2020 turned us into islands… so let’s build some bridges

(or, the one where I borrow liberally from philosophers and poets)

If you want to know how difficult it was to sit down and write a blog post scheduled to come out the day before the election, let me tell you about how I got started and what my writing process looked like.

First, I read a few articles to get some ideas. Then, I had a pressing need to shop on Amazon for faux-shearling insoles for my sneaker slides, because winter is coming, obvi. Then I apparently entered an Amazon trance during which 2 hours passed and I’m scared to look at my order history. I mentally shook myself and resolved to get down to the business of writing, at which point I binge-watched some old Top Chef episodes.

Point being, I procrastinated HARD, and I’m not a procrastinator, so that should tell you how much my brain had balked. In retrospect, my avoidance strategies make perfect sense: my psyche recognized the near impossibility of writing a blog that fundamentally is about wine, the day before the election, to a target audience that is probably sick to death of reading about the election but could potentially perceive a post all about wine as being tone deaf to the crucial issues at stake.

So, instead of agonizing over different topics and points of view, I instead did a short but intense soul-searching session about what I, an older millennial, really need to hear right now. Then I wrote about it. And the cool thing is, I ended up right back at Sip Wines and why this company matters so much. The wheel comes full circle, as Will Shakespeare once said. (Unless the conspiracy theories are true and he Milli Vanilli-ed that ish.)

“Man is by nature a social animal…”

Thus spoke Aristotle WAY back in the day, and homeboy was right. Out of all the terrible things this year, I think that loneliness has been one of the most pervasive. Both in a literal sense because we’ve been socially isolated from each other, but also in deeper and more damaging ways:

  • We’re not supposed to touch other people or get closer than 6 feet. Humans are very tactile creatures. This is not a natural state for us.
  • Avoiding risks of contact means we’ve lost many of our sources of connection: school, offices, gyms, etc.
  • If you’re not married or in a serious relationship, you’ve probably spent a lot of this year actually alone.
  • Even if you’re living with a partner, there have been studies about how too much togetherness is driving many of us apart, ending relationships and marriages.
  • If you have kids, they probably haven’t been in school since March. Depending on your caregiving role, you may have spent the majority of your time in the presence of needy, demanding creatures who are diametrically opposed to adult self-care.
  • We’re all experiencing various forms of loss simultaneously, which makes it hard to be there for each other, so we’re all navigating this loss without the support we need.

I really think one of the most traumatic impacts of 2020 has been an overall loss of connection, both on a personal level as well as a national and global level. The micro realities of the pandemic have exacerbated the macro loss of connection that’s been building for years.

“… and one who does not partake of society is either a beast or a god.”

More wisdom from the Greek OG, and just as on point. What Aristotle was saying here is that because humans are fundamentally social, anyone who doesn’t need a community of others is, well, not actually human. Now OBVIOUSLY this is a vast generalization, but it’s a helpful way to understand why so many of us have actually become steadily and increasingly dissatisfied and unhappy in recent years, whether we fully realized it or not. It’s because we do need society, we need connection, we need a fabric of community… and that fabric has been disintegrating into widespread disconnect, of which COVID is only the most recent and obvious cause.

Politics polarize us more every year, nationally as well as in our daily lives. As a result of the current administration’s, um, personality, we’ve seen our international friendships fray. Our lives have moved online to a degree that science strongly suggests is unhealthy. Many children and teens express clear preferences for online communication vs. in person or phone. Social media controls behavior and perceptions. Anonymity of online communication has led to an erosion of general kindness. Total domination of e-commerce behemoths has led to convenience consumption, rather than a more holistic experience of shopping based as much on relationships and values as on products. And don’t get me started on the current realities of parenting in the US, and how totally isolating and demanding it is.

These are all vast, virtually inexorable forces influencing our very existence, over which we have far less control than we’re naturally comfortable with. Add to that a novel coronavirus with a nasty attitude that makes in-person connection a life-threatening proposition... Of COURSE we feel lonely and adrift in a sea of helplessness.

“Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

John Donne also knew what was up. Literally, he was saying that because we’re all human, any one person’s death affects us all. But he’s also reminding us more broadly of just how connected we all are through our humanity, lest we forget. Which goes back to the title of this post: we were never meant to be islands, which is why we’re struggling so much now.

You’re probably starting to wonder how any of this is relevant for a wine blog. In fact, all of this is entirely why I’m blogging for Sip Wines. It’s the bridge I want to help build.

Sip Wines is a company with a purpose and a mission, and it represents other people with similar purpose and missions. The idea for Sip Wines came from a desire to help small businesses in an incredibly difficult time, particularly businesses that are going out of their way to have a positive social and/or environmental impact. Each of the wineries on the Sip Wines site represents a person or family with hope, values, and a belief that what they’re doing matters. These wineries are using sustainable practices because they truly believe that their efforts can help our planet, or they’re speaking up for people of color in the wine industry because they’re not willing to quietly accept the effects of systemic racism. The founders of Sip Wines saw all that and believed that it was worth the work and the risk to build a platform that could lift these people up.

I’m usually as cynical as the next millennial, but at this moment, I am capable only of sincerity. Sip Wines has inspired me in a year of disillusionment and given me a sense of purpose and hope that my contributions might make a difference in their efforts. At the core, Sip Wines is about building the connections that we so desperately need right now. It’s not just about buying wine. It’s about buying wine from real people, with names and faces and families, who are also working hard to make things even just a little bit better in the world.

As we approach Election Day, I hope this can be at least a small reminder that bridges can still be built amidst loss and despair and small things absolutely can make a difference. Buying wine might seem trivial to you, but it also represents a greater purpose. Because to one of these wineries, it represents an affirmation of their dreams and determination. In a way, it’s everything.

So let's begin to build those bridges and support those making a difference with this first step - Sipwines.com.


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