Isolated Together

Cohousing is not only about the things we do together; it is also about the things we do alone. One of the major traits of cohousing, as an example of community living, is the ability to be alone. Cohousing has private homes, most commonly homes we own.  Individual household’s personal space is a distinguishing characteristic of cohousing. I’ve heard said that chousing is an especially valuable living situation for introverts–my community, Mosaic Commons Cohousing, in Berlin, MA, is mostly introverts.

So when the time comes for physical distancing, cohousing is well prepared. We each have space away from our neighbors. Our common facilities help us minimize our contact with the world–we’ve instituted sign-ups for the laundry room, a few people are working at home in common house rooms, making space in their homes for others to zoom in quiet. Once a week we have “community take out”, meals cooked in the common house or ordered from a restaurant, that we pick up from the great room and eat at home.

Our Zentangle group takes a break from the stressors by gathering in the great room, one person per dinner table, each with our own table covering, wearing masks, drawing silently together. The distanSing group gathers on the porch and patio, spread far beyond the six feet because of the risk deep breathing creates, and learns songs and rounds two afternoons a week. Aerobics has moved outside as well, doing interval training as they walk the pathways and the road, six feet apart and wearing face masks. 

In the midst of all this, a new family has moved into our community. This brought us some consternation–we’ve prided ourselves in our move-in weekend welcome. We don’t have any consistent rituals of welcome beyond a community hug (obviously off the table for now) but we have always been there to help with the move. One member of Mosaic has made sure to help unload the truck for every move-in. A few people always check that the new family will find that their beds are put together and made-up with sheets and blankets so they can sleep in their new home their first night, no matter how late the move happens. There is always someone who orders pizza or other take-out for the new family and the unloading crew.

All of this falls in the “not at this time” behavior. And because we are all overwhelmed, it wasn’t until the morning of the move that we realized we can’t be there for this new family. An email went out to the community list “what shall we do”. One or two ideas popped up, but not much energy to make them happen. And then a totally off the wall thought: what about toilet paper? We’ve had many emails about toilet paper–which stores have it in stock, which household needs some right away, someone found some and bought extra to share. 

We also always choose ideas that are funny.

So we were on. Each household donated one roll of toilet paper to the family moving in. Two of us went door to door, picking up rolls. Each roll was labeled with a sticky square of welcome. The few people who missed the pickup continued to drop by throughout the day to contribute additional rolls. A few people offered paper towels as well. A box of Matzoh was hidden in a cabinet with a note. Someone put a container of bubbles in each of the kids’ bedrooms.

Welcome to Mosaic. Welcome to a community that is hidden in our homes. Welcome to a community that like to laugh together. Welcome.

What are your community’s strategies for isolating together?

Category: transitions

Tags: Connecting, Coronavirus, isolation, living in cohousing, Stories

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