By Neen Chapman
Connection is a strange word. It has multiple uses, from inanimate objects like Lego, connecting to build a Star Wars model fighter; comforting connections with animals, such as cuddles with my four kitty cats; physical chemistry between humans that can range from a fleeting spark to a decades-long burning desire; and then there’s spiritual fulfilment with a person, a location, or a memory.
As I know it, connection between humans also has multiple depths and meanings. I’ve always had varying depths or levels of connections throughout my life. I’ve just turned 50 (no celebration, yet, thanks, COVID-19) and in, let’s say, 30 years of memory and experience, I can honestly say I’ve been lucky to have two deep, emotional, life, laughter, love connections. They were complex relationships, filled with honesty, absolute joy, maddening frustration, intense love, grief, and tragic loss. Mardi and Wayne will forever be the loves of my life.
Along the way, I’ve also had and have intellectual connections, likeminded connections, community connections, supportive connections, lost connections, kink connections, artistic connections, fleeting connections, and connections that return over and over just when I think they have seen their day.
Connection with other humans, some say, is essential. I’m a bit iffy on that one. I’m comfortable on my own and in my own company. I’m never bored—I can either entertain myself or relax and switch mostly off and be in a good space. I love long drives in my Mini Cooper up to the mountains, to the bush, to the beach, listening to music or just being still and in the quiet of the moment. I have what I call “lite” connection with some work colleagues, acquaintances, community friends, bi+ friends, and some of my family. I know they’re there, and some check in from time to time, but I don’t rely on others to buoy my headspace and wellbeing. I’ve had years of practice. I’ve lived with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) for over 23 years, and that kind of disorder has trained me to rely on myself for so many reasons: sometimes it’s just easier, sometimes I keep myself private and on my own as a way of self-care, and with my flavour of DID I’m never actually alone—25 alter personalities.
DID doesn’t mean that I hold special connections at bay, but they are few, and I’m discerning. I have exceptionally beautiful friendships within the bi+ community, here in Sydney and all over the world. I have a wonderful, hilarious, comforting, intellectual, worldly, incredible friend who lives just up the road, and we speak every night. We talk about everything. Always have. I met her at the bus stop that takes us to work. She has incredible hair, beautiful dreadlocks, and I have out there, cool and interesting shoes. That’s how we met. I complimented her on her hair, she on my shoes and, over three years later, here we are, being each other’s COVID-19 girlfriend (carefully caring at a distance for each other while in isolation—if the cops ever asked). We have such an honest connection in friendship and life’s hardships, and it all started with dreadlocks and patent leather shoes.
I have an erstwhile lover who, over the years, has returned to my life from time to time and, right now, he is a clear and calming influence on my, at times, chaotic mind. He reminds me that my own isolation is acceptable—but not to remain too long in it—and that whatever I’m experiencing, feeling, thinking he accepts 100% as me. He is a breathtakingly beautiful Scottish man whom I met when we were much younger. The intense young man having an intense affair with a woman 10 years older. He has his own demons, his own trials, and we sort of speak about them, perhaps not as much as we should. Even so, I count him as someone who knows me intimately in the most vulnerable way—my true nature. This is the most mystifying and intense connection I have and suspect I will ever have.
Then there is my big brother. A person whom I adore and admire, look up to, and am equal with. He’s been an unwavering support, friend, counsel, fellow car enthusiast, ethical, and intellectual conversationalist and just the best big brother for the past 50 years. He’s struggling right now, and when we get to talk, it’s with care and love and empathy for the difficulty he is in with a young family, some health concerns, and uncertainty of work and income all thanks to COVID-19. The main thing is when he can, we do talk. We listen carefully to each other and our concern and familiar connection is the most loving and heartening of all my family relationships.
The thing is, as I said, I don’t rely on people for “connection,” to feel grounded, to be in the world or of the moment. Maybe that makes me fortunate right now as we all face this crisis. That said, I’m immensely grateful for good conversation, sharing laughter and comforting counsel. My Beautiful Humans. I chose these people and reveal all that I am with them. My strongest human connections, these days, and always, have been these.
How has COVID-19 changed my connection—well, long drives with music blaring and quiet barefoot walks on the sand or in the forest are a no-no at the moment. Experiencing the moment that I’m in. Breathing in the vastness of the universe, knowing my very small place in it, and accepting that I rely on myself for calm, for care, for self-management and for the health of my mind. I hold my connection to the earth in as high esteem as I hold my chosen Beautiful Humans.
What COVID-19 has done is to focus my efforts and clarify my mind on exactly who/what I invest in. I love our bi+ community here in Australia and abroad. Beautiful cups of tea with likeminded people with whom I never need to explain myself to and have ease to talk and listen. Mostly one-on-one, occasionally with several of us online, playing a game or telling stories. In many cases it’s the same as it has been without COVID-19, as I am, as they say, a loner, but I do miss our picnics and lunches. I miss our meetings and conversations with our wonderful diverse humans and the stories of their lives.
What I have done on purpose is turn Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and news feeds off. The bombardment of hundreds of posts and updates—even positive ones—got too much for me. That’s working for me. My dear friends let me know anything pertinent. The quiet is blissful. Real conversation and listening, accepting my busy mind and allowing it to rest are my tools for facing COVID-19. Making the effort with loved ones whoever they are and finding conversation other than the woes of the world are keeping me from being too introverted.
So are playing trivia on Zoom, reading poetry to a friend, creating bi+ art, painting bi+ t-shirt/jacket patches, recycling old world fabrics to make alternative fashion; these are the ways I stay sane, engaged, and active outside of working from home.
COVID-19 is a virus that has physically separated us from the beautiful humans in our lives. And it’s a shite way to spend 2020—no question about it—but maintaining or starting up conversations, perhaps with more focused listening, reflection and empathy is what we all can do. Use the internet wisely, make phone calls, write letters—be old-fashioned in the 20th century kind of way, arrange a footpath conversation, meet for a distanced walk in the park or a coffee.
Connection doesn’t have to be with many, and the ones you do have, and the ones you care for are exactly enough. You don’t have to stay busy; you have permission to do nothing or permission to breathe deeply and face the virus in whichever way helps you. Your community is there. Will always be there. Have a cup of tea over a video chat or a phone call; if allowed, get a coffee and go for a walk in the sun with someone you can listen to, call in to your bi+ and pan+ networks as I’m certain they’re organizing ways for you all to see each other, listen to each other, and remain connected to the real loved ones, the Beautiful Humans in your beautiful bi+ life.
Neen Chapman is bi+ pan and out in all aspects of life and work, recently 50 (how did that happen), silver haired-and loving being the Vice President of Sydney Bi+ Network, housemaid to four lovely, crazy kitty cats and deeply into history, reading, geology, documentaries, art, painting, poetry, equality, bi+ activism, politics, and kink.