From the time we are all created, we are hardwired for connection. This means that, as we walk through life, we seek out relationships, especially friendships. We find ourselves on a life-long journey to find “our people”. When we find them, they quickly become a vital part of shaping who we become and how we spend our days. The cast of characters may change over the years, but the intention is always there. Whether you are extroverted or introverted, we all have–and need–people throughout our lives.
Aristotle said, “Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit”
Being in relationship with another person requires a partnership. The relationship requires attention in order to keep growing. If I can sound cheesy for a moment and use a cliche analogy–our relationships are like plants. They require water, sunshine, and love. Some plants require a little less of those things than others, but if you take it all away, they will die.
Lately, I have been feeling a lot like an untended plant. I miss my friends. I miss their hugs. Mostly, I miss how “easy” it felt to tend to those relationships. Even though we all had busy lives, we made it a priority to squeeze in time to see each other for a coffee break, a run, a meal, a happy hour, or ideally, a long weekend. With those things not able to happen, my relationships feel harder now and are requiring much more intentionality.
This all hit me one day a few months ago (which now feels like a year ago!) and when it hit, it struck hard. I found myself sobbing (likely about a lot of things) when I started to actually talk about my feelings out loud. After taking the time I needed to process this, I realized that what I was missing was the outlets I had naturally built into my life. Before COVID-19, my day included working outside of my home where I would grab coffee with a friend or stand and catch up with colleagues by the office printer. My life also included 5-6 days of exercise, which consisted of running with a friend or taking group classes.
I would also try to spend one evening every week or two getting a drink or a meal with a friend or group of friends. These moments were ones that I had intentionally set up in my life because my friendships fuel my soul (extrovert over here). What I have realized is that these moments allowed for a natural release of stress and time to talk about my feelings with “my people”. These times came to a sudden halt when we were asked to start social distancing. Like everyone else at the start of this, I didn’t really have a good handle on how long this would need to continue. I honestly still try not to think about too much because it leads down a dark hole that I would prefer to avoid.
We still have our friendships, but the amount of water, sun, and love they need right now feels a bit overwhelming. I am working from home full time and parenting two small children. My days feel rather long and by the end of them, I am exhausted. Even though I miss talking to my friends; to add it in right now feels like an added task to my day. The virtual world is amazing and has allowed for me to maintain my connections, but after staring at a computer screen all day and asking my kids to please put on their listening ears for what feels like the millionth time, I am lacking the energy for just one more thing.
Whether you are introverted or extroverted, our social lives does not look like it once did. Whether you preferred a small gathering for wine and games or you spent your days as the life of a daily party, being asked to stay away from those you love is difficult. This kind of love we are tapping into right now, this keeping each other safe through distance, is bigger than the coffee breaks, the happy hours, and the long weekends together. But it does leave us tasked with finding creative new ways to feed our friendship plants and ensure that we are caring for ourselves in the process. What I have learned is that I can no longer take for granted the importance of my relationships.
Someone said something in the early days of this pandemic that has stuck with me, “Screens and the virtual world are built for communication, not connection.”
This resonates with me because it feels like this is all we have right now. It’s like I’m leaving my plants while I go on an extended vacation. I don’t know what state they will be in when I return, but imagine the friendship plants will require some extra love and attention to keep them from completely withering away.
These days, my heart hurts a lot and yet, I also feel that the times that I have put intentionality behind the connections that I am working toward maintaining has brought a lot of light to the darkness. Even on the hardest of days, when I take time to connect with someone I love, I can feel our plant leaves raise up a little because the sun is shining on them. So as I share my feelings with you (plus a whole lot of plant talk), I hope that you too will continue to think of new ways to be intentional with your relationships; our connections with each other are what truly make the journey worthwhile.