Connections

A friend recently posted about why she’s not going to her upcoming class reunion, and that reminded me that my own 30th class reunion is coming up in a couple of years. Even before her post, I’d been thinking about people I went to school with, about people I was close to and people I never really got to know, wondering where they are and how they’re doing and what’s up in their lives and how we’d like each other now.

Along about the same time, I got my aunt’s invitation to the family’s annual Thanksgiving celebration. I had to RSVP that we wouldn’t be able to be there, and it made me wistful. I want to see their new house and hear about their latest undertakings, to see my cousins – the ones who are left – and meet their children and reconnect with everyone again.

In the past week, I’ve also talked with my mom on the phone, emailed both her and my sister, and had a long phone conversation with a friend I don’t see nearly as often as I should.

All of this has gotten me thinbking about how much I value the connections in my life, and how important maintaining them has become to me.

Growing Up Semi-Detatched

I grew up on and around a series of Army bases. Most everyone I knew was in the same boat.

People were there, and then they weren’t. You might stay in touch, and you might meet again down the road at a future post, but generally speaking, there was a regular turnover in your neighbors and who was available to be friends with.

We stayed in touch with extended family through letters and cards and phone calls, and when we were close enough, we’d travel to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with the family. I’d say there was a closeness in our family, but also, at least for me, a bit of a remove: Family were there, and then they weren’t, and generally a while would go by before you saw them again.

Looking back, I think that in my teenage and early adult years, I wasn’t very good at making or maintaining connections. I didn’t really know how to reach out to the people around me, and when I did connect with someone, I wasn’t very adept at keeping that connection going.

I will say that having a brain tumor probably didn’t help win friends and influence people. At the height of Bob the Brain Tumor’s reign, I was isolated, withdrawn, and in some ways even paranoid.

Since Bob and his ilk tend to grow slowly, averaging half a millimeter a year, and Bob was 5.5 centimeters when he was finally discovered, I have no idea how long he might have been lurking there, affecting me and my social interactions in more subtle ways.

It’s possible a lot of my lifelong “quirks” have been at least partly due to Bob’s influence.

There’s really no way to know.

Older and Wiser and…Friendlier?

Over the past few years, I’ve become a lot more interested in making and maintaining connections, and in reconnecting with people from the past.

I’m really not sure why. It could be due to Bob’s eviction. Could be because blindness is inherently isolating, sparking more of a need to reach out. Could even be just that I’m getting older. Could be a combination of any or all of those things.

What I do know is that I want people in my life, and I want to build better relationships with them.

I want to get to know my neices and nephew. I want to stay in better touch with my sister and my mom. I want to catch up with my aunts and uncles and cousins and what’s going on in their lives. I want to hear from old friends and classmates, from those I got along with and those I didn’t, and chat about what’s happened in our lives since those times.

I want to make new friends, and spend more time with the ones I have.

That said, I’m kind of bad at this whole friendship thing.

I hesitate to start a conversation or call someone or send an email, because I don’t want to be an annoyance and I’m a little fearful of being rebuffed.

I hesitate to suggest getting together, because I’ll have to either arrange transportation and meet somewhere, or ask them to pick me up, and I don’t want to be a hassle or a burden.

Sometimes I’m a little jealous of my time and energy, and sometimes I get overwhelmed and need to crawl back into my nice, quiet room and recharge.

I don’t call. Sometimes I drop the ball on email conversations. I forget to touch base and to ask about what’s going on in my friends’ lives. I have a FaceBook profile, but navigating FB totally mystifies me.

I guess I’m kind of lousy at being a friend.

But this is important to me, and I’m trying to learn to do it better. Trying to remember to reach out, to touch base, to be present in the moment and be with the people I’m with.

Did you have a lot of friends growing up? Are you still in touch? Do you make and maintain friendships easily, or is it a stretch for you, too? How do you nurture the friendships and connections in your life?

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2 thoughts on “Connections

  1. I don’t easily make new friends and so am very grateful that my awkwardness in learning to navigate old friendships hasn’t wrecked them! In the past, I didn’t have the sense to see that my desire for friendship was out of step with the desire of others, and I didn’t know how to match their cruising speed.

    It’s taken a lot of time but with those old friends that I have stayed in touch with, we’ve maintained contact (I hate the phone so calls are no fun even if I had time to be on the phone anymore), and it’s just comfortable. I guess 10- 20 years of history will do that to you. But what it also does, for me anyway, is makes it that much harder to remember how to make friends in the first place. For that, I rely on the internet now 🙂

    Maintenance: I do all the things that you do but I don’t beat myself up over it. I pick up a new email thread if I dropped the last one. If I don’t know how they’re doing because it’s been too long since we checked in, I send a text or an email asking how they are. As we get older, we try not to waste time getting hung up on things that don’t matter, and a lot of things can fall under that umbrella when we’re old and relaxed about it!

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    1. Those are some really great points!

      Most of my friendships do tend to be pretty low-maintenance. I can go for weeks or even months without talking to my mom or my sister, just because we don’t get around to picking up the phone. And when we do talk, we have a great time and even joke about how we’ve been meaning to call and isn’t it a good thing none of us is high-maintenance. I’m definitely not a phone person, either! I’ll go out of my way to avoid making phone calls whenever possible. I love email and computer interaction, because they give me a chance to organize my thoughts before I open my mouth.

      And – yeah! I have such a hard time transitioning from “friendly acquaintances” to actual friends. I have a hard time reaching out to people because I have this terrible fear of being a pest. It’s taken me a long time to internalize that most people (once you’re out of middle school) actually like it when you talk to them, ask about their families or the projects they’re working on, and express an interest in hanging out with them. Still trying to find balance there, and I so envy those for whom it comes naturally.

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