Wallpaper

Really old wallpaper.  It stops me in my tracks every time. A sobering reminder of my own mortality.   Here’s what happens:  I’m a Realtor showing a client a really old house.  Somewhere, usually tucked in the back of a closet or stairwell I find the original wallpaper.  It’s often peeking through the peeling layers of subsequent coverups or it’s in such an obscure place that future homeowners never bothered to cover it up.

 

Wallpaper Trivia: Wallpaper dates back to hundreds of years BC when Chinese artists would hand paint wall coverings to adorn the milieu of the rich.  The heyday of wallpaper was the mid-1800’s when steam-powered printing presses allowed wall-sized art to be available to the average consumer.  YAY! It came to the Everyman and they loved it!  It was not unusual in the 1800s for every inch of interior wall and ceiling to be covered by wallpaper as an extravagant salute to access to excess.

 

Fast forward to 2021, it’s not unusual for that wallpaper to still be hanging around somewhere. While my clients wander through the house I stop and stare at the filigreed print refugee from the 19th century.   I think about who picked it?  How did she pick it? (Forgive my sexism but I’m going to assume that most wallpaper was picked by a ‘she’ in 1891.)  How many rolls of wallpaper did she go through to end up with this?  What did she love about this particular pattern?  What matched it?  Did her husband like it?

 

But mostly I think about my own mortality.

 

This wallpaper spoke to a woman now dead.  It made her happy and ‘feathered her nest.”  She likely thought, like we all do, that the choice of that wallpaper was an important one and it (and she) would live forever.   It did.  Or might.  She didn’t.   Decades later I’m looking at her handiwork and thinking about this anonymous woman.   I am reminded that one day the choices I make will be evaluated by someone who thinks that the prime of their life is eternal.  It isn’t. I’m not.

 

It makes me want to order my life accordingly.  Seize the Day.  Do the important things.  Finish strong.  Leave a legacy that won’t be stripped because I made frivolous choices in my last laps.

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  Kathy is the Team Lead for The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realtors.  Thinking of Buying or Selling?  Find us www.OurOhioHome.com

Social Capital: What do you do when you look around and you’re alone?

Life doesn’t have to be “busy” to be full.   The concept of “social capital” is one which is increasingly being recognized as a necessary component of a healthy life, especially as one ages.  What is “social capital?” It is the network of relationships we have in our lives which build over time and allow us to contribute to a “safety net” of sorts with and for people around us.  It is having a ready friend to watch your dog while you’re out of town.  It is a daughter who calls to check on you; a son picks up your groceries when there is ice on the ground.  It is the backgammon group and the church choir; it is the neighbor who notices that the porch light has stayed on at your home for two days and has an extra key to check on you.

 

Unfortunately, the bonds that are so easy to build in youth and while raising a family begin to diminish as we age. Our peers retire to different parts of the country, children move away, lives get busy, friends pass away.  We wake up one day and our relationship “bank account” is empty.  Our silent partner is loneliness, and the world seems to move along while we have become invisible.

 

What is the answer?  There is no simple solution.  The harsh truth is that people are busy, lives do move on, and those we have been close with may no longer be in our lives.  We have to rebuild. Purposefully and with determination.

 

Lisa Stockdale, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Capital Health Care Network (CHCN) the first (and often hardest) step is admitting that we are lonely.   “We don’t value the elderly the way other cultures do” says Lisa.  “We value independence.”  We even have a negative term for that inter-generational care.  Seniors say they don’t want to be a “burden” to their adult children. Complicating the equation, studies show that adult children view their parents as “able” and “independent” for months, even years after others notice decline.  Why?  We carry the mental picture of a younger Mom or virile Dad and are slow to acquiesce to our parent’s limitations because of aging.  And, Mom and Dad tend to be the last to admit they need the care.

 

So, what to do?

 

An idea exhibiting growing interest in Europe is the development of social exchanges.  It expands beyond the family to peers.  Built on the belief that everyone has something to give (Yes! You do!) the exchanges are made of a group of people who offer their talents or knowledge in exchange for someone who can help with their needs.  These kinds of groups offer services such as organizing and attending social events, gardening work/advice, donating time to charitable causes, shopping , giving rides, haircuts, or massages, computer repair, or minor home or car repairs.   Interestingly, say organizers, the value is not just in the service, but the relationship.  A sense of well-being is gained through being useful (no longer invisible) and knowing that someone is there to help (no longer lonely.)

