Only Connect

  • April 14, 2020

I am not the best person at staying in touch. At every job I’ve ever worked there have been people who made difficult days easier, interminable meetings shorter, and unbearable bosses tolerable. When I’ve left, or they’ve left, I’ve always meant it when I said, “Keep in touch.” But it takes work to maintain a friendship and I’m sorry to say that I exhibit a lot of laziness in this area.

New job demands, the next family crisis, or sometimes the introvert’s concern about intruding on another person can make me hesitate to get in touch. Then before I know it, so much time has passed that calling an old acquaintance starts to feel awkward. I worry about interrupting, or being an unwelcome bother, or sometimes—if it’s been long enough—if the person I remember so fondly will even remember my name.

Extroverts like my husband do not wrestle with such questions. For Gary, to think is to do. As soon as a friend he hasn’t talked to in a while crosses his mind, he puts action to thought and picks up the phone. Sometimes, when I think he is taking a quick nap, or balancing the checkbook, or working in the yard, I’ll discover that he’s been on the phone with an old acquaintance, checking to see how they’ve been for the last week, or month, or decade. If he is in an enforced period of solitude, as we are right now, he’s good for at least four calls a day, and his record so far is ten. Thus, he maintains a roster of friends that numbers in the thousands—or so it seems to me. At any rate, it’s a way longer list than mine.

Fortunately for me, I do have a small circle of low-maintenance friends. These are people I may not see, or talk to, or email, for weeks, or months, or sometimes even years. But whenever we do connect, there are no recriminations or apologies for lengthy gaps in communication. Instead, we slip right back into the easy camaraderie of common values and shared histories whether they stem from school, or college, or work.

But this current surreal situation has made me realize more fully that I need to regularly tend to  the connections that I value. Because an opportunity deferred may turn into an opportunity lost forever.

And so, when we finally emerge from this world of social distancing, I’m not just going to say “Let’s have lunch soon.” Instead I’ll say, “Let’s have lunch next Tuesday at one o’clock. I’ll pick you up.”

 It’s not enough to think about connecting, you have to make it happen.