Where is the love?

Tell me you don’t have the Black Eyed Peas going round in your head now after reading the title. Yes? Mission accomplished.

Last Sunday was Valentines Day. A saints day that has been marked to celebrate love – in particular, romantic love. Ahhhh, that’s nice.

My Sunday Breakfast show was the first show of the day on BBC Radio WM and I was positively giddy about the Valentines Day theme. Even now, I can’t really explain why. I had no special plans (hey, it’s lockdown). I also don’t have a ‘valentine’ or a potential ‘valentine’ procuring plans (again, lockdown), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love love.

When I was a teenager, I used to listen to local radio in bed. A Sunday night ritual was listening to “‘Cuddle On The Couch’ with NJ Williams” on Galaxy 97.2. I think it was a heady combination of listening to ‘Kathy’s’ loving dedication to ‘Darren’ on D Wing at Horfield Prison to the soundtrack of ‘Just Another Day’ by Jon Secada every week that cemented my desire to be a radio ‘DJ’. Sure, there are other cooler reasons, but I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a major one. I take no responsibility for 14 year old me.

I was hoping to channel the spirit of NJ Williams on the show and asked in advance via social media if anyone had any soppy messages. Sadly, none came in before the big day but there were some heartwarming texts and calls when the big event arrived and it was a great, love-filled show.

Before my hopes were restored by the big ‘V’, I was really starting to wonder, “Where is the love?”. Not in the romantic sense, just generally.

Where is everyone??!?

This is Lockdown 3.0. Consider that my disclaimer for the following blog content.

Late one evening that week, I found myself pacing my bedroom like a caged lion – actually pacing. My Fitbit didn’t know what had hit it. Tense and indignant, I kept asking myself that question. You see, I’m a people person. I love people. I’m the literal definition of an extrovert. I get my energy from spending quality time with folk. Then you get a lockdown. For a third time. In the winter. In the dark. It feels like all the people been stripped away and you’re left with nothing.

But there’s always Zoom, right? God bless Zoom but, no. My tolerance for Zoom community had been reached and exceeded. Having a ring light shining in your face so you don’t look like a murderer from a true crime documentary and gurning at a screen for an hour, virtually mocking up a normal social evening that would ordinarily happen in the comfort of one of our homes or even – get this – a pub or restaurant (gasp!) to then have it end when you shut your laptop screen and be plunged back into aloneness which has actually been heightened by the previous hour of ‘social activity’? No thanks. I’m done. I’m a 3D girl and I can only survive on 2D for so long.

The Friendship Audit

So back to the question – where is everyone? Who are my ride or dies? Who can I share my greatest hopes and dreams with – or my deepest fears? If I can’t share these things with friends, are they even friends? Why do we do things like pub or restaurant trips with people if we can’t be real? Is social activity a sham? A social sham? Maybe I don’t need anyone after all. Perhaps friendships were a meaningless crutch all these years. The pandemic has allowed me to face the harsh reality of life. ‘I am a rock. I am an island’ as Simon and Garfunkel once sang.

This was such an epiphany that I knew I needed to document it. The journal came out, my pen was in hand. I sent a quick arrow prayer up to God – “Are you listening to this?? Good.” and then I began.

Almost as soon as I started writing, trusty ‘inner me’ whispered, “Grace, you might not quite be in your right mind at the moment. Are you sure you want to commit this to paper?”. I told ‘inner me’ to shut up and continued to write, fuelled by half a glass of bitter (not unlike the drinker) Merlot.

Girl, take a nap.

I truly believe a good night’s sleep cures a thousand ills. The next day I actually felt better, if a little foolish about my friendship-audit-angst from the night before. This was only compounded by speaking to two friends on the phone later that morning and sheepishly sharing some of the previous night’s thoughts. To my surprise and to all of our amusement, they had been having similar thoughts. We laughed and laughed at how bat-crap crazy we’d been thinking and acting in our respective isolation. Later that day, I also had a surprise doorstep visit and chat from another dear friend, bearing a gift of freshly baked goods . I really need to listen to ‘inner me’ a bit more often. My friends are amazing and I love them to bits.

We’re not alone.

I read an incredible Facebook post this week which perfectly summarised – way more eloquently than I could – what we all seemed to be experiencing. It’s by Donna Ashworth, author of poetry book “to the women”. I quote it below:

“You’re not imagining it, nobody seems to want to talk right now.

Messages are brief and replies late.

Talk of catch ups on zoom are perpetually put on hold.

Group chats are no longer pinging all night long.

It’s not you.

It’s everyone.

We are spent.

We have nothing left to say.

We are tired of saying ‘I miss you’ and ‘I cant wait for this to end’.

So we mostly say nothing, put our heads down and get through each day.

You’re not imagining it.

This is a state of being like no other we have ever known because we are all going through it together but so very far apart.

Hang in there my friend.

When the mood strikes, send out all those messages and don’t feel you have to apologise for being quiet.

This is hard.

No one is judging.”

Thank you, Donna. I really needed to hear that. I also feel gently challenged to spread a little bit of love in whatever small ways I can. Lockdown may have temporarily affected our ability to see love all around, but it’s certainly still there. Let’s keep it shining.

If you’ve got another well known song stuck in your head now after reading the last sentence, my work here is done.

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