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Notes from an empath: Head and Shoulders

Nope, I’m not writing about anti-dandruff shampoo … this week’s blog is about a bit of a bind that I’m in.

Let me start by acknowledging what we are all achingly familiar with … that it is nearly a year since we first went into lockdown in the UK. So much has happened over the past 12 months. So much is still uncertain. So much healing and recovery lies ahead. As a global community, we are processing the many, many ways the pandemic has impacted our lives.

One major development of the past year has been the availability and accessibility of video chats. I mean ... video chats existed before Covid -- they’ve been part of my weekly routine for years, chatting with my family in Canada. But, as we have all come to know well, the use of video chats has exploded in lockdown.

There have been some truly positive outcomes of this. Auto-generated subtitles on Google Meets (and soon to come on free Zoom accounts!) have been a huge help in chats with my mum (who is bilaterally deaf). I’ve had wonderful video catch ups with friends I hadn’t seen for ages. My partner’s dad ran a family video quiz every Saturday for 17 weeks straight. I’ve been on group chats with folks tuning in from across multiple time zones. I’ve shared screens with university pals I’d not spoken to in 20 years, and with cousins I rarely get to see. We connected because we could, because we were all at home, and because we had time to fill. As time passes and hindsight emerges, I know I’ll feel so lucky to have been able to stay connected in this way.

So, what is the bind that I’m in? Essentially, it is a both-and situation.

I am both really grateful for video communication … and I am so fed up with it.

I am both pleased to have had performance and work opportunities via video … and I’m so sick of simultaneously seeing myself on screen.

I am both thankful that video chats have enabled regular connection with loved ones … and I am so tired of only seeing heads and shoulders.

Remember this song from childhood?

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Knees and toes

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Knees and toes

And eyes, and ears, and mouth, and nose

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Knees and toes

I learned it in preschool in the prairies of Canada, and I remember the delight of singing it loudly while pointing to these body parts and laughing as we sang faster and faster. [Apologies if this song is now stuck in your head through the week!]

I miss seeing knees. And toes. And torsos. I miss reading body language. I miss the energy and laughter and connection that crackles to life and comes alive in shared spaces. I miss hugs [finds the nearest tree] [callback to a previous blog].

I both miss these folks … and I am grateful to have these folks in my life to miss. This too shall pass. The days of only seeing only heads and shoulders by video chat will pass. We are on the cusp of emerging out of lockdown in the UK. All being well, we will (hopefully!) see the full figures of our friends and families in the not too distant future. Bring on the beauty of knees and toes!


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