My husband and I had a dream trip planned for this April to stay in amazing Castles across Ireland. It was a bucket list trip for us that was many years in the making and, like so many trips for people around the world, it was cancelled due to Coronavirus. While this uncertain time of life has created unease for many people, for me, a woman who loves to have control, this unease quickly moved to anxiety.
To gather some sense of control, I have focused on my work. As co-host of the podcast Hot Flashes & Cool Topics, I am a listener and a storyteller for women in midlife and beyond. I share conversations from around the world of women who are changing the narrative on this phase of life and who are educating and empowering women to live their best midlife and beyond. I have learned a great deal from my work and have discovered a surprising new gift during this time of physical isolation. I refer to it as the Zoom escape. It is a period of time when I have a Zoom conference call with a podcast guest and through our video conversation, I escape the isolation along with the feeling of anxiety that permeates from it.
One of the first interviews that I had after the stay at home order was put into place was a Zoom call with a woman in New Zealand. She is a specialist on grief and death so I was a little concerned that this would be having me feeling even more distressed. It was quite the opposite actually! As she flipped her computer to show me the beautiful countryside that was her backyard and as she spoke of living in the US before moving and how different New Zealand was for her, I began to get lost in her world. She spoke of the culture there, the theatre productions she was working on and her favourite local places. After that call, I realized that for 90 minutes I didn’t think of being stuck at home and feeling anxious. I had exchanged my reality and stress for the lens of my computer and a conversation from a world away.
My next Zoom escape was with a woman in England. She has created a movement to educate women and the medical community on menopause and its symptoms. We spoke for a long time about the differences and struggles of women in England and America, the cultural benefits and challenges and how our medical systems differed. My mind and imagination had been freed again from the confines of my home. I then wanted to find a way for my podcast listeners to experience this type of escape. Our podcast gives them 30 to 45 minutes of connection and conversation with us, but how could they escape visually?
My answer came from a few simple google searches. In our Hot Flashes & Cool Topics Facebook group page, I began sharing websites that offered virtual tours and activities from around the world that are completely free. I have now seen musicals from Broadway, stared at beautiful art from the Guggenheim Museum and read books online from the New York Public Library. I have even had a virtual tour of Versailles as well as several National Parks from around the US. Serendipitously, I was able to find some virtual castle tours of Ireland. Will I say that it is the same as being there, no I can’t say that. I have discovered though that our bodies may have to stay at home but our minds and imagination can travel anywhere we choose through a simple computer search.
Since that first Zoom interview, I have heard stories via Zoom from England to LA, Australia to New York and more. People have shared their stories of how they are handling the pandemic, work, family and friendships. It makes me feel more connected to the outside world and just a little less out of control. I don’t need even to pack a suitcase or grab my passport to learn about new cultures and meet new people. For now, this will be enough.
This pandemic will not last forever, even though it feels that way at times. When we are lifted from quarantine, I want to go to lunch with my husband. I never realized how much I missed our lunches at local restaurants. Movies, I miss movies and there is a list of them that I plan to see. When a vaccine is finally found, the first thing I will do is call Delta. I have an Irish Castle tour to makeup and I don’t plan to miss it again.