It takes a lot of time and effort to cross connect boundaries to move these associations from affiliations to actual relationships. For that reason, most people are content to simply maintain these connections while it is convenient. I have found that once the context for the association is removed, so is the entire connection.
We moved around a lot in the years I spent working. While we were living in one place, it would seem that we had a lot of connections with coworkers, neighbors and people from church. However, once we moved, most of those connections were lost – out of sight out of mind, I guess. Besides, maintaining these connections may require work – like sending personal messages on Facebook or an occasional phone call.
I am not able to send emails or make phone calls without someone doing it for me so many relationships have been lost. I am in my home a lot so fortunately, my neighbors are still connected to me!
Being in this situation has made me think about what people can do in order to stay connected especially with someone like me who has been forced to be removed from the environments that led to all their social interactions. I am not going to lie; I am lonely.
ALS is my only reliable constant companion. Russell and Laura are around me the most but they focus much of their time and energy simply on taking care of me. My children do spend time with me but they are also typical young adults who are busy with jobs, friends and school. I long to have some meaningful connections outside of my family.
I want to encourage you to take steps to maintain the connections you have in your life and turn them into relationships.
Even if it has been a while since you last communicated, find a way to reach out to the person. With all of the electronic options available, it is so easy today. Send an email, text or utilize ancient means of communicating like a phone call or even a note in the mail. I guarantee hearing from you will bring a smile to the person’s face.
For example, you could bring a photograph from an outing that made you think of the person you are visiting and talk about the reasons why you thought of them. You might bring a passage from a book that you found interesting or inspiring. You could even come prepared with some funny YouTube videos queued up on your phone so you can share a few laughs. Everyone loves cat videos, don’t they?
If the visit goes well, ask at the end of that visit to schedule another time to get together. Do it then. If you wait, months may go by before you get up the courage or think you have time to set up another visit. Pull out your planner and pencil in a date.
If the person you are visiting is healthy, you might set something up once a quarter. If the person you are reconnecting with is in failing health like me, you may want to set something up more often.
If the format of your first visit went well, why not stick with it? If it didn’t go well, try one of the other suggestions. If you have the luxury of traveling, ask if the person you are visiting would like to see your vacation photos. I know I would love to live through someone else’s amazing experiences.
If you have cute kids (and don’t we all?), why not share some videos of your children? This is a win-win because you will enjoy sharing your photos or videos and the person you are visiting will enjoy getting to know you better.
Sometimes a simple massage or moving my arms is all I need because I cannot do it myself.
Good habits are all about discipline. Discipline involves discomfort. Force yourself to get uncomfortable as you reach out to someone who needs a relationship in their life. I am reminded of the quote from Mother Teresa: