Episode 9: Long Distance Relationships in the Time of COVID-19

Have you run out of ideas on what to do during this quarantine? We can relate, and unfortunately so can most of the world! But together we will get through this.  Our new episode of Long Distance Short will be fully devoted to the golden rules of self-isolation: stay sane, be positive about the worst, be creative and productive without much effort. To get all these tips and more listen to the podcast or read our blog – click on READ MORE and don’t forget to grab some tea with homemade cookies!

INTRO

Welcome to another episode of Long Distance Short, GiftBasketsOverseas.com’s podcast where we talk to real people about the triumphs and tribulations in all kinds of long-distance relationships. Your host is Ally Winters, an international gift consultant whose found success in her own long-distance romances and friendships.

And here’s today’s topic:  Long Distance Relationships in the Time of COVID-19. Ally’s talking to Carmen Monroe, Director of Marketing at GiftBasketsOverseas.com and former Mental Health professional, and me, Sempronia Hobgood, Social Media Marketing Manager at DrinkableGifts.com. We’ll be talking about the ways Coronavirus has changed everyone’s lives, including forcing everyone to have long distance relationships, and our best tips for coping in this difficult time. Let’s jump right in, Ally!

ALLY

Hello everybody, this is Ally again in our long-distance relationship podcast, “Long Distance Short”. And you won’t believe it, but today we are going to talk about the struggles with, yes, the coronavirus. We have decided to cover this topic, too, just for the sake of sharing some great tips with you.

Today, we have Carmen and Sempi with us as our guests with whom I really like to talk. Hello, ladies! How are you?

SEMPI

Hi Ally!

CARMEN

Hi Ally! It’s good to be here, how are you?

SEMPI

We’re pretty in sync today.

CARMEN

We are! (laugh) That’s not so surprising, though. We’ve been in sync for a long time.

ALLY

Yes, totally. And, well… I think you can agree with us that we cannot just skip this topic — I mean, of course, I know that so many people and so many podcasters have probably talked about it, but long-distance relationships and long distance, in general, is what we are about.

CARMEN

I think it’s absolutely necessary, and one of the reasons so many people are talking about is that so many people are interested in hearing about it. And so much has changed in a very short period of time. And people are just kind of trying to manage what they know about it, what they can do about it — there’s tons of information, and people are sucking it like a sponge.

SEMPI

Yeah, right. And long-distance relationships have sort of become the norm, right?

CARMEN

Yes.

SEMPI

With, I think, just about every country now practising some form of social distancing as a response to this; so, people who used to see each other daily, — you know, at the office, at the coffee shop, whatever, — that’s not happening any more. And for people who haven’t done this before, it’s become a real shock.

ALLY

And who could imagine that this would happen?

CARMEN

People who are in the know realize that pandemics happen regularly, but most of the time, they are for diseases that we know more about. But from that, they could — and did, in fact — deduce that eventually, at some point, they couldn’t say exactly when, a new one would come around, and that’s what we’ve got here. A new one that no-one has immunity to — well, before they’ve got it, anyway. 

And now that everybody — everybody — has some form of long-distance relationship by necessity, it’s a really good time to a) accept that they’re real — these “Internet relationships” are actually really relationships. (chuckle) And learn how to cope with some of the very obvious and not-so-obvious differences between distance relationships versus being able to see each other in person.

That changes the dynamic and the feeling a little bit, but some of the tips and things to help people adjust, I think, will remain the same.

ALLY

And how do you personally manage that? What are your tips?

CARMEN

It’s really… One of the hardest things to figure out about dealing with sort of forced isolations and relationships within that, is that there’s not a cookie-cutter standard for everybody. Right? It’s gonna be a little bit different for everybody, because everybody has different needs, and everybody has different boundaries, and people have different… sort of internal meters for how much engagement with other people they actually need, right? This is — we’ve talked about introversion and extroversion, right? There’s the joke going around on social media that introverts are like: “Yes! We’ve been training for this our whole lives!” (laugh) And the extroverts are like: “Oh my God!” — they’re dying, sort of, inside.

ALLY

(readily) Yes.

