Connection During a Pandemic
MindLetter post written by Dr Kitty Wheater.
It's a delight this week to be able to write to you with details of my new six-month connection and writing project, launching next week, and inspired by what many of you have written to me over the last several months.
Connection During A Pandemic
During COVID-19, with its lockdowns, restrictions, physical distancing, and self-isolation, connecting to each other and the people we care about is more important than ever. Yet our forms of connection and community have turned upside down. We experience skin hunger – the deprivation of touch – alongside Zoom fatigue, from over-connection online. The Office of National Statistics report that at this point in the pandemic, 8% of us are always or often lonely – yet we have full inboxes. Young people aged 16-29 are twice as likely to feel lonely as the over-70s – but we spend hours every day on our phones. Meanwhile, those who care for others may feel touched-out, yet without closeness.
How do we reach each other, in times like these?
When We Put Pen to Paper
Here’s one idea. Amidst daily lives caught between mundanity and overwhelm, many of you tell us that the thump of the post through the letterbox has become a daily highlight. With so much of our study and work taking place online, to send and receive something through the mail grounds us back in the physical world. When we select a card, and feel it tangible in our hands, we picture it in the hands of the receiver. When we hold someone in mind, we remember that we too are held by others.
To put pen to paper is also to ask ourselves what we want to say. Amidst a perfect storm of isolation, boredom, and busyness, we may not know; we may have even forgotten how to ask. But when we hold paper and pen in hand, and the curls, squiggles, and spikes of ink emerge from beneath our fingers, we remember that we are more than pixels on a screen. And when we place ourselves on the page, we see ourselves and others more clearly.
Why Don’t You Write Me
Why don't you write me,
I'm out in the jungle,
I'm hungry to hear you.
Send me a card,
I am waiting so hard
To be near you.
Simon and Garfunkel, 1970
Why Don’t You Write Me is a rolling six-month project from the UoE Chaplaincy that launches in December. It’s for the UoE community, and for your own communities and families, to help connect us to ourselves and each other during this time. Here’s what it looks like.
1. A monthly parcel in the post, containing five postcards and notecards. These will be beautiful! From botanical prints, to William Morris, to doodles from our own ThinSilence (Geoffrey Baines), we’ll also highlight Scottish artists like Angie Lewin and Catherine Forshall, including artwork reproduced especially for this project.
Then it’s simple – write to someone, and put it in the post. There’s only one rule: send one of your postcards, each month, to someone who’s a UoE member or lives in Edinburgh. That could be your friend in another accommodation block, a member of staff in your department, or a colleague to say thank you for a job well done. Keep track of where you send your cards, whether in the UK or internationally, and let us know, for the map on our webpage.
2. Each month, we’ll hold a Why Don’t You Write Me workshop online. We’ll share stories of connection, community, and their challenges at this time, and explore practices of embodied writing, compassion, and mindful doodling.
3. Finally, there are some things that are better written than typed, better posted than emailed. If you feel like you have something to say, and no-one obvious to say it to, you can write to us, using your cards, and we will write back.
As Simon and Garfunkel sang, ‘a letter would brighten my loneliest evening’.
The Why Don’t You Write Me Team
Why Don’t You Write Me is led by Dr Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, and Associate of the Global Compassion Initiative. She writes the weekly MindLetter, which has over 400 subscribers across the University and has been viewed thousands of times during COVID. Alongside running the UoE’s mindfulness programme for students and staff, Kitty is an anthropologist and writer.
The Rev’d Geoffrey Baines is an Associate Chaplain for part of the week, providing dreamwhispering – a talents-led journey exploring the questions Who is my True Self? and What is my Contribution? – and Mindful Doodling to all students and staff. He is also a freelance dreamwhisperer and illustrator. Since 2014, Geoffrey has written and doodled every day at thinsilence.org, and has published the colouring book Slow Journeys in the Same Direction, bringing his love of doodling and dreamwhispering together.
Why Don’t You Write Me launches at the beginning of December.
I like the sound of this. How do I book?
Booking open shortly on ePay. To register interest, and hear when bookings are live, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is this open to staff as well as students?
Do you post to students and staff currently living abroad?
How much does it cost?
The donation for the whole six-month scheme is £30. This is designed to make it as accessible as possible for all students and staff.
I'd love to join but even £30 is too much for me at the moment. Can I make an alternative donation amount?
You can. Please email email@example.com and she will book you in manually and give you transfer details to make an alternative donation.
Will you really write back if I write to you?
Yes! We, like you, love post.
I’d like to send a WDYWM card to Friendly Classmate or Brilliant Colleague, but I don’t have their postal address. How do I get it to them?
Address your card to:
Friendly Classmate/Brilliant Colleague
c/o Why Don’t you Write Me
University of Edinburgh
1 Bristo Square
Edinburgh EH8 9AL
…and we will forward it to them.