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Zooming Together

Note: This article originally appeared in   the MS Connection Blog  https://www.msconnection.org/Blog on May 8, 2020.

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This is boring! Humans were not meant to stay inside all day, every day. But the current pandemic has driven us to this universal isolation, and we are feeling its consequences.

It can be much worse for those of us with MS, for several reasons. Depression is often a neurological symptom of our disease, as are mobility and vision problems. These can often make us afraid to venture outdoors, even in a pandemic-free environment, and now we don’t have a choice.

But, there are ways to make things more tolerable, and they are revealing themselves every day. In a way, this is speeding up the journey we have already been on for a while: transferring a lot of our behavior and interactions to the “virtual” world. Whether we like it or not (and who isn’t a little uncomfortable?), this is where we’re already going. So, while we have the time and the motivation, why not explore it a little more deeply?

Everyone is talking about “Zoom,” “Skype” and other strange-sounding things. These are all just types of computer applications that let us get together – on our computers. Just download a program, press a few buttons, and your friends will be there on the computer (remember “Hollywood Squares?” Kind of looks like that). People are using these programs for happy hours, group meetings, family gatherings, and even weddings and birthday parties.

These programs are not difficult to figure out or operate. And even if you don’t get it right on the first try, the odds are that your virtual “partners” will be more than forgiving – because we’re all in the same boat.

For example, my first experience was a couple of weeks ago, when I was a guest speaker in for another law school class. My computer camera stopped working about an hour before the class started. Then my PowerPoint slides didn’t work. When I tried to show a video, I somehow got no screen, but two soundtracks started playing at the same time. And I guess I’ll never know if the students heard me say, “This is a f—ing disaster!” to my husband… directly into the hot microphone!

But the class was still a success. I had given them good information, and I was able to supplement it with some valuable emails. And not only did the class find much of this quite hilarious, they got the satisfying experience of “teaching the teacher.” Needless to say, I was a very motivated pupil!
Since then, I have organized and conducted several more events, and they have gone off without a hitch. Some of them have been with my buddies in our adaptive yoga program, where we do yoga and then have coffee – just like we did in the pre-pandemic days. And we have all remarked about how reassuring and comforting it is just to see each other’s faces.

I’m also happy to report that the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has gotten deep into the game, live having video conferences.

In the past, I have thrived at Walk MS and Bike MS events as a volunteer year after year. They are a great opportunity to meet people, explain what the Society does and generally recharge my batteries.

There are few things as inspiring as that marching band that starts up with each Walk or the “cheerleaders” that greet each team of victorious walkers/bikers as they return. And although we can’t bring bands and cheerleaders into our homes, we can still applaud and inspire each other through virtual events this spring and summer.

It’s enough that we’re all together and will help each other get through this, like we always do.

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