 

Lisa says in the absence of family close by or easy mobility, retirement communities are a good source of this connection.  “The residents of our communities benefit from being engaged,” she says.  “The things that you used to go to come to you.”  Religious services, concerts, art activities, entertainment are all on site – as are the new friends you met while attending these events.

 

Next week we will talk about social isolation.  I will provide a simple test which answers the question: am I socially isolated?

 

Learn of the services of CHCN at www.capitalhealthcarenetwork.com or read Lisa’s blog at www.aginginfullbloom.blogspot.com

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  Kathy is the Team Lead for The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realtors.  Thinking of Buying or Selling?  Find us www.OurOhioHome.com

Social Capital: Why we all need it and “earning” it rewarding work

Recently I met with a homeowner who I will call Sheila.  Sheila is in her late 70’s and lives in a home far too big for her and one which she long ago lost the ability to maintain.   This is not the first time I’ve met with Sheila.  I have come three times in as many years.  What I have come to suspect is that while I am a Realtor and Sheila needs to sell her home, what she really needs is a friend.  I am likely the only visitor Sheila will have this week.  Sure, we discuss her home, but the conversation inevitably slides to her children, the weather, or the news of the day. Sheila is lacking what cultural scientists have come to call “social capital.”  Sheila has few relationships with others on whom she can lean and rely for tea or friendship, holiday visits or day trips out.

 

Sheila is lonely.

 

It’s quite common, says Lisa Stockdale, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Capital Health Care Network. (CHCN)  “We need permission to admit we are lonely at any age” she says.  CHCN offers a wide range of in-home and in-facility health care assistance but one is uniquely called “Companionship Care.”  This level of service is simply the provision of company: to take a walk, go to the movies, a ride to church, or just to sit and visit.  The most difficult step in providing this service is getting the customer to admit they need it.  “We don’t shame a child for having needs they can’t meet themselves” says Lisa, “and yet as adults we are afraid to admit that we are lonely or need that companionship.”

 

If you can imagine yourself a spider (stay with me here…) your emotional, mental, and physical health quite literally depends on the size of your web.  These connections within our days and lives are what give us a foundation.

 

Let’s examine a day of calling on and dispensing social capital:

 

You oversleep and you’re late for work.  Your car doesn’t start so your spouse pulls the yellow charging cables from the trunk, jumps your car and you’re on your way.  You have a meeting at 9:00 and won’t get to the office until 9:10 so Christie, a coworker, starts your presentation for you.   Grateful to Christie, you offer to buy her lunch and invite two other colleagues to join you.  One of them, Carl, works at an auto parts store on weekends and says he will pick up a battery for you at a discount.  You leave work early because every Thursday you volunteer to read to 2nd graders at a local after-school program.  By the time you are heading home, you call ahead to Panera to have dinner made for pick up.  Lucy, at Panera, recognizes your voice and says she’ll run it out to your car in 15 minutes.   When you check your voice mail you find that your daughter has called: she’s working on her college entrance essay and wants you to look it over for her.  Will you have time tonight?  You put the Panera on paper plates, gather the family, and take a first read at the essay.

 

There is nothing extraordinary in this “day.”  Examine the “web” and you’ll see a myriad of investments and withdrawals from your bank of social capital.  This ebb and flow of engagement with people is the building block of social capital: the pattern of networks among people of shared interests, values, or schedules and the quality of life that emerges from it.  The lack of this web puts one in danger of falling through the cracks that inevitably happen in our lives and hearts.

 

This lack of social capital is pandemic in our elder population.  “We don’t value our elderly” says Lisa of CHCN.   “In other cultures, we see the elderly embraced into an extended family when they need care or can no longer live on their own.  The family stays intact” Unfortunately, the western culture doesn’t often provide that safety net.  Many of our senior citizens are not only alone but isolated from the simplest of life’s pleasures: the sound of a real voice or the touch of a human hand.

