Decluttering Friendships in the Pandemic Era
The global health crisis forced me to re-evaluate everything -- including who my friends are
“A good friend is a connection to life — a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.”
― Lois Wyse
During this time of isolation, I have learned that I really don’t have much in common with some of my friends. Some of my relationships are even toxic. I realized it was time to declutter those friendships and cultivate new ones with some folks I had lost touch with over the years.
Many of us keep friends just because we’ve known them for so long. We have “history,” and so choose to hang onto them throughout the decades. But when the pandemic arrived and I reached out to some of these kinds of friends, many were complaining about such minor problems as the closing of a barre studio or the cancelling of an overseas trip; some were disappointed they weren’t allowed to eat out in restaurants. And while I also miss all of those activities, I honestly feel grateful to have work, and I’m grateful Congress temporarily expanded unemployment benefits for those who did not. I see daily video postings of people from all walks of life in line at the food bank, and I can’t help but get annoyed at all the first world complaints I am witnessing.
Another group of “close” friends I reached out to did not even respond to my texts or emails. And it made me wonder: How can you be friends with someone who doesn’t ever contact you or answer your calls? And why would you put up with that? I’ve realized that I don’t really have much in common with these friends or share the same values. In some ways, the pandemic has brought out the best in people. But it has also brought out the worst. You could argue, perhaps, that these folks are depressed or isolated because of the pandemic. But unfortunately, I began to realize many were this way before the global health crisis. I have chosen to eliminate this bunch in order to make room for the friends who put forth the effort and show they truly care about how I am doing and what is going on in the world.
It has been said nature abhors a vacuum. So instead of mourning the loss of my alleged friends, I’ve cultivated and nurtured new ones. I reached out to a dear older friend who used to let me write books at her rural farm in Virginia. The setting inspired me to write, but now she teaches me how to grow lemongrass and harvest enough for soup. I also reconnected with a friend from my 20s whom I treated pretty poorly during a trip to Italy; I asked for her forgiveness. Now we text every day, giving each other support and motivation during the pandemic.
I’ve also made some new friends through volunteering who have inspired me to get off the sofa, turn off Netflix, and try to make a difference in this very difficult new world. I’ve learned to be grateful for a lot of simple things — and that includes my friends. I also think I now have a new definition of “friend,” and it’s one that suits me better.