The last ten months, give or take, have held so much. We have all had different struggles and triumphs, but I think one commonality amongst everyone is working to navigate this new landscape of friendships. New struggles have emerged- some driven by changed methods of interaction, some by new knowledge fueled by political and civil discourse (read: social media posts). You may be struggling because you can’t have your weekly coffee date with your best friend in person, or your mom can’t come to visit and spend time with your family. You may have learned some things about friends, thanks to social media, that have changed the way you see them. Without ‘forced’ social interactions through sports or kid activities, you may be feeling especially lonely, or starting to realize that you need to see people more than you ever knew.
We are all facing different challenges, but I think we are all facing challenges of some variety in this area. These are real issues and it is okay to grieve the lost time, miss your people, and long for connection. There is no shame in recognizing these losses and taking care of yourself. Do not dismiss your feelings.
As an introvert, I’ve found some gratitude in not having as many unintentional interactions on a daily basis. I appreciate meaningful and intentional contact, so the small talk and social aspects of things like kids’ sports, and school can be difficult for me to navigate. My anxiety increases in these small interactions, so having a breather from this has been a little blessing for me. It has been harder, however, to have some of those meaningful and intentional interactions. We aren’t able to do dinner parties and small gatherings. I appreciate that it has encouraged me to think a little outside of the box though, and I’ve found new ways of connecting with people I care about. Walking outside with friends wasn’t something I did much of before the pandemic. I am now walking consistently (weather and remote learning permitting) with a dear friend and we’ve been able to connect much more than we were before. I’m making an effort to pay attention to posts on social media and check in on people. I’m trying to do some things that wouldn’t be in my daily routine otherwise.
I’ve also found a means to actually help some of my most precious friendships in an unexpected way. I grew up and went to college in Washington, and several of my closest friends still live in the Pacific Northwest. We don’t get to see each other often due to geographical realities, but often, there was an upcoming, in person, trip to look forward to. A surprising change during lockdown was the growth of these friendships. I am someone who struggles with Face Time. It’s an amazing technological feature that I especially love for my kids, but using it often is not something that I’m super comfortable with. Similarly, I’m not great at calling friends just to catch up. During the initial shut down, two friends and I started a group chat on an app called Marco Polo. At first, it seemed weird- we were essentially talking to ourselves on video to send to each other. Quickly, however, it became really natural and I noticed a shift. We were communicating with each other daily, if not multiple times a day. Whether showered or in jammies and a mess, we talked to each other all the time. We saw each other’s kids and husbands on the videos. We shared messy rooms, ongoing projects, and children throwing tantrums. We got into the ‘real’ and became closer than we’ve been since living together. We’re talking from our bedroom floors, hiding in the closet, or in the middle of full chaos. A hard part of relationships is that when you don’t talk frequently, it can be harder to have things to talk about when you do connect. With constant connection, it is actually much easier because you know what is going on. You can hear about the work drama from yesterday or help pick a paint color for the living room. You get into the little things that make up our lives. No more big picture catching up, but everyday details that are the heart of who we are and what we do.
I also started using this app for a few friends that I don’t know that well, but want to know better. It was awkward at first, but it is seriously amazing what you can learn about each other and how much more comfortable it can be to just talk- not overanalyzing a text you’re sending because it might sound weird. If you say something stupid, you talk about it at that moment and make sure you get the point out in the way you meant to. Or you can ask follow up questions. It’s been so fun getting to make deeper connections with people during such a strange and sometimes lonely time. This is not sponsored or an ad- I am sure there are other apps like this and I’d love other recommendations, but I wanted to share this one that I have had such a positive experience with. I can honestly say that this new connection method has positively and significantly helped me through this time and, if you’re struggling, I encourage you to try it. Want a safe person to try it out with? Send me a message!
Have you had anything surprise you about friendships during the pandemic? Disappointments? Tell me about how your relationships have grown or changed (for better or worse) during this time.
Beth Mankamyer is a working Colorado mom of 3 seeking balance and happiness through health, fitness, better food, and safer products.