How many times do you get home and think, ‘I should really call my friend’ or ‘It’s been ages since I’ve spoken to this person, we should catch up’? I know I think about it on a regular basis. But then I don’t, I don’t pick up the phone and call, I don’t make the time.
I don’t prioritise enough the important people in my life. I’m not talking about the everyday people, my partner, my sister, my parents. But those other people. Old friends from school or work. Good friends who I love, but just don’t see on a regular basis. And I find I use anything as an excuse not to. ‘I just finished work, had a hard day and just want to chill out in front of the tv.’ ‘I have other things I have to do, make lunches, go to yoga.’ All important things.
I know there are the people most of us have in our lives who, we might not speak to for months or years on end, and when you see them again, it’s like no time at all has passed. And that’s great. I have those friends too. The thing is, would I feel comfortable calling on these people in a time of need, given I haven’t called them to say ‘Hi,’ in I don’t know how long?
It wasn’t until recently that I remembered how important it is to maintain these connections. I injured my leg and was stuck with a cast and had to use crutches for nine weeks. For several of those weeks, I had to remain 100% off my foot, which meant I wasn’t even able to leave my apartment.
It was tough, but I was lucky
I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t clean, I couldn’t even get downstairs to collect my Deliveroo when it arrived. At some points of my recovery, I wasn’t able to do anything apart from using the bathroom and had to try keeping that as minimal as possible. I was lucky though, my close friends and family banded together to help me out, taking shifts to ensure I had everything I needed to be comfortable and to get through, what was a tough time.
I realised how lucky I am to have the people that I do have in my life.
But It got me to thinking. What if I didn’t have a close friend who could drop everything to care for me when I needed. And what if my parents didn’t live nearby, and I didn’t know my neighbours, and all of these people weren’t around to take over when someone else couldn’t?
There were two days in there when my friends and relatives schedules all clashed, and I was left on my own (with plenty of supplies and meals prepared), and I wondered, who else if I needed a helping hand, could I call on in a time of need.
It dawned on me. I had left it too long between drinks, as they say, to feel comfortable to ask some of my friends for help. I started to wonder about how tough it would be to cope with such a difficult situation if I didn’t have people close to me to call on. It gave me a completely new perspective on why it’s so important to keep the connections, which are important to me, strong.
Stop using ‘no time’ as an excuse
My sister was telling me about a time a friend of hers, Marcus, had broken his foot. She was telling me that Marcus was new to town, so he didn’t have many friends or family around, and he pretty much had to look after himself. Of course, my sister helped him out where she could, but she had her kids, job and house to look after also. I know the smallest tasks for me during my injury were almost impossible. The few times I was left to fend for myself, I wasn’t able to make a cup of coffee or tea and carry it from the kitchen to the lounge room. I couldn’t wash my clothes or do any cleaning. Cooking on the stove was impossible and reaching for anything high up was a huge challenge. I can’t imagine how it would’ve been for Marcus having to do all those kinds of tasks on a daily basis for himself.
It was then that I picked up the phone and started reconnecting with the people I care so much for but just hadn’t kept in contact with. I rang an old work friend who I’d been close with for a long time but hadn’t seen for over a year. I rang a friend I’d had for 15 years who I usually only text on her birthday, I emailed a group of my old school friends to find out what everyone was up to. Everyone was so happy to hear from me, and it really lifted my spirits. And as a bonus, I ended up getting a whole lot of extra visitors during that time. Granted, at the time I had a lot of time on my hands, but I don’t really believe ‘lack of time’ is a valid excuse for not sending an email, a quick phone call or a catch-up coffee.
What I do now…
Now that I’m back to my old self, I make it a priority that at least once a month I connect with the people I care about the most in life. And it doesn’t take much time. Often I use the time I’m travelling on the train to write an SMS or make a call, or when I’m waiting for an appointment, I draft an email (and remember to send it). I also calendar people’s birthdays and have a reminder to mail them a card the week before. What a simple, inexpensive gesture and I get such a grateful response each time, because, who gets great things in the mail these days? It brightens their day, even if it’s just a little.
I also make a habit of meeting new people. When I’m out with friends, or by myself having a coffee, I say “Hi” and start conversations with people I don’t know. It’s really easy to start, just find something you find interesting about the way someone looks, and give them a compliment. Or ask someone where is their favourite place to eat. You’d be surprised with what you learn when you start chatting to more people. I’ve gotten invites to fun events, learnt about great holiday destinations and restaurants, and I’ve even created great friendships this way.
And I can definitely say, now I have a greater community of friends and people in my life that I could call on in any time of need.