 

Next week, we will examine how to take purposeful steps, at any age, to make sure your stay connected to those around you.

 

Learn of the services of CHCN at www.capitalhealthcarenetwork.com or read Lisa’s blog at www.aginginfullbloom.blogspot.com

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  Kathy is the Team Lead for The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realtors.  Thinking of Buying or Selling?  Find us www.OurOhioHome.com

Social Capital: What’s in your bank?

I was visiting my nephew in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Alex, who is a Resident at the University of New Mexico Medical Center works in pediatric medicine but regular stints in the Emergency Room are part of his training.  Because my real estate practice has found a niche serving the over-55 homeowner our conversation turned to the medical needs of this demographic.  Alex said that one of the hardest parts of his job is allowing the older adult to leave the emergency room to return to a world of no “social capital.”  At the time he told me this, I had never heard that term. I have since learned that “social capital” is a hot topic in the world of elder care.

 

Kayte Schooley is the Community Relations Director of Bickford of Bexley, a senior care facility in the heart of Bexley, Ohio.   The branch is known for providing a nurturing environment: their residents and staff are called “BFM’s” – Bickford Family Members and have (adorably) won first place in a survey of “Overall Happiness” in their division. “Social engagement is so important” says Kayte “even a simple ‘how are you doing?’ can remind our BFM’s that they are not alone. We care.”

 

Social capital describes the network of relationships we all have which allow us to live happy, healthy, and smooth functioning lives.  If I run out of gas on the side of the road, a call to my husband resulting in 5 gallons of gas delivered to me is a result of having something in my bank of social capital.  78-year-old Maggie lives alone and falls in her home. Even if in reach of a cell phone, if Maggie has no one close by to call after she dials 9-1-1, she is void of social capital.

 

Schooley says that moving seniors back into social engagement is a process. “Many come to us after living for some time alone, “she says.  Steps back into the friendships enjoyed as a younger person are unfamiliar and difficult.  At Bickford, each new resident fills out a “Lifesong” document: Where are you from? What are your hobbies?  What did you do for a living?  The staff at Bickford works hard to “match” the new residents with others with similar interests within the comfort level of both parties. “We never force our residents to engage beyond the limits,” she says.  Kayte recounts “matching” two veterans who became friends finding commonality in their military service.

 

What this kind of social engagement proves is that our intersecting web of social capital relationships does not have to be vast and they are not necessarily family members.  However, psychologists say the plumb line measuring our mental, emotional, and physical health runs parallel to the strength of these social bonds.  Research shows that socially isolated older adults are at greater risk of sickness, disability, and even premature death. Doctors often use the Lubben Social Network Scale (LSNS) test to determine how socially “healthy” a person is.  “You need to have a web of family and friends to be responsive to your needs,” says James Lubben, developer of the LSNS and director of the Institute on Aging at Boston College. *

 

In next week’s blog I will talk about how social capital wanes in our older years and what we can do to strengthen those ties that bind us to better health.

 

You can look into the services of Bickford of Bexley at: www.bickfordcommunities.com/bexley

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  Kathy is the Team Lead for The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realtors.  Thinking of Buying or Selling?  Find us www.OurOhioHome.com

 

*Harvard Men’s Health Watch March 2013

Pride of Ownership

I was driving out of a community a few weeks ago. I had just finished taking a lockbox off of one of my recently sold listings.   I came across a young man mowing his lawn.  Now, that in and of itself is not a big deal, right? Except this particular community charged homeowners, a monthly fee in which lawn mowing is included.  Looking around, it was obvious that the lawns hadn’t been mowed in quite a while. The grass in every direction was sorely in need of a cut – but the neighbors were content to wait for the paid-for lawn mowing to kick in.  Not John Wiser.   I was so impressed that he was mowing and trimming his own lawn that I stopped and asked his name.  To be fair, John said he enjoys lawn mowing.  He said the convenience of having it done for him was not a real selling point to the house.  But, still, none of his neighbors had seen the need to spruce up their lawns rather than waiting for the contracted service to show up.

