Since the first week of lockdown began, I am grateful to have spoken to a lot of people courtesy the ‘creative sandbox’ – a weekly online get together of communications professionals. It’s been a beautiful learning and sharing experience, through which I have met and got to know so many interesting folks.
A new set of professionals also opened their arms to include me into their world. This is courtesy a group of coaches who got together to offer pro-bono coaching for those in need. I linked up with the wonderful people of www.coachesforyou.com as a volunteer and have gotten to know so many new people in this journey of contributing. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.
I also met all the creative and smart people who joined our firm (in the last 3 months) in an online ‘get to know each other’ catch up. I have been spending more quality online time with senior leaders from our client base as well.
Locked up = Opening up: From the little corner of my bedroom which has become my world, I find myself more connected with the world than when I was out and about. Lockdown has definitely opened me up to new experiences. In many ways, I am shut in my home, but reaching out more, connecting with people in more meaningful ways, than I ever did before.
As I look back on the last 100 plus days, I have a lot to be grateful for. But the answer to the question I posed at the beginning – “Have I made a new friend?” is “NO” – I have not made a new friend (yet). What I have done is connected with a lot of interesting lovely people, a few of whom I hope to become friends with over time.
But maybe I have done something even better. I have made friends with myself. Got to know myself better. “What am I good at? Who do I matter to? Who matters to me? What are my fears? What gives me energy and joy?” I have gotten to know the answers to these questions and so much more. I have become closer to my family. I find myself fighting with them far less and am grateful for all the peace and happiness they give me.
I have reconnected with some old friends. New ‘old friends WhatsApp groups’ have sprung up. Stirred old memories. Some good, some painful. A few zoom parties were attended in the early days of lockdown before screen fatigue set in. Making friends is tough, even in the best of times. Social distancing. The sterility of screen based engagement. The aura of fear that hangs over everything, makes it difficult to make a new friend. Maybe I am just old school and have not got the hang of making friends online.
The thought that pops into my head – “What makes for a friendship?” Shared experiences and shared values maybe. Forged over a long period of time into something comfortable- like a favourite shirt that fits just right and feels comfortable. But then the body changes and the shirt sometimes no longer fits as well as it used to. The memory of how it felt is there, but it just does not feel the same. And that’s ok too.
I think maybe the question I should be asking is – “Have I been a good friend to my friends?” Much to be done on that front.
The one thing that stands out as a highlight for me is my friendship with my father. We used to speak to each other every Sunday in a pre-lockdown world. I now talk to him every evening. We know what is happening in each other’s lives (not just the big important stuff but the everyday things too). I know that mum and dad have redecorated their veranda. I have seen the new chairs and I know how much they cost. I know how their vegetable garden is coming along. How the tomatoes from Greece are turning out to be cherry tomatoes and not the big juicy red ones they were expecting. I know these titbits and so much more, that many others may find ordinary and boring. For me knowing about an ordinary day in their life and sharing parts of mine has been an extraordinary discovery – it has been the cherry on top of it all.
To all my friends, past, present and future. Thank you for holding your hand out. The world is a better place with friends in it. Here is me, reminding myself, to phone a friend today.
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