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A Lesson in Quality vs. Quantity

It seems as through the threat of the pandemic is lessening. I’m not sure I believe that’s true completely, but states are opening up and businesses are opening up and restrictions are being removed regardless of how I feel about the situation.

Personally I think it’s too soon for all of that. I think the decisions are being made largely out of a general fatigue over last year and a need to get back to “business as usual.” But either way it’s gotten me thinking.

I met a friend yesterday for a socially distanced walk and lunch outside. It was a beautiful day here in TN. (I’m sitting on my back deck facing the woods as I type this!).

My friend and I hadn’t seen each other for a while. We had both gotten busy with life, family and other friends. But we decided to meet and catch up.

It was really wonderful to sit and talk. We’re very much on the same path. I think part of me lost sight of that fact. I got so busy with my own life, that I lost sight of who she was. It made me realize how much outside influences affect our decisions.

Last year (and so far this year), I’ve been isolated. I’ve kept in touch with people - but being home around only my husband, I didn’t have the influences that I would normally have if I was going to work and yoga and 5K races and seeing various friends weekly.

I guess, being as independent as I am, I didn’t realize how much the social aspect of our lives affects our opinions and decisions and friendships. I knew all of those things were an influence, but didn’t realize how much.

The last year or so I’ve spent much less time on social media. I even cut down on how much TV I watch and for a while, I’ve avoided most news (other than to read the headlines in the morning). Lack of all of that input to digest helped me to get quiet and to be with myself and my own personal feelings, minus any drama or opinions.

I’ve seen a couple of friends on very rare occasions in the past year. We spend our time walking outside and catching up. It’s always nice to see them. I think the pandemic weeded out the people who were just acquaintances. At first I was sad about that. I’m the person who brings people together - so I have a wide range of friends and contacts.

In the beginning of 2020 I was sad that some people stopped reaching out, or answering when I reached out. I was sad that the time I had spent cultivating relationships and working hard to “fit in” seemed to be wasted. I was hurt that some people I thought were important weren’t interested in checking in on me. At first I focused solely on the loss, rather than noticing all of the people who stepped up and proved to be really good friends. People I hadn’t paid much attention to in the past, were suddenly the people front and center in my world.

I realize that everyone was just trying to survive and doing the best that they could. Many were overwhelmed with work and family. On a logical level I understand. But on an emotional level I felt hurt and lost.

Today I listened to a Brene Brown podcast on daring leadership. She said something that hit home, especially after a lovely lunch with my friend. There is a difference between fitting in and belonging.

When we’re trying to fit in, we consciously or unconsciously change who we are to match our surrounding or situation. When we belong, we are steadfast in who we are regardless of the situation.

I always said I am who I am, regardless of the situation - you get what you see. To some degree, I still believe that’s true. But the pandemic showed me the situations where I was trying hard to fit in - do be loved - to be respected - to be accepted - to be validated.

It was eye opening.

In at least one situation, I knew I was doing it, but thought I wouldn’t survive if I let go of this group of people and situation. The pandemic removed them and I survived. It was fine. In fact it was better than fine. I was able to exhale and let go and realize how draining it was to keep pretending and how unsatisfying any validation was because I knew it wasn’t for the “real” me.

As my friend and I sat in the sun, eating a delicious lunch, we discussed how important the friends were that “survived” this strange time and remained our friends. How quality was so much more important than quantity.

In the last year, I’ve slowed down. I’ve made self-care non-negotiable. I’ve spent quality time with my husband and parents. I’ve reconnected to who I am and I don’t really want to go back to the hustle and bustle of being busy and rushing everywhere. I want to maintain the balance. I want to surround myself with people who make me a better human being. Whether that’s work or friends or even family. I want to belong...not just fit in.

All this to say that my circle of friends is smaller...but I appreciate them even more than I did before. I am grateful for them. I’m grateful for the people who stepped out of the shadows and showed me their commitment to our friendship, even when I was too busy trying to fit in with the cool kids to notice how important they were!

Reconnecting with my true self and reconnecting with my ride-or-die friends has been the blessing of this terrible time in history. I hope that I don’t lose sight of either as we head back into “business as usual.”

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