The expression “many hands make light work” is one of my favourites.

It perfectly describes both the decrease in individual work that the help of an extra person (or several) can create, as well as the feeling of ease we experience when we help each other tackle big things.

It is also one of the most well received of all the reasons I give people for one of my deepest held beliefs — we need more “us” in our lives. 

Pandemic loneliness and isolation

We need more “us” and the hope of community are ideas I’m thinking a lot about right now as we grapple with how to navigate our second year and third wave of the pandemic. 

Yes, because in the absence of our “us,” many of us are struggling. We see this in parents raising young ones without help from their communities. We see this in senior citizens lacking the support and information that might help get them to a vaccine appointment. We see this in folks missing not just their closest community members but the emotional support of those more casual acquaintances from our pre-pandemic lives. 

I’m also thinking about how we need more “us” because it is abundantly clear that the pandemic exacerbated isolation and shone a spotlight on loneliness. However, it is also clear that it didn’t invent them; and that its end won’t eliminate them.

We need to do that.

The hope of community

It feels good to be connected, to take care of each other, to share resources, to be seen and accepted by others as your full self, to be part of something bigger than you  . . . to be part of an “us.”

Yet, pandemic aside, a lot of North American society is designed to keep us apart. 

We’re told that success is growing up and getting a job that allows you to make enough money to live on your own. Or, if you happen to find one person with whom you want to live and be partners (and possibly procreate) that’s also cool. Anything else is generally considered a compromise. 

Workplaces talk a lot about the value of teamwork and collaboration, but they recruit, negotiate pay, and promote us as individuals. 

This pandemic started with a rallying cry of “we’re all in this together;” but, it became quickly clear that this was not true. Even worse, we saw the ways in which some would use the pandemic to further entrench gaps like those that exist at the intersections of race, gender, and income; and to spread hate

We need more “us.” Much of our society is designed for division. So, how do we fix it? How do we embrace the hope of community? 

Let’s figure it out together

I don’t have all the answers.

I do have my own experiences of opening up my life to more “us.” You can read about some of those experiences (and listen and watch) with a quick search of my name and the word “house” on the internet.

Five people in a hammock under a headline that reads: A new type of family: six housemates on the highs and lows of communal living
Above: screenshot from CBC Tapestry. Author Valery Navarrete is second from left.

I also have the last year of reflections after moving cities and shifting my relationship to my communities right at the start of the pandemic.

Most importantly, though, and in keeping with the focus on “us,” I have a passion for talking about the need for answers with as many people as possible. People who have their own insights from their own experiences with the presence or absence of “us” in their lives.

Because it’s one thing for me to say we need more “us,” and another for each of us to figure out how to go out there and co-create it. 

That’s why this spring I’m launching Life Without Us: a podcast that shares stories about living in and nourishing community to inspire more of us to have more “us” in our lives. 

You can check out the trailer here, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Please subscribe on your favourite platform, or sign up below to get episodes and other updates sent to your inbox. 

Life Without Us is a platform for collaboration. So, please send questions, suggestions for guests, co-hosts, and topics, as well as other feedback to us here or on via our Instagram @lifewithoutuspod

The first episode of season one drops next Tuesday April 6. Stay tuned for new episodes every Tuesday this spring!

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