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The world changed. More importantly, all of our own little individual worlds changed.

In our daily lives all of us, each individual human being, are the sun of our own universe. This isn’t merely empowerment talk, or some revelation on the greatness of selfishness and greed, but just a simple fact. Our realities are based on perception and that’s centered within each of us. We effectively become suns, with our gravitational forces pulling things into us, controlling the motions of the bodies around us, and reminding us that human existence has more in common with celestial mechanics than reality shows.

Understanding a celestial body, like a sun, can take a lot of work though. Whitney McDuff has tried more than many to understand me. Our friendship is founded on a series of talks where she delves deeper and deeper. We come from different places, view the world very differently, and yet she has never ceased to try and understand.

The world has changed. My friendship with Whitney has not.

Connecting with Whitney begins very much as usual, with a discussion of some pop culture phenomenon and our individual perspectives on it. This time it’s Tiger King, that streaming train wreck about terrible people and the poor apex predators born into their midst. It quickly turns into a discussion of the major philosophical takeaway from that questionable program, that the ends do not justify the means, a lesson the world increasingly seems to forget.

I’ve often thought a college seminar with her would be the most amazing class.

We talk about our worlds, about the changes that have come to us, about how each other are doing. I tell her about the joy I have found in solace, about the increased drive to write and create. Whitney tells me about her kids, about the joy in slowed time, and about the realizations she’s come to.

Whitney McDuff tells me she’s realized she doesn’t need to be at every event. In the entire time I’ve known this powerhouse of a woman, I’ve never seen her miss an event. In fact, when things got too busy for us to catch up, I often made my way to a random networking event and found her there. I detest networking events, but my friend’s always made them seem effortless and fun. She genuinely enjoys being around people.

But events take time.

Now that the world has slowed down and those events have largely gone away, Whitney’s realized that it hasn’t hurt her business. And that extra time? Spent on backyard adventures with her children.

We often bemoan social media and this new level of non-stop availability we have in our lives. It’s easy to find the negative in a world full of influencers and the constant rush for fifteen minutes of fame. Even now, when these windows into the lives of others become one of our only views of a world beyond ourselves, we open them grudgingly. Seeing the negative in a thing is always the easiest path to walk.

Lately Whitney’s social media feed has been, well it’s just been fun. Social distancing has led her to spending more time with her kids, having picnics, playing ninjas in the backyard, and the like. For me, the best part of this is the evening story time she shares live over social media with her son Holbrook.

These little breaks from the world, sitting at my desk, taking a moment to watch this dynamic duo share a story, and the occasional misadventure that comes with story time, is nothing short of wonderful. You can tell that this time isn’t an inconvenience for Whitney, it’s a gift, a slower world where the distractions have all shut their doors leaving time for stories and ninjas. I think Whitney would agree, we can all use more ninjas and stories in our day.

One of the hardest things to say in our language is “no.” Not because the word is exceptionally complex, but because we so often feel that we are here for the needs of others. And to an extent that’s true. We should help others, but we need to decide how we do that. Time isn’t an infinite resource. I think parents like Whitney understand that more than most, as watching a child grow up quickly is a daily reminder that the meter is running and we don’t know when it stops for any of us.

I’ve known Whitney for a couple of years, crafting several images of her in my mind, the memories that pop into our head when a name, smell, or voice is invoked. It’s almost always been this dynamic diva at an event, laughing, smiling, and hugging her way to the center of the room. Whitney is definitely a bright light in the world.

But that image no longer fits.

No, now I will always remember Whitney at story time. The same love she has always shared with the world, but this time in a different way. Not in the grand ways of an event, but in the quiet moments of sharing stories, especially Where the Wild Things Are. Those moments where you are so at peace you could just lay down and fall asleep, no matter whether you’re four or forty.

There’s a special wonder to Whitney. Sometimes you just need the world to pause for a moment so you don’t miss it.

So take the time. Become a pirate in your living room, a ninja in the backyard, or a wizard in the kitchen. Enjoy the slow days, and take the time to listen to a story with Whitney.

Maybe even grab a cookie.

Social distance and the isolation that accompanies it can be hard for many, especially when you combine it with the stress of our current situation. Please, reach out and connect with people. Share your stories and your time. Use the technology available to stay close to people.

If you want to be a part of this project and share some time and stories with others, or if you just need to connect with someone, reach out to me here.

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