 

I call this “pride of ownership”. Most often used in reference to homeownership, pride of ownership is a psychological benefit most often derived from owning a home rather than renting. It is reflected in well-maintained property. It is the knowledge that what I own is a reflection of me.  Right or wrong, most of us practice it every day.  It is making sure the house is clean when friends come over; it is making sure the leaves are raked and the gutters are clean.  It is the sense of satisfaction that comes with knowing that you have taken care of what has been entrusted to you.

 

Does it pay off?  Absolutely.  Realtors will often point out to their Buyers the small things that tell us a homeowner has likely taken care of the big things. Many times, it doesn’t cost that much.  Pride of ownership is shown in making a small repair before it becomes a big repair. It shows in cleanliness and order and when you’re ready to sell it assures the next homeowner that they can carry on your efforts in a well-maintained home.

The “Good” in Goodwill

Have you ever seen the pictures of a child in a third world country and wondered how that little boy got the Ohio State t-shirt he is wearing?  I mean, did he visit the OSU?  Did someone from Columbus visit him?  Is he a huge fan of the Buckeyes? Chances are none of the above.  Little did you know when you cleaned out your teenage son’s closet last summer your short trip to Goodwill was the beginning of a long trip for that t-shirt.

 

What happens to that stuff that travels from the trunk of your car to the waiting bin at Goodwill stores? Does Goodwill sell everything you bring to the big bins?   Actually, almost.

 

Goodwill’s corporate data says that an impressive 82% of what is dropped at a Goodwill Retail Stores ends up on their shelves or on-line and is sold.  Every item pulled from those cardboard boxes is touched and sorted by employees.  Wearable clothing (not stained, damaged, or mildewed) is hung on store racks for four weeks.  If it doesn’t sell it is sent to a Goodwill Outlet Store.  Yes.  While it sounds redundant there are Goodwill Outlet Stores.  (The Outlet Store in Columbus is at 2675 Brice Road, Suite B, 43232) Here, items are sold at “ridiculously low” prices, according to the employee to whom I spoke. All items are sold by the pound with prices varying depending on how much you buy.

 

Then what? What if the item still gets passed over at the ridiculously low prices?  Believe it or not there are still more people who want the clothing that was unwanted by you, left unsold by the customers of the Goodwill Retail and passed over at the Outlet Stores.  Items that survive are bundled in huge lots (“It looks like a huge tennis ball with the cover off,” said the Goodwill  employee)  and sent to auction where they are bought by vendors with intent to sell the garments overseas, re-purposing the fabric, or shredding the fabric for use as furniture stuffing or insulation. Charitable organizations who operate in third world countries often use these auctions to find cheap, usable clothing for their non-profits care centers in the countries they serve.

 

The big message in all of this is NOT to throw away old clothing either for convenience or because you think no one will want it. Experts say that 12 million tons of clean, good repair clothing a year are filling our landfills when they could be charitably, usefully, and gratefully received by others. Including that kid in Africa who ends up with your son’s t-shirt. Go Bucks.

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  Kathy is the Team Lead for The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realtors.  Thinking of Buying or Selling?  Find us www.OurOhioHome.com

 

How far would you go if your grandkids were at the other end?

Last summer I visited Israel.  While driving through Arab communities I noticed an odd phenomena:  what looked like apartment buildings had occupied street-level dwellings and perhaps a completed second level, but often the third level was left uncompleted.  It looked like buildings were perpetually under construction.  I asked a local and was told that individual families owned the buildings. Mom and Dad lived on the street level. The oldest son, upon finding a bride, was “gifted” the second level.  And on up.  The uncompleted third level was waiting for son number two to get married, at which time the community joined together to finish the apartment.  Like a concrete barn-raising.  When the parents died, everyone moved down a flat, and on it went.  I was told it was unthinkable to “move away” for any reason. Generations had lived on land that was the possession of immeasurable value to the family.

 

An Arab patriarch would find the spread-out, long distance relationship with our adult children both baffling and sad.  Increasingly, Americans are feeling the same way. More and more grandparents are moving to stay close to their children and grandkids.

