone would have made me turn away. I had always felt overwhelmed at museum exhibits, with painting after painting to pay attention to—to say nothing about all the people milling about–until I realized I could isolate one or two works in each room and zero in on them.

At first, I felt the same way about Zoom gatherings. I’d join a meeting and my eyes would immediately begin darting from side to side and up and down, as I tried to identify just who was speaking. It was exhausting. But given the restrictions of Covid, I had to adapt. There weren’t any options.

By now, Zoom meetings have become the norm for me and everybody else. I even attend Living Room Choir practice on Zoom, although because of the delays, we choir members have to mute ourselves when we sing. Breakout rooms create more intimacy, and I’ve made brief but intense contact in some of those breakout sessions.

And I have to admit, that Zoom has expanded my world by allowing me to participate in events and sessions that would ordinarily be held too far away for me to attend. Last week I joined a metta meditation group at 8:00 one morning. If the group had been meeting in San Francisco, as I imagine it usually does, the hour and the distance would have ruled out my participation. But thanks to Zoom, I became part of the group with the click of my keyboard.

When I entered, the “room” was filled with tiny faces, none of which I expected to recognize. In fact, I wasn’t even trying to read the miniscule names under each rectangle. But just before I closed my eyes, there it was: a name and—after peering for a moment—a face I knew. Or had known 20 years ago.

When the meditation ended, the familiar face greeted me, and we arranged a Zoom session for just the two of us. A few days later, by the end of our Zoom hour, the 20 years had disappeared. And I know that we will be part of each other’s life for years to come.

Amidst so much Covid anxiety and deprivation, I was given the gift of renewed friendship. After nine months of isolation, I formed a new and solid connection. Yes, Covid has taken a great deal from us, much more from some of us than others. But I am one of the lucky ones. Covid has offered me gifts as well.

Berkeley Garage Wall
photo by Jane Anne Staw

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