CARMEN

And it’s funny — not everybody is on these extremes, most people are some sort of introverted at some times and extroverted at others, and there’s sort of a spectrum, but what it comes down to, is how you recharge your mental and emotional energy more often than not. If you recharge…

SEMPI

I was just going to point out that there is also a difference… So, I’m an introvert, right, I love it at home, me and my cats could sit here for days and not care — or so I thought, right? And then, the option to be extroverted got taken away from me, and suddenly I found myself, like, maybe I wanted to go outside! You don’t know. Don’t judge me, coronavirus. And I’m stuck at home — I don’t have the choice anymore. So, just the mentality of “this is no longer an option” — this is something that I have to do for the safety of myself and the safety for others, right; you know, I fall into this sweet spot of where I’m young, and relatively healthy, so for me, it’s not a huge risk. But! I’m a carrier. Right? So it’s irresponsible for me to go about as I was…

ALLY

Yes.

CARMEN

And everybody is.

SEMPI

Right.

CARMEN

I should point out that it’s not unique to Sempi. If you don’t have the virus and you’re not showing symptoms, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not spreading, and there are people around you who are at risk. So, necessary PSA: we’re all potential carriers. Sorry, Sempi, go ahead.

SEMPI

Yeah. That’s exactly my point; so, even introverts who like being alone only like it because there’s a choice, there’s a free-will thing that all humans just love and crave naturally.

ALLY

I will say here that I was really shocked, but this is really, really true: I, myself, am an extrovert, and as for my boyfriend with whom I’ve had a long-distance relationship, he is an introvert. And I found him to be talking to me more, and I found him to be connecting with me. Also, he has a kind of situation where he could not be at home right now, he stays in a dormitory with total strangers while I am at home with my loved ones. And he really needs this support, and I totally try to give him as much as I can, just to show him that he’s not alone, that we are here, to maybe distract him a bit. So, yes…

CARMEN

Well, it’s really not, I think, and this is a great segue into my first tip. One of the things to remember is: regardless of where you are an introvert, or an extrovert, or you kind of slide around the spectrum, everybody has been affected by this massive change.

And, in the case of your boyfriend, — sure, he might be an introvert, but he’s not being introverted right now in the place where he would have first chosen to be. Right? He’s isolated in a place surrounded by strangers; he, maybe, doesn’t trust them to care about his health as much as his family would, or his close friends would. And there are plenty of other students and other people in situations like that: there are people in, you know, nursing care homes who, I’m sure, would prefer to be at home rather than at a senior facility. And any number of situations like that.

So my first tip is for everybody to try to remember, but not to dwell on, this underlying tragedy that’s happening right now; there are a whole lot of people grieving a whole lot of different things. And the most obvious is, people who have passed away from the coronavirus — and there are plenty of those. So there’s a lot of that kind of grief happening for all the people that they have left behind. There are people…

And it goes deeper than that: it’s not just about loss of life — people who have lost jobs, people have lost their basic sense of trust in some places, for certain organizations or authorities that they felt like were supposed to do things differently. A number of people have been shocked that this could happen. So there are all kinds of different little losses, and big losses. Even the ability just to go to the grocery store and find some toilet paper on the shelf. And we make jokes about it, but all of these losses and changes pile up and pile up, and we all need to remember — exactly what you’re doing: people have got to go the extra mile to reach out and check on one another.

ALLY

Yeah, and I’ve also read this article about this massive… trend, I do not know what to call it, about buying toilet paper. That way, people try to control as much as they can, they think they will regain control — at least in some aspect. Of course, it doesn’t mean that they will use [what they bought], but who knows — like, “at least they did something.”

SEMPI

Right.

CARMEN

Right, yeah. Go ahead, Sempi.

SEMPI

I was just going to say, I think that for most people — rather, I would like to think that for the most people, hoarding of toilet paper and hoarding of supplies is not done out of greed, it’s done out of a comfort response. To make them feel better, to exercise the one power they have over this — because you can’t fight a virus. Not in any traditional, tangible sense that we’re used to, right? We have this fight-or-flight response — but how do you fight, or flee, from a virus? You really can’t.

CARMEN

And think about — almost literally… And people aren’t consciously thinking about it, I think, but it’s like, almost literally: “I’m gonna cover my family’s ass.” (laugh) Right?

ALLY

Metaphorically!

CARMEN

And literally. Yes. Both! It’s very strongly symbolic, and you notice… also, it’s a response to cleanliness. This virus is coming around — people don’t want to be dirty. All this stuff might be happening outside, but by God, we’re gonna be able to wipe our butts. You know?

SEMPI

I have to say that, as an OCD person, I feel like people are feeling the panic I’ve felt my whole life. So I have this odd, sort of, as… as anxious as I am over it, and as much as I’ve done extra cleaning and whatnot just for myself, I also… I’ve had friends come to me and tell me: this is the first time we’ve ever understood you. Right? This is the first time that being dirty has been a threat. And so, as sad and depressing as this has been…

CARMEN

And really isn’t… (laugh)

SEMPI

Yeah, and I think that this is really forming, for the first time, a really true understanding of people that really go through on the regular, not just when there’s a virus. I think that there a lot of… I don’t know, I want to say, sort of group bonding is happening, because we’re all experiencing the same fear, and it’s breaking down everything else. And that’s what I’m choosing to focus on: when I think about the coronavirus, when I think about what it’s doing to our world, I try really hard not to think about the negatives, and find sort of the positive things that are happening.

So I’ve seen people reach out to what was… I’ve seen families build bridges — people who’ve had feuds for their lives, over really petty things — or even if they were important things! Right? They’re going: “You know what? It’s not as important as this; let’s come together again. Let’s just bury that hatchet, let’s say we love one another.” And I’ve seen people get so creative! I think that often trauma in life sparks art. Right?

ALLY

It has always been like that.

SEMPI

Yes! This is not a new trend, right; we are seeing a worldwide… just artistic spark: people are posting these incredibly creative videos online, they’re — Ally, when we were talking about this, you mentioned that trend where people are recreating famous works of art. In photographs, right, with whatever’s lying around their house.

ALLY

Yeah, exactly.

SEMPI

So, as much panic as we’ve seen, we’ve also seen an incredible amount of beauty, and creativity, and originality. And I think… thankfully, this is happening during the time of the Internet, where we can share all of that safely. And bring each other joy that way.

ALLY

I just wanted to add that I’ve seen a new trend going viral on Instagram, that people are making photos together with their pillows and blankets, so they make kind of posh dresses out of them. So it’s just another trend, but it’s the same idea, right: we’re trying, especially girls are trying to show their best dresses, but since they cannot do it now, at least they can do it with their blankets, and pillows… And a lot of people appreciate that.

CARMEN

I think it’s interesting to… Among these trends, one of the first things I’ve started seeing was, museums all over the world offering virtual online tours.

ALLY

Yeah, for free!

CARMEN

Yes. And then, immediately afterwards, we get to recreate these classic images in your house — and I think these two must be directly related: people got through their Netflix, right, and were like: hell, I’ll go check out this museum, it’s all over my Facebook, right? (laugh) And getting creative. And this discussion leads me to tips number two and number three.

Number two is, look for that positive side, like Sempi mentioned. Because it is really, really easy to open up — whatever, your favorite news channel, or social media channel of choice, and find kind of a long obituary, and all sorts of news about: this is going wrong, and this is bad, and this is at its peak, and these people don’t have this, and, you know — a lot of tragedy, and it’s really easy to get…

ALLY

For example, on our podcast! (laugh) It’s so heart-warming and nice, I really recommend it!

CARMEN

Yes, indeed: so, take the time to find positive things. Or even completely unrelated things. And think about — as Sempi has been doing, — as tragic as many aspects of this thing are, we are being forced to learn a whole lot really fast, and researchers who are on this virus have done… We will know more about this when this is all over, — people will be able to look back and process everything when it’s been done, — scientists around the world have come together on this thing like they never have before. They’re crowdsourcing everything they know together in these great big databases, and there are people trying all sorts of things to find out the best ways to fight this thing.

And that, in and of itself, is amazing, the way that these people are pulling together to control, and stop, and treat this virus. But, like Sempi said also, the creativity, and art, and sharing, and reaching out — that is really positive stuff. And things like reduction of pollution — obviously, we’re not just gonna stay inside for ever and ever, but I think we’re proving that we can do a lot of things differently. And potentially better. And we have to.

ALLY

Each of us can.

CARMEN

Yeah, at an individual level and also at larger, structural levels. This can change the world for the better. And, amidst all the tragedy, one of the ways to cope with it is to figure out how to make sure that it does that. How to make sure that what we’ve learned from this is carried forward. And that we act on it — in a responsible way, and that we remember all these lessons; that’s how we’ll make a silver lining, and focus on that.

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CARMEN

And then the other tip: getting creative. But also, honor yourself: there’s a whole lot of memes out there, going around right now, that this is a great time to learn something new, a great time to pick out a new hobby — and it is, but… only if you’re feeling it. Okay?

Like… if you need extra time to rest, if you need extra time to self-care, then it’s a great time for self-care — this is going back to how there’s not one cookie-cutter way to cope with this. Some folks are really overwhelmed with just the stuff to get day-to-day: lots of people are homeschooling their children, and juggling work-at-home job, with their partner in the next room also juggling their work-at-home job now, and that… You know, that is really, really hard, and I don’t blame you if you don’t want to learn how to play the piccolo. (laugh) …Right now, you know?

SEMPI

As somebody who is now working from home with my partner, who is also working from home for the first time ever, that meme going around, saying: “make a fake office associate,” right, blame anything that happens on them? Twelve-out-of-ten advice! Right? It’s something that we were sort of doing sarcastically, and I’m not saying that we do it terribly frequently; it’s also about imaginary office assistants where we said that it’s our cats. But it will make us laugh at really random times: it’s like, oh, man, Mouse didn’t do the dishes, that sucks.

It lets us blow off steam before we start blaming each other; because we’re both going through this, and he’s been fantastic in dealing with my anxiety, and I make really interesting food — that’s been my contribution, as I’m becoming a real apocalypse-kitchen wizard. But… I do encourage people to find humor where they can, even when they find it’s being silly — like, try it out. Worst-case scenario, you were right and it is silly, and it doesn’t work for you; best-case scenario, the silly thing actually turns out to be one of the things that’s keeping you sane.

CARMEN

Yes. Silly’s not always bad; and I’m a really serious person, it can be really hard for me to let go and be silly, but as I’ve grown older and particularly now, silliness isn’t a bad thing. Invite some silliness into your life, whether it’s a joke shared with the people you’re crammed together with in social isolation; whether it’s comedy that you wouldn’t normally watch but that, right now, might just be exactly the mindlessness that you need to let your brain take a breather. I’m playing a silly little video game — it’s just… it’s just a silly video game, it’s called “Slime Rancher…” (laugh)

ALLY

Really? Slime?

CARMEN

“Slime Rancher” — yes! And the concept is completely silly — exactly. But it’s got really nice, relaxing music; it’s a really low-pressure game — there are challenges, but you don’t really die over and over and over again, things aren’t going to kill you, you just… And you have this entire planet to explore, full of all of these alien slimes that you can capture, and hybernize, and you eventually unlock the ability to research the things that they give off when you feed them. And it’s just a cute little game, right, something that I’m doing to take my mind off of things; occasionally I have my little slime ranch, and it’s pretty, it’s bright, it’s silly, it’s cute. And for me, it’s “Slime Rancher” — for you, it might be something else; but invite a little silliness, and laugh when you can. As often as you can.

ALLY

I totally agree, because silliness is much, much better than domestic violence. Right?

CARMEN

Oh yeah.

ALLY

I’ve read recently that there is more and more domestic violence, especially when parents just try to get a release of their feelings around their children, and of course, there’s a lot of domestic violence between partners that can turn really, really bad, and sometimes ends in a divorce.

CARMEN

Or worse, yeah.

ALLY

Yeah. You’ve probably heard about the divorce rate that rose terribly in China, so, yeah, having fun and letting in a little bit of silliness is much, much better than that.

CARMEN

Absolutely. And it’s important to remember: cabin fever is really a thing. When we get crammed up in a small space with one another, and we can’t change up the routine or have our own space to decompress privately, whatever issues we had going into the situation can really get magnified. And if we don’t learn new coping skills, it’s like a pressure-cooker. And eventually, you have to let off some steam; people who are prone to abusive things can be very, very dangerous.

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But, going back to letting off steam, it’s not just about silliness, but defusing situations; if you find yourself in that kind of situation, make sure that there’s someone outside your home that you’re reaching out to on a regular basis, and that you’re honest with about your situation if it’s escalating. And try to find ways to defuse, and distance, and change behaviors so that people have the space that they need.

You know, social distance doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stay in your four walls all the time; and even if you’re prone to be sedentary, it’s a really good time to learn how to walk around the block, it’s a really good time to, maybe, start a garden outside, even if all you have is a little apartment — do a container garden or something; something that can take you outside of your normal four walls, you know, get a little fresh air, have some place to go when things are getting heated. Anything to stave off that cabin fever; and try, try to remember: everybody else stuck is probably also dealing with cabin fever. And try to be as forgiving as possible. Especially when tensions start getting high. Yeah, it’s really important to talk about.