 

The decision to sell a loved and decades-owned home in a community where one is rooted and comfortable is a big one.  Culturally, it is a relatively new phenomena: generations past were Patriarchal/Matriarchal.  Mom and Dad were the center of a familial universe around which the younger generation circled and expanded — but not further than a return for Sunday dinner at Mom’s allowed.  Today’s young Mom and Dad are often the head of two income families with job opportunities time zones away.  Interstates and airports make “getting home” deceptively easy so that maintaining family relationships is a well-intended hope.  In reality, time flies, opportunities slip away, and months pass without more than a phone or video call.

 

Scott and Debbie Mullarkey saw the inevitable happening — perhaps with greater clarity because they had lived through the pain of distance with their own parents.  Debbie was an only child of a Youngstown, Ohio couple.  After attending Ball State in Indiana, she and Scott decided to move to Columbus – a convenient middle ground between Indiana friends and northeast Ohio family.   The 128 miles from Columbus to Akron was a manageable drive for decades of holidays and vacation visits.  But as her parents aged, Debbie became a long-distance caregiver.  Either she or Scott travelled every weekend to care for her parents, eventually moving them closer to their own home to alleviate the stress.  “I became everything to them” says Debbie.  “I was the decision maker; I was the cook and the house cleaner.” Full time care giving put a strain on Debbie’s job, marriage, and social life.  When the Mullarkey’s daughter Erin married Tony Kerins and moved to Indiana, Debbie saw the mirror of her past in the future “I didn’t want to put Erin through what I went through.”

 

And, of course, there were the grandkids.  Three hockey-playing boys, Aiden, Max and Chase.  “We were traveling every 10-14 days to see them,” says Debbie.  While these times were wonderful, it also reminded Debbie what they were missing.  “We regretted the time we missed. Sure, we could get there to see a game or an all-day tournament, but we were missing the small things, the day-to-day joy of watching them grow up.”

 

Even with the allure of being close to Tony and Erin and the boys, saying goodbye was hard. The Mullarkeys were deeply invested in their community.  They were Ohio State season ticket holders, community volunteers and very active in the local Senior Center.   Another consideration: did Tony and Erin want Grandma and Grandpa down the street?  “We sat down with our son-in-law and asked if this made him uncomfortable?” Said Debbie.  Open communication and established boundaries are essential. “We don’t talk to our daughter every day,” says Debbie. “We don’t interfere with their marriage.”

 

Debbie’s advice for grandparents missing the kids: Look for a community in which you would live even if they didn’t.  Find your life – you are not joining their life.  The Mullarkeys are again invested in their new community: they tutor at the local elementary school; she has joined a quilting group and they have an active social life in their Over-55 community.   “We moved in December and went to a New Year’s Eve Party in our neighborhood. You have to put yourself out there.”

 

It was definitely the right decision for the Mullarkeys.  Cheering for their favorite hockey players and Sunday dinners once a month are the new “normal.”  Debbie admits “We miss our Ohio friends, but this was definitely the right decision for us.”

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Columbus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team. Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com.

Eulogy

Dave is dying.  He knows it. His family knows it.  His doctors have given him days to live.  The journey to this point has been long and the illness valiantly resisted.  There have been moments of optimism when he predicted grandkids bouncing on his knees.  But the sun has set on those days of hope and bravado.   About three months ago a friend of his organized a party for him.  “I don’t want to just eulogize Dave after he is gone,” she said.  “I want to tell him now. I want him to know how he changed my life.”  She gathered friends.  Hundreds of them.  They came from 12 states and further by Zoom.  They called it a “Tribute Party” and one-by-one friends of Dave stood and told him who he was.  They told stories that, while he remembered them, had new details and nuance coming from a different lens.  He heard stories that he didn’t remember, at least not the way they were told to him that day: casual conversations that resonated so deeply and profoundly that, here they were, being recounted to him decades later.  He was surprised and delighted, humbled and blessed.  It wasn’t depressing.  It wasn’t fatalistic.  Nobody was prematurely closing his coffin. They were simply admitting humanity. Death was imminent and Dave was loved, and words needed to be said.

 

Why don’t we eulogize in life more often?  I don’t mean that we track down our terminally ill friends, but why don’t we purposefully and frankly tell people we love what they mean to us, how their lives have changed our lives or how their unique personalities make our lives brighter?  Why does it take (and why do we love to be the recipient of) Facebook birthdays to reach out and brighten the life of a friend or loved one?  Because here is the truth: when we don’t speak those words to each other our own perverse insecurities fill in the blanks in our heads.  We know we make an impact but, in our minds, that impact is a car wreck. In truth, the impact may have been a needed gust of wind to move them into their life’s purpose or, at very least, a breeze to better their day.

