My 10-year-old son bounds out of the van as I drop him off at school. I see another little guy, back pack knocking against his body, as he spies my boy and runs to catch up to him. Their faces burst into smiles when they meet up; sincere grins that show trust and acceptance in and of each other. Secure, liking both what they see in front of them as well as what is reflected back: pure joy in knowing each other.
It's no small thing to feel accepted, valued, in another's eyes.
If we're fortunate, we have people in our lives that help us remember who we are and that we are not alone in our days here: friends, partners, co-workers, exercise buddies, book clubbers. I wrote a post earlier this month with some suggestions on where to begin looking for companions along this road of life.
There are books written, an especially helpful one by Renee Trudeau, on the value and therapeutic benefits of having people who understand us in our lives. What Trudeau calls a personal support system. Support, because they hold us up, like strong beams against a howling wind. Having friends is natural and effortless when we are young, but for me, it takes much work in this later part of my life.
What is it about relationships at this phase of our life? Busy? Yes. Excuses? They don't feel like excuses. We have important, pressing, urgent, time sensitive responsibilities to others now. There are mouths to feed and little people to keep warm and dry.
Much too quickly, we find ourselves only doing, and not maintaining.
It's not easy, and it takes effort and planning, sometimes just acting on the impulse to reach out -- to make time for friends and personal contacts -- but it's worth every bit of work. Life is better with someone there to give a pat on the back or send a kind word. Knowing there are minds and hearts out there, caring about you, sending you love. The personal support system that friendships create is something that reminds us that we have a place to turn to.
Friendships can be re-ignited, or an initial spark can be lit, in one of many ways.
Here is what I have found to be successful in maintaining, building, and connecting with people I really, really like, and need:
A quick voice mail to say you miss someone, a short email saying you’d like to catch up, or a simple hand written note inviting them for coffee. It is an action set into motion that will start the wheels spinning in the right direction.
One of the challenges of a busy life is to carve out time to reach out. Finding time. Making the time, even if you never have it. We need to tend to our relationships with others to keep this friendship alive and healthy. Making staying in touch a scheduled priority; as in, every Wednesday morning, scheduling a walk with a friend, then sticking to it. Make the time, rather than waiting for the time to appear.
A Quick Conversation Still Works
With the internet, emailing, voice mail, twitter, Facebook, there really is no reason we cannot have a quick two minute check in, to ask how they are, retell a funny story, update someone on our life, wish them a good day. It can be done. And we can do it on our own timetable. It's communication that keeps a friendship alive.
Keep It Simple
If we wait for the right time, the right words, the right event, we can end up waiting for a time that never comes. We need to grab, snatch, make, the few minutes it takes to feel connected. It can be so simple and doesn't need to be a half hour phone call -- five minutes will do -- a quick gesture or words saying, “Hello, I miss you, and I’m so glad you are in my life.” This is how you let someone know they are important to you.
Small accommodations with a huge pay off. These daily, mini gestures on my part have made an amazing difference to me and to my presence in my friends' lives.
It’s the power of a deliberate effort that brings its reward. And the reward of feeling connected and bonded just from a few minutes of my time on a daily basis far outweighs the few minutes I am able to give here and there. We're social creatures, craving that presence of another.
Just one soft touch down in someone's life can keep that person in your life.
My son sees his friends every day. They are vested in each other through laughter and shared lunch times. No wonder their smiles light up as big as the sun when they see each other again the next day. Smiles as telling as mine when I see my friends; the ones I sit down for at 11 p.m. at night to send them an email -- the people I'm so much happier with, than without.
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