It’s weird right now.
How I go about my day today is almost unrecognizable to my pre-March self. I would call you a liar if you had told me in February that I would willingly go to work even after all the fun parts of my job, aka the people, were taken away. It’s not as easy as saying I miss people, because I still see and interact with others. But I miss the easiness of seeing people; bumping into a coworker in the warehouse or letting a sales call linger into a personal conversation. Those things are luxury now and require a little more effort.
I value relationships with others. My friends are important to me, yet prior to the pandemic, it was easy to take them for granted. I wanted to do one more thing at work or I needed to get home to aid my kids in racing off someplace and so I cancelled plans or rescheduled. I was late to respond to a text or didn’t answer a ringing telephone. In short, time and friendship had a different meaning to me earlier this year. When I say I value my relationships, I fear my actions told a different story.
Through all the slowing down, staying home, and near constant heavyweight decision-making, I’ve discovered that it’s not restaurants or coffee shops or summer sports that I miss, it’s connection. Here are some suggested ways to maintain our most important friendships, even when making a quick coffee date is off the table.
PS: this isn’t my list. Not really. My one-in-a-million friend sent this to me when I texted her in a panic. She’s a keeper, folks.
- Listen. Not to respond but to hear. Did they have a rough day at work? A/C conk out during a 95 degree day? Are they starting a new job? Sometimes what we need is to be heard without being fixed. The simple act of listening is priceless and can be accomplished over email, text, Zoom, or snail mail. No coffee shop necessary. It does however take effort. Reach out to your friends and ask them how they are doing. Then listen to their response.
- Empathize. We are all making impossible decisions. We all have days they go great and some where we seem broken by the circumstances. But we as humans are continually capable of empathizing with someone else’s experiences. When you listen to hear, you can understand and sympathize with each other. My difficult decisions are easier, my job more exciting, when I can share my experiences with a friend.
- Find a way to laugh together. Share the memes. Tell the stories that seem too ridiculous to be true. There is plenty out there that’s laughable if we look for it. The world is practically writing its own sitcom right now. Find a way to share the laughter. While it’s important to empathize because not everyone is in the same emotional headspace, our kindness can offer reprieve and hardly anything beats a well-timed belly laugh.
- Take a walk. Time outside is good for everyone. It’s easier to distance when outside and even our preferences and opinions over mask ordinances can be completely avoided by taking a walk together. My friend and I walked to her local coffee shop last weekend and it was the best thing ever.
It’s harder right now to maintain our friendships. But it’s worth the effort. Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Let’s take the time to make sure our friends feel loved, cherished, and important now and always.