 

I’m a card writer.  I have a cabinet full of greeting cards. My favorite category standing in the Hallmark aisle is “blank.”   Blank allows me to fill in the blanks.  To take a minute and jot down what I love about someone I love.  Then I put a stamp on it and mail it.   Ironically, it is the millennials in my life that love this most.  This group that lives by a 144-character rule and has little patience for a grammatically correct text loves the hand-written card.   One of my nieces once posted one of my cards on her Facebook page.  Not when she received it.  It was posted three years later when pulled it out of a camera bag she has safely tucked it in.  Why had she saved it all of these years?  Because words carry power and healing and life and blessing.  We all need that.

 

Once I went to a terminally ill friend and read my card to him. I looked him in the very eyes that within a few days would be forever closed.  Through tears in my own eyes I read to him.  Was it awkward?  Perhaps. But I choose awkward over regret.  This man had made an incredible impact on my life and I wasn’t going to let him die without knowing it.

 

I encourage you to eulogize your loved ones in life.  Take a moment to purposefully, and intentionally say “I love you. And here is why…”   When the time comes for a traditional eulogy you can sit quietly with the peace that comes from knowing that the now-deafened ears heard. While it’s true that “in the end” we want to know that our life was more than a sterile obituary of degrees, jobs and accomplishments, why do we have to wait until “the end” to give that gift to each other?

 

We all want legacy.  Legacy means that someone left behind carries a part of us.  It means that a person is or has or lives because we spoke, acted, or invested; someone is materially changed for the better because we existed, and our lives intersected.

 

House Call is a blog written by Kathy Chiero, Licensed Realtor and Team Leader of The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus. Find Kathy and her team at www.OurOhioHome.com

 

 

 

 

Flotsam, Jetsam and Loneliness

Did you know there is a difference between “flotsam” and “jetsam”?  While they are both maritime terms attached to shipwrecks, they have specific legal meanings.  Flotsam pertains to goods that are floating up to the surface of the water when a ship sits at the bottom of the sea. Jetsam refers to items intentionally thrown from a sinking ship to lighten the load.

 

When I was 53, I went through a divorce.  A private shipwreck of sorts in which I saw the flotsam and jetsam of my life in vivid detail.  In one three-week period in 2013 I sold the family home, finalized the divorce, dropped one child off in college in Texas and a second in Ohio. I put my head down on a pillow in a rented condo feeling physically dizzy at the upheaval I had wrought.   While much of the detritus of a quarter century of marriage was jetsam — intentionally tossed to lighten my load; the flotsam is what lingered.  All those things which floated to the surface had to be dealt with.  One of those was loneliness.  Intense loneliness.

 

I remember watching the Titanic during this period and coming to the realization that if I were on a sinking ship there was no one who would usher me first into the lifeboat.  It was not a matter of being loved.  I knew I was loved by many people.  It was about being un-connected.  Even in a bad marriage a spouse is connected to a person with uniquely shared history, memories and, often, children.

 

I’ve thought of that period often as I sit alone in COVID-19 quarantine.  For many this forced isolation is the first time we have had to be alone.  And it’s hard.  Really hard.   Loneliness is a pandemic of its own.  It’s been around for centuries and you don’t need a surgical mask to hide it.   A “Hello! How are you? “here, a smiling emoji there; a happy hour smile, a group text meme all give the appearance of connection staving off the ever lurking loneliness.  Until a Governor’s Shelter in Place order forces us to disconnect and be alone.

 

In the months after my divorce I met Heather Dugan.  Heather was several months ahead of me on her divorce journey. She, too, found herself in a place of having to redefine who she was and acknowledging that no one was going to do it for her.  If loneliness was a bull – Heather grabbed it by the horns.  She recognized that she was going to face the bull or be plowed down by it.  Heather formed a group to intentionally connect women called “Cabernet Coaches.” They meet weekly at local restaurants to check in on each other and be the real friends in a virtual world.  “Loneliness is not predictable,” says Heather.  “We need to be available to each other the moment someone needs us.”

