46. Staying in Touch

Good morning and welcome to your forty-sixth meditation. Do you struggle to stay in touch with old friends? Does it cause you undue stress? Does it feel like just one more thing you have to do? This meditation will suggest some ways of dealing with that feeling on an emotional level, as well as offer some practical tips of what you can do (and avoid doing) to make it easier for you to stay in touch, and maintain and nurture those relationships that enrich your life.

First thing’s first, don’t punish yourself for being a bad friend because you haven’t called in a while. Don’t think that you are failing to fulfil an obligation that is required by friendship. Back in the days before air travel and rapid communication, people mostly stuck with whatever communities they found themselves in. This meant that your group of friends and family was generally pretty small, contained, and close by so that staying in touch wasn’t an issue. These days, people are able to travel all over the world easily and quickly, live in massive cities and contact friends, no matter how far-flung, with a flourish of their fingers. As a result, it’s now possible to literally have thousands of friends. With so many people in your life, you could spend all your living hours staying in touch with friends. This, of course, isn’t realistic, nor is it recommended. And it is definitely not an obligation. So don’t sweat it. 

Although travelling around and making lots of friends is all fine and well, in order to avoid the stress of maintaining so many friendships we need to make some cuts. This is not to say that we excommunicate anyone, only that we actively decide which relationships are most important to us, and then confidently allot the proportional amount of time and energy to maintaining each respective relationship. To do this, make a list. Prioritize your friends and family in terms of those who enrich your life, numbering them from the most to the least. Assign percentages representing how much friend-time you want to dedicate to each one. It may seem a little callous at first, but think about it, you are effectively making these same decisions in a less controlled way whenever you give some of your time to someone else. Remember that your time is finite and precious. To offer it to someone is to offer them a gift. So it’s only right that you give that gift to someone that you would like to receive it. That means you don’t need to say “yes” to everyone. Practise saying “no”. You don’t need an excuse. However, if pressed, “I just feel like hanging out alone tonight” is a perfectly legitimate reason.For those relationships that you value most, set aside specific times to nurture them. If you are busy focussed on work, and a thought of an old friend pops into your head, make a note of it, and continue working. Later, say, after dinner, if you decide that you would be enriched by communicating with that person, go for it. If, on the other hand, your being reminded of them was just a pleasant memory, then just enjoy that feeling, and then move on. Relationships grow and fade. They are under no obligation to remain meaningful, and we are under no obligation to try to force them to do so. Forget about which bonds you used to value the most. The question is, which do you value now? Focus on those. Make time for them. Stay in touch. And let them know how much you value them. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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