SEMPI

Yeah. It is, and I think, to help prevent that kind of “I’m not used to being cooped up, and not used to being cooped up with this person all the time” reaction, it may be important to talk about other ways to prevent that: how to feel like you’re getting alone time, even if you’re stuck in a house with three kids, a dog and a husband. Right?

CARMEN

Right.

SEMPI

For me, it’s three cats and a partner, but for me, my partner and I both have noise-canceling headphones; so we’ll go to our respective offices which we have set up in different rooms, which helps give us sort of the feeling of being alone, but also, I personally will just turn on my headphones, and just listen to my music of choice. Lately, I’ve been listening to not my music of choice; lately, I’ve been listening to just whatever is currently trending on Spotify. Only because I just want something new.

And that helps me feel like I’ve got some distance and I’ve got some personal space, while also giving me something new for my brain. Even if I’m just sitting there going: “What the fuck.” — about the song; but when I’m listening to it, it’s still a new intellectual stimulus that helps keep me from dying in this kind of rut. One of my friends has decided that they are going to learn how to sew; they’re like ex-military, super butch person, and they’re like: you know what, I’m gonna learn how to sew.

CARMEN

Nice.

SEMPI

Why? — Because I have no idea how, and this should at least take me a month. Right? And… so they’re posting pictures about it on Snapchat, talking to their friends about it, and they’ve connected with the sewing community on Facebook. And they act like they’re a bunch of, like, sweet old grandmas on Instagram, they’re like: “Oh, it’s so cute that you sew now!” So people are, I think, more open to trying new things, because it’s what helps them get the stimulus they aren’t getting, from being able to just go out and see new things.

CARMEN

And that’s another great tip, as for learning new things: if there’s something that you’ve always kind of wanted to learn but never had the time for it, if you can go ahead and pick it up, and find the community for it — I promise you can. I don’t know what it is: go on Facebook, go on Twitter, go on your social media of choice; find the community for it, and start building your long-distance friendships.

ALLY

And if you don’t like it, you can give it up anytime!

CARMEN

Yeah! You know, don’t go all in on a hobby that you might not like; get your starter stuff, get your starter kit or whatever — whatever that is for the thing that you want to learn to do, right? But the more important thing is to find that community and start nurturing some friendships within it. What you will find, invariably, in all of these kinds of communities, is that there are people who want to share what they know. And people who are very good at showing you, and teaching you, and you’ll have all sorts of advice for the thing that you want to do. And when you accomplish the thing, they’ll be there cheering you on, and you’ll find that you have genuine friendships. And the thing that you’ve learned. And that’s really important for a time like this.

ALLY

Right.

CARMEN

Building that social network, and building additional connections, new connections, in a different way.

SEMPI

And, you know, when you do do these calls, right, mix it up! Sometimes go on just voice because you can’t be bothered to get out of your PJs, and your hair is a train wreck, and you don’t know where your hairbrushes are, right… But occasionally, like, get fancy for a Skype call. It doesn’t have to be for a date, you can do it just to get out on your Twitch stream, just take some fun Snapchat pictures, whatever. But being able to see other people — on occasion, as often as you personally want it, right; me, I’m cool with, like, once a month, but other people might want to see people more often — go ahead and do it! You don’t need to be going outside to have the excuse to get dressed up — I sort of gave myself permission for this last week where I was like: I’m sad, I have no reason to wear makeup; and I had this moment of: why the fuck do I need a reason to wear makeup?

ALLY

Yeah.

CARMEN

Exactly! You have makeup!

SEMPI

Right?

CARMEN

You are the art.

SEMPI

Exactly! You go ahead and you paint yourself — do weird makeup, too! So I did the normal makeup, right, I did the normal “I’m gonna look good,” I did a Twitch stream, I chatted with some friends while I was looking my best, and then when it was done, it was like: what if… I did war paint.

CARMEN

I’m loving your blue period — your blue period going on…

SEMPI

I see so many people — I’ve gotten so many people ask me for advice on how to dye hair, because I’ve been doing it for, what, twelve years now to myself; and they’re like: Sempi, how do you dye your hair at home? So I’ve had so many people who I thought would never dye their hair, would never do anything weird, they’re like: I have a green streak now! Or: man, I bleached it — totally ruined it. Don’t be afraid of doing that: anything you do — you know, dying your hair, cutting your hair, wearing your makeup, changing your wardrobe, — it can all be chafed later if you decide, after the coronavirus, that maybe you want to go back to your old self, or maybe if you want to even create a different self, right?

