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April 13, 2021

What a year.

Remember when we used to hug, meet new people at parties, and travel to see each other? We assumed there would always be a next time; we were “too busy to call” or “wishing we could make it.” Then, the world shut down. Social obligations turned into social isolation. No longer able to gather together, we were forced to step back and reevaluate our relationships: Who did we really want to talk to at the end of the day? Who did we miss most? Who made us feel valued and loved? 

Not being able to choose who we spend our time with has been hard on all of us. We’re distanced and lonely, trying to figure out new ways to connect with each other that are safe and satisfying. But as difficult as it is, this time period can also be clarifying: We’re learning more about what we need from each other and what truly fulfills us. 

So, we reached out to you (our People!) to learn how living under lockdown has impacted your relationships. We’re sharing a variety of stories on how we’ve made it through the last year, who has helped us stay grounded along the way, and what we’re looking forward to as the world begins to reopens. Thank you to everyone who contributed, and thank YOU for reading!

I miss butterflies in my stomach and my heart skipping a beat; that moment when the curtain rises, feet tap dance across the stage, voices boom, and Fosse jazz hands move in unison. I even miss squirming in an uncomfortable seat and cracking a filling on overpriced, stale Milk Duds. I want to be with my theater friends. It’s been more than 525,600 minutes since we have all been together, and I would do anything to sit in a Broadway theater with you right now. I feel the loss of theater and live entertainment in my gut. - Meredith, 53


For reasons not entirely clear to me, but ostensibly related to sharply differing political views, I’ve recently let one of my oldest friendships go. At first this was unintentional, but it became intentional when this person left me a friendly voicemail that I decided not to respond to. 

Rather than making me feel empowered, my decision not to respond has left me feeling vaguely guilty and somewhat ashamed. While I don’t agree with his politics in the current environment, our friendship goes back more than 40 years, and to abruptly cancel that seems remarkably petty. - Anonymous, 59

My younger sister and I couldn’t be more different. I’m a Type A lawyer in NYC; she’s a bohemian performer residing on a communal farm in Colorado. We were extremely close as children, but drifted into a pattern of benignly sporadic contact, often going weeks without speaking. That changed in March 2020. 

We started to talk, text, and FaceTime constantly. We checked in on our elderly parents daily, united in our concern for them. When our grandmother died a few months later, we sobbed together in our grief. As life regains a semblance of normalcy, our regular chats continue to flow with pictures of her herb garden and artwork; videos of my dog and kids; recipes, reminisces, future plans. We have never gone this long without seeing each other, yet we have never been closer. - Mari, 48

My relationship with my husband has truly been my saving grace this year. Prior to the pandemic, we were coming out of a very bumpy place. Though we had committed to working through it, I was terrified that the realities of quarantine would be too much for our struggling relationship to handle.

Thankfully, this time together has allowed us to start the process of rebuilding trust, and has given us an opportunity to reconnect in ways that are critical to our future success as a couple. I have learned to be a better listener and a greater consumer of critical feedback. He has learned to be patient with my burgeoning anxiety, and how to be heard without being patronizing.  

While I have always been sure he is my “person,” this past year has reinforced it beyond measure. 
- Sarah, 43

My son and I have spent hours bonding over comedy series like The Office, Schitt’s Creek, and Arrested Development. Sometimes I’ll walk into the room and hear him chuckling at the TV, and it just tickles me — especially when I glance at his face and see his amusement. It’s just the best to laugh together with my son. - Bradley, 47 


Video chatting has not only been a lifeline to stay connected, but has actually facilitated a depth of growth in the relationship with my parents, both for me and my children. Every day, my parents have story time with my kids, shortening a 3,000 mile distance to feeling their presence in the room. We’ve had regular “hangouts” with my parents, spent cooking together and laughing over the grilled cheese assembly line to feed 4 children in 20 minutes between Zoom classes. 

There have been days when I could look my mom in the eyes and cry, or when she could see my face and say, “What’s wrong? I can see there is something going on — let’s talk”. Despite being so far apart, we’ve been able to grow, share, develop, and deepen our relationship. - Rachel, 38

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize what we need and why we feel lonely. We may be engaged in a happy marriage, but have no girlfriends. We might have a ton of work friends, but no one to really share our feelings with. In Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, Surgeon General of the U.S., Dr. Vivek H. Murthy provides a framework for the three tiers of loneliness, making it easier for us to understand what and who we need to feel fulfilled. 

According to Dr. Murthy, humans need to feel connected on all three of the following levels to thrive, and a lack in any of these areas can make us feel lonely. In other words, we need a few different types of peoplehood all working together to keep us smiling.

A column that celebrates the wonderful, fleeting interactions in life...

A few weeks ago, I went to the bodega on my street to pick up my usual snacks (and the all-time best flavor of Gatorade: Cucumber-Lime). The cashier, a 40-something lanky South Asian man with a smile so wide I could see it behind his mask, rang me up for $7.11. Then, he broke out into his rendition of Beyoncé’s 7/11 and started dancing! Obviously, I joined in and we had a 10-second dance party. His positive energy and laughter made my day — and with the limited amount of socializing I’ve done over the past year, felt especially invigorating. I thought, this is what life should be: millions of dances with strangers. 
- Tyler, Peoplehood Editor

If you’ve ever found it easier to talk to someone while walking next to them rather than standing face-to-face, there’s a reason for that. Walking helps clear your mind by increasing blood flow to the brain and releasing mood-boosting, stress-relieving endorphins. Engaging in activity (especially movement) together is a great way to bond, which is a win-win for conversation and companionship! 

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