This week I need to write my Christmas cards and get them posted. I used to send about 80 cards and now send about 30, the reason being that I cull people off my Christmas card list every single year. I used to worry that I would upset them, but the fantastic thing about getting older is that you stop caring about what other people think and start caring more about what you think. I can’t tell you how liberating that is 😀.
The reason people get culled off my list is that I have no contact with them from one month to the next, one year to the next. They are not my ‘friends’. Friends are people who care about you. They know what’s going on in your life. They check in on you and actively want to know how you are and what you’re up to. And if they don’t, what’s the point of the relationship?
I know some people say “oh, we’re not in touch often but when we do get together it’s wonderful” and if that works for you great. But it doesn’t work for me. During the 12 months you haven’t been in touch I could have died. My parents could have died. I could be destitute, a victim of crime or seriously ill and you, my so called friend, would be none the wiser. That’s not any kind of relationship I relate to. I want to know what’s happening in my friends’ lives. I want to share in the ups and comfort in the downs. Isn’t that what friendship is all about?
We are in the technology age. I have butt dialled people on my mobile phone by accident, so there is no excuse for not getting in touch with your friends. A text or Whatsapp message takes seconds, an email slightly longer but only by minutes. You can Skype or Zoom or Facetime without leaving the comfort of your armchair wherever you are in the world. You can keep abreast of your friends’ lives on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It’s never been easier and if you haven’t done any of those things you have to wonder whether you care about your ‘friend’ in any way. We are all busy, but even when I’m busy I often think to myself “so and so would love this” or “I wonder how so and so got on at the hospital today?”.
Relationships have to be nurtured. Like a plant in the desert, without water they will shrivel and die. And the watering should be something voluntarily and lovingly done – if it’s becoming a chore you have to ask yourself why.
Five more people were culled off my Christmas card list this year. I have not heard a word from them since the card they sent me last Christmas, and this year in particular with me being chronically ill and living alone during the pandemic I would have thought they would have been in touch to see if I’m OK. It’s not like they were too busy – we’ve spent 4 months of the year at home in lockdown twiddling our thumbs. But they didn’t. I could have died from Covid and they wouldn’t even know, so as far as I’m concerned we have no relationship.
As I get older my circle of friends gets smaller, but that’s OK. It’s quality not quantity that counts.
The great thing about the cull is that I have more of my precious energy to spend on my other friendships and as my circle dwindles I am more appreciative of those who remain. I’ve had lovely messages from friends in other parts of the UK, and abroad, whom I’ve never met in person but who have been wonderfully kind and supportive this year, despite their own hardships and/or health issues. Yesterday, a friend from my old Camera club popped by to hand deliver a Christmas card and loan me a book he’d bought on photography which he thought I might like, and when I looked in the bag there was also a little gift to go