ALLY

If you wanted green hair, but somehow it gets brownish, you can just sit home — and not use the camera, right? (laugh) And the quarantine is probably not going to be over for a few weeks, so that’s fine!

CARMEN

That goes right into your thing and covers a multitude of dying sins, you know? (laugh)

SEMPI

Exactly. And you can always buy hair to dye that isn’t your own.

CARMEN

Yes.

SEMPI

It’s slowly getting harder to do, as Amazon is saying: we’re shipping only essential stuff for now, and other stores are saying: nope, not even opening our doors. But you can still find it for now, and you can always find it for after. And again, if you don’t like it, you have plenty of time to change it before we all get to go out in the sun again. Oh, and I was just going to say: if nothing else, it will be a fun little, like… memory book, for when it’s over, like a post-apocalyptic album, right?

CARMEN

Indeed. Right.

SEMPI

“Test one.”

CARMEN

And that’s another thing, too, now that you mentioned that, you know, supply lines, and Amazon changing the way it’s delivering, and there are a lot of changes in the realm of how we get stuff. And I think that it’s also really valuable to have changes in the ways we think about our stuff; in the ways we think about getting our stuff.

So that leads me to another tip, which is, take a look at the stuff you have! Especially if you’ve got, like, closets full of junk, or hobbies that you started before, but kind of have just set to the side… Re-purpose things that you have and haven’t used for a long time. Finish stuff that you began but set aside; organize your closet — just kind of see what you already have before you go buying or anything like that. Just whatever you can do not to have to place an order, to wait a little longer to place an order.

ALLY

Yeah, and I’ve remember this golden tip: the three R’s, right?

CARMEN

Oh, reuse, reduce, recycle.

ALLY

Exactly.

CARMEN

And those are all ways to keep yourself occupied in what can really feel like some strange stretches of time. And then, bringing it back around to the idea of distance relationships, because while you are doing whatever it is that you’re choosing to do, it’s all coming back around to making sure to reach out to friends, and family, and colleagues, probably online. With video chats, and voice chats, — and maybe community friends, or whatever.

So, then you have stuff to talk about with them, right: “Oh, I went and organized my entire closet, and I found my blah-de-blah-de-blah.” “You know, I remembered that years ago I started this thing, and I got all super busy, and life happened, and I found it tucked away at the back of my drawer,” — and those are really great things to bring to the conversations with people who are also socially isolating with you. Together, but distantly.

SEMPI

Pulling this out of your closet and finishing things that you started ages ago — that’s a great way to do it, but if you don’t have anything, and nothing’s really sparking joy, as a certain famous Netflix celebrity would say, you could always start something new. Right? And it doesn’t have to be something physically tangible, right, because you can’t go to the craft stores, you can’t go to… So you can start other things: you can start an online blog, you can start trying to perfect your vocal lessons, there’s a ton of videos for that online…

Or, in the instance of myself and some coworkers, Carmen being one of them, you can start doing some outreach, some help work. We got together with our boss and we were trying to figure out a way to sort of help; that’s one of the reasons why we keep coming on to these long-distance podcasts, because really, at the core of everything, we want to help bring people closer together, we want to help people in their time of need. And we said: what can we do to help make sure that people who need it most get masks and other PPE in the areas that are hit hardest, and in the areas that don’t have those pipelines right now.

And we sort of put our heads together, and were like: well, first off, we need to give other people the ability to do that, too; how do we help them pull their money together to even make these purchases and donate these masks and PPE? And because of this conversation, “Masks for Doctors” was born — you can check us out at www.masksfordoctors.org. Or find us on Facebook or Instagram at @MasksForDoctors or https://www.facebook.com/MasksForDoctors/

And, essentially, what we’ve been doing is spending a lot of our time, our down time, helping with that, helping track down the people who usually have these supplies and vetting them for FDA regulations and whether or not they’re able to give any sort of protection. And then, also tracking down the people from the New England area, so like New Jersey and New York, that region.

CARMEN

Connecticut…

SEMPI

Connecticut, D.C., I think Pennsylvania as well.

CARMEN

Yeah.

SEMPI

And so, we’re tracking down not only doctors and nurses, because obviously, they need them, right, but sort of the people who are less thought of, but just as important: so, you know, pharmacists, dentists, first responders, healthcare workers in, like, nursing homes…

CARMEN

EMTs, yeah… Smaller practices and clinics.