 

Heather has since written extensively about loneliness and our need for connection, her most recent book “The Friendship Upgrade.”  “We fill our lives with distractions,” says Heather. “When something like a shelter-in-place order happens, we are forced to spend time with ourselves.  This is scary and uncomfortable for many of us because we don’t know what we will find.”

 

Dugan notes that since the Corona Pandemic she has heard from people who are realizing that their social life depends on people they see at work.  “Without their coworkers their lives are very empty” she says.  What to do? Recognize you’re not alone and be proactive about filling the “people” gap in your lives.  Make phone calls.  “Texting is a poor substitute,” says Heather, “it doesn’t connect you like the spoken voice does.”   Volunteer.  A recent look at www.volunteermatch.org found dozens of opportunities to serve your community safely within COVID-19 guidelines.

 

Some good that may come out of this: “We’re going to be much more appreciative of the people around us,” says Heather.  “The more we can lean into this loneliness and make a good outcome, the better we will be for it when we can once again hug our friends.”

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Columbus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team. Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com.

 

Heather Dugan’s Book “The Friendship Upgrade” is available on Amazon at the link below:

Why can’t I admit I’m lonely?

Did you know that Great Britain’s parliament has a Minister of Loneliness?  Well, not really.  They have a Minister of Sport and Civil Society.  Following the release of report which said that 20% of English citizens feel lonely most or all of the time, British Prime Minister Theresa May added addressing an epidemic of loneliness to the list of the responsibilities of this ministerial branch. Tracey Crouch leads the Ministry of Sport and Civil Society which caused the British Press to dub Crouch “The Minister of Loneliness”.

 

It may, on the surface, seem frivolous.  Why, in light of much more serious health challenges, would a nation devote money and resources to something that seems as “solve-able” as loneliness?  I mean…just pick up the phone and call someone, right?  First of all, the Brits are very much ahead of all of us.  There are very real social and economic costs to loneliness and isolation.  Researchers believe that the health impact of loneliness is more lethal than obesity or  smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  Lonely people are less productive people.  But researchers also admit that when doing surveys of the general public to assess the levels of loneliness that they don’t use the “L” word.  Why?

 

I can admit I’m loud.  I can admit I’m overweight.  I can admit I’m exhausted, sick, angry, or addicted.  Why is it so hard to admit I’m lonely?  That’s a very pertinent question — especially in recent weeks where COVID-19 isolation has been mandated.  Why don’t we just pick up the phone and call someone?  Heather Dugan is the Author of “The Friendship Upgrade” a book born out of her own quest for real connection with others.  “Loneliness feels shameful, “ says Heather. “We see being separated from people as judgement on our likability.”

 

Loneliness unfairly equates to being unloved, unliked, and without social connection.  In an age of “every-day-is-a-Disney-day” promotion of our lives on social media, the lonely fear that by admitting they are NOT living in the Magic Kingdom they are also drawing a picture of themselves as unliked, unloved, or unworthy of both.  Dugan says that social media gives the illusion of being connected, but we are really not.  “It’s one-sided,” says Heather. “We are looking in on the lives of others but there is no connection, and that isolation only exacerbates our loneliness. We are trading real facial expression for emojis.”  If we only knew, really knew, the vast numbers of people who are just like us living in bouts of loneliness (yes, even the selfie-Mom with perfect kids who finds time to write the perfect blog) we might feel more comfortable being the first to raise our hands.

 

It’s also important to realize that human beings haven’t changed.  YOU are not “broken” because you are lonely.  Our DNA wires us for connection.  Past cultures “fed” that wiring with front porches, book clubs, bowling leagues and families who stayed in the same zip code.  Cultural changes move kids far away, put us in front of computers by day and Netflix by night. Many times our only “social” interaction is with the coworkers with whom we exchange a few pleasantries.

 

Next week in House Call I will touch on the “cure”!   It takes courage.  But you can do it!

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Columbus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team. Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com.

 

Heather Dugan’s Book “The Friendship Upgrade” is available on Amazon at the link below: