Real Talk About Love & COVID

My family went down with COVID. I’m so grateful that we’re all healthy enough to have weathered the infection and got through it together. But I can’t pretend it was a walk in the park. Though everyone’s experience of symptoms seems to be different, it’s not like getting the sniffles. And no matter how many people say this is the “new normal” I can’t accept it.

I know I can shoot pretty straight with friends who know me; I’ve had to surgically implant the silver lining for myself, because quite frankly I find it more natural to call it like I see it. Good, bad, and ugly. I’m not the first person to put this pandemic into the “ugly” category, and I know others have suffered worse – lost loved ones to this. But there’s an element of COVID that is infecting everyone, whether they’ve caught the virus or not.

It hit me on Christmas Eve, watching the shiny little choir member’s faces sing in a “zoom choir” for a virtual holiday service. Each little face trapped in a box, separated from friends and family while trying their digital best to be “together.” It hit me with a wave of sadness that’s got me thinking.

Digital tools make or break my work day. In anything I do, these online systems connect us and make commerce and service possible — not just in a COVID world, but every day. But what happens now, when we don’t just use digital platforms for useful functions; what happens now that they’re the world our social connection lives in?

I talked to my coach about this sadness…this sense of loss I’m feeling. She said there’s a word for that thing we’re missing: BIOSYNCRONY.

Biosyncrony is what happens when two people celebrate a win with a laugh and a high five. When we dance, or hug, or sing along to music together. (The technical description involves “sharing positive emotion while being physically present with another person.”) We experience it with other mammals. When neuroscientists study love — how to feel it and what it’s made of — they talk about biosyncrony. It’s part of the definition of experiencing love! (This is why you’re not wrong when you’re sure your dog loves you. If you have biosyncrony with your furry family member, you’re experiencing love!!)

But here’s the catch about love. It doesn’t have to include romance. It doesn’t even have to involve you knowing the other person. But what it does require is that you be together when you share that positive emotion. In person.

As in not divided by boxes on zoom.

You don’t have to touch, but facetime doesn’t cut it either. I don’t know the way forward yet. More people are dying every week in the US right now than did back during the weeks of the worst spikes in April and July. The solution isn’t to go get your biosyncrony at any costs. But I think this is why isolation has seemed impossible for most of us to do or maintain. Whatever you believe about masks or vaccines; you don’t want the people you love to die unnecessarily. But as a human being, each one of us finds it impossible to live without biosyncrony.

For now I think my best approach is to double down on sharing positive emotion with every human I am physically present with. And to be wary of replacing relationships with digital forms of approval. I can’t be equating likes of my LinkedIn articles to meaningful conversations I might have had over a glass of wine. And I need to double my efforts to be physically present to the people in my household (as hard as that is since we’re all feeling cooped up as it is!)

If you’ve been feeling discouraged by the loss and isolation that has taken over life during this pandemic, you can come sit by me (virtually). I’ll pour you a glass of wine (after letting my friends deliver it) and we’ll look forward the the days when we can do it for real. Because love doesn’t feel the same from far away. Hang in there. You’re not going crazy…it just feels like it. 🙂

We’ll get through this together.

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