SEMPI

Right — who don’t have quite the leverage that a national hospital would, but are still seeing patients; so many doctors who are doing private practice, and who are doing specialized private practice, are now going: nope, we’ll still treat you, we’ll treat corona patients as well — and they still need this protection.

And by doing that, I’ve found that not only have Carmen and I made a lot of new connections, but we found a really… productive way to use our time in a way that makes me feel… better — and kind of puts everything in perspective! For me, personally; I can’t speak for how Carmen feels, but I — at the end of the day, when I’m done doing this, when I’m done doing a social media blast or reaching out to people who want to help, either donate or help transport these items because, obviously, USPS and things are incredibly backed up, so they’re transporting a lot of things by hand, as safely as possible, — I feel like, you know, maybe I didn’t go out today, maybe I didn’t, by not going to the grocery store, physically save somebody, but I helped facilitate moving a lot of much-needed products that are helping keep people who need it most safe, and helping do something to stem the impact of coronavirus.

CARMEN

Absolutely. There is almost no better way to help heal your own issues than by spending your time focusing on helping others. As much as you can! You don’t have to go out and start a charity: there are all sorts of ways to take a little bit of time out of your day to help others. One thing — and all, every charity ever, including MasksForDoctors.org, needs this, — take a charity that you really feel passionate about, and give your voice to its cause. If you have your Facebook page, Facebook probably has a couple of hundred or maybe a few thousand people on it sharing your charity of choice, and spreading their word, and asking people to donate is as valuable, if not moreso.

Yes. So you can do things like share your passion, you can help people one-on-one; do you know the answer to something that somebody’s struggling with? Like, I don’t have kids, so I’m not homeschooling, but I have a lot of friends who are, and who are also teachers; and they’re sharing all these great resources for people who are homeschooling — I’ve followed all of these, I’ve got all these resources, and when I see someone in my network ask a question, I’ll answer them if I know the answer! If I can send them to someone that they need.

It seems like a little thing, but now is the kind of time where the little things add up to something bigger. It adds up to us helping each other out in just these little ways, taking a moment to help someone out with something — anything! If you can help, if you see an opportunity to do it, do it. Put your stuff to the side for a minute.

SEMPI

You can create your own moments, right, you don’t have to wait for somebody to ask. If you’re a fantastic baker and you know how to put together an hour-long bread loaf with no yeast, because people can’t get it right now, make that video! Put that on your Facebook and wait for it to get shared, put it on YouTube. People are searching for that kind of thing, and people are searching for, you know, how to play guitar — because they’re just sitting at home with that guitar they bought ten years ago, and they never learned to play. “I guess I’m gonna now!”, right — so go ahead and make that video.

You can do community outreach, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be charity-focused: it could be hobby-focused. If you speak a second language, — and Ally, I think you would probably know a few more of these resources than I do, — but there are websites and things out there that will connect you to people wanting to learn that language.

ALLY

Yeah!

SEMPI

And you can volunteer time and do that, yeah? There are ways to improve the world that can be fun and engaging for you, and aren’t necessarily traditionally charity-focused. But I do still think that that’s very much an active charity: sharing knowledge…

CARMEN

Absolutely.

SEMPI

…And sharing expertise, it’s some of the best gifts that you can give a person.

ALLY

Yes, and I think that it’s a good ending to say that the entire world is reconsidering the value of togetherness at this point in time.

CARMEN

Yes. Not only… even more: the definition of togetherness! What does being together mean, what does intimacy, on all sorts of levels, mean — when it’s difficult to touch each other safely? Unless you’re isolated with each other, right? How… how do we bring people close emotionally, and how do we balance the time that we need to do that with responsibilities that are also changing? It’s really important to figure out the ways that you’re going to do this, because it’s difficult to shoulder all of the news and all of the changes, and the sort of shock, the lack of choice about proximity, and events and things.

ALLY

And it shows how we’re interconnected. And how strong this bond is, right? In all directions, in all senses, basically.

CARMEN

Yeah; one thing that I see a lot of people naturally doing is understanding that there is togetherness in this shared tragedy that we’ve faced together, and also, an obligation to provide hope — and even more than that, a sort of natural inclination to provide hope. You know, you see people in Italy singing to each other and playing instruments for each other across their balconies.

And that sort of thing — I don’t even know how that sort of thing… Somewhere in Italy, somebody stepped out on their balcony and was like: I’m just gonna sing a song to the neighborhood! And other people in Italy said: that is great, we’re gonna do it, too. And they found songs they all knew, and they sang them together, and that’s…

ALLY

That’s amazing.

CARMEN

That is togetherness. It’s beaut… Yes! And it’s also perfectly, naturally human — in a time like this. This is kind of inherently what we are. We have to remember that part even harder, even better at times like this.

ALLY

Right. So, to sum up, we have those tips — maybe we can list them one more time, as a recap?

CARMEN

Honor yourself — was definitely one of them, because there’s not a cookie-cutter way to do this. Invite some silliness in — because we all need a distraction, and silliness is just silly, it’s not really bad; if you can laugh, find some humor in this situation, do it.

SEMPI

Definitely make sure to make your own new experiences: be it your learning something new, be it your going to teach something new, be it your going to watch a show you never would have watched before, but you’ve got a lot of free time now. Find something new to help provide you.

ALLY

Also, share your expertise, right, share your help as much as you can, with everybody around.

CARMEN

Absolutely. Create new networks: either of friends, and family, and colleagues you already have but you want to connect to in new ways, or of new communities, reaching out doing something that you’re doing as well, and sharing that experience. What else did we say… We had a really good list, but we’ve failed to write it down!

SEMPI

Listen to this again. That’s my last tip. (laugh) Replay it! We gave you a lot of information all at once, don’t be afraid to repeat it — once, twice, three times, we don’t care.

CARMEN

Share it! You know, connect with others and share it, and share things that you’re doing. Laugh, find humor — look for the positive stuff. Don’t just focus on the negative — that is definitely one.

ALLY

Yeah. And, of course, appreciate this sense of togetherness.

CARMEN

Find ways to cope with the cabin fever by creating the illusion of some alone space.

SEMPI

Be patient with people.

CARMEN

Be forgiving of each other, yes.

SEMPI

Be… We’re all going through a shared trauma right now.

CARMEN

Yes.

SEMPI

Give a little extra forgiveness.

CARMEN

And understand that it’s gonna last a while! Even when we get a handle on this thing and most people are back out doing normal things, and all of that, we’ll get a vaccine sometime next year — I guess, I hope…

ALLY

Exactly, this is not forever, we all know that.

CARMEN

But… but trauma leads to a long-term… Don’t just stop being forgiving. Don’t just stop being hopeful, don’t forget this sort of thing has a lasting impact. So we need to continue these practices of enriching ourselves and others, and understanding that togetherness is more than just sitting in the same room. We need to try to keep that up even afterwards.

Help others; take the time to help others. That’s where we get another plug for www.MasksForDoctors.org. We are committed to raising funds to send PPE — protective equipment — directly to doctors, nurses, EMTs, first responders who are right there on the front lines, fighting the COVID-19 outbreak, and they really desperately need your help. So: share, follow us, donate, keep up with us, help us do that, because that’s our way of helping others at this time — a new thing that we’re doing.

SEMPI

And if you’re bored, MasksForDoctors.org has a Twitch. @MasksForDoctors. Yeah, you know, why not — so you’ll see myself and Carmen out there, playing games or just talking and hanging out. You don’t have to donate to get in or anything — just free entertainment, right…

CARMEN

Yeah.

SEMPI

That’s what we’re sharing — is us, you know… being nerds.

ALLY

Yeah, thank you so much, ladies, for sharing this; especially, of course, for the… basically, the easy way we can help our doctors right now, and for our cozy discussion today, and the conversation. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.

CARMEN

Always a great pleasure to be here; I think we have some great conversations. I enjoy them, I really hope that other people do as well, and I hope that they find it helpful. Thank you again for inviting me, as always.

SEMPI

Yes. Thank you so much for including me on this, giving me a chance to… to talk and say hi to people, and hopefully, you know, there is at least one person who listens to this and goes: ah! Good. Now I know something I can do for the day. And feels a little bit better. If that happens, then I will think we’ve succeeded.

ALLY

Yeah, totally. So, if you are listening to us right now and you have any feedback for us, if you are really enjoying, or not enjoying, let us know — and just send an email to [email protected]. We are always happy to reach out to our listeners. Once again, thank you so much, and we’ll see you in a month’s time; 

OUTRO

Thanks for listening to “Long Distance Short” — GiftBasketsOverseas.com‘s podcast with real people in real long-distance relationships. 

Make sure to subscribe, and keep tuning in for a new episode every month. 

If you have any questions or ideas for a future podcast, make sure to drop us a line at [email protected] — that’s [email protected]