I have the bad habit of hiding and holing myself away for a while. It’s when I’m deep in writing, processing, or thinking. I get a bit estranged from the connectivity of it all.
When I emerge, I begin to remember things that I used to do, that I’ve forgotten. A quick sniff of my armpits and I realize that I should probably have showered a bit more frequently; my face is greasy with non-washing and my yoga pants have several days’ worth of food wiped across them.
And I remember that I’ve forgotten to stay in touch. I’ve forgotten to write back to friends. Email has piled up in that unforgiving way, hundreds of messages blinking at me angrily in the ether, waiting and insisting upon an urgent response.
Two weeks is a fast reply, right?
When I disappear into it all, I fail to stay in touch with my friends. Sometimes the guilt seeps in — I missed it! I should have paid more attention! — but deep down, I also know that the way into deep work is to stave off the notifications and the messages for a while.
And as a way back in, I like to write. Write to my friends, write to my family.
The worst habit I have, which I’m a bit remiss to confess here, is one in which I emerge, and then stiffly and frustratingly wonder why people aren’t reaching out to me.
Why don’t I have a new message today?
(As though my friends should be patiently waiting for my return and then instantly messaging me.)
It’s on me.
And so I write.
I write my friends a letter. A note.
These are a few of the ways I like to reconnect:
> By text message
Hi! I’ve missed you. Sorry for the delays, I’ve been inside and under a writing rock lately. Let me know how you’ve been and if you want to catch up!
> By audio message
I’m still a bit wary of the actual telephone, so I love to record audio messages for my friends and drop them off.
> By postcard
Postcards cost 34 cents to mail, and about 50 cents to purchase. Isn’t that absolutely incredible? I keep a stash inside the front pocket of my kindle to write when I’m out and about, or when I’m in line, or when I’m traveling on a plane.
> By friend update
I write a monthly friend update — a personal letter of sorts. It’s a small list of people I want to keep in touch with, which goes out, not monthly, but in the months I remember to send it. (Critical distinction, eh?). I forgive myself in advance for the months I forget and pick up during the months I remember. Some quarters just aren’t that externally facing, and that’s part of the seasonality of life.
I tell them a bit about my work and my current thought process, the research projects I’m engaged in, and any struggles that are presenting themselves.
I ask them to write back. I get a dozen or so responses, and we re-engage.
> By email love letter
This is perhaps my favorite of all time. I like to ask people how to show up better for them in their lives, to learn what they like, to hear about what would be helpful for them.
When I find my people in this world, I try to keep them around. People that are on a similar wavelength of curiosity and experimentation, of kindness and depth. And one way to do this is by writing a letter of admiration and connection to them.
To tell them the joy of being acquainted with them, and how much you’re looking forward to getting to know them, however it transpires.
And the question I want to share with the blog today, a nascent question in my journey into better-connected friendships, is a question I find poignant, raw, and mind exploding.
How can I better show up as a friend for you?
I found myself craving a friendship with two people I’d fallen in (friend) love with, and we lived far apart, each equally busy in our world of work and life pursuits. We weren’t going to happen to run into each other very often.
I wrote them an email, titled, simply:
And the email said:
I have a question for you, which might seem strange, but here goes:
How can I show up as a better friend for you?
I’ve got a really strong intuition and feeling that I want to be in your life, that we will stay in touch.
So, for you: what would it look like to have amazing friend support? What makes your life better? How can we show up for you?
Especially in the age of “too busy” and tons of work, what might this look like? Text messages? Random 5 minute chats?
A thought and a question to start a conversation.
How are you reaching out to your friends?
One of my practices in friendship and connection is working to pro-actively initiate more of the types of friendships I want to have in my life. I believe in the rule of 50 people, and the need for vastly better structures of community in our lives. I want my little one to have dozens of “Aunts” and “Uncles” he can turn to when his mom isn’t the right person to go to, and I want the same for myself.
I dream of being surrounded by wonderful men and women, in community, going deeper in ideas, in sharing, in storytelling, and in supporting each other.
It is my belief that telling our stories helps us heal, helps us connect, and helps us feel less alone amidst the existential loneliness of it all (we’re all just floating in space, really, right?).
And so we must reach out, to each other.
What are your favorite practices for reaching out and staying connected with friends? How do you want to show up in the lives of other people, and how do you want people to show up in your lives? Leave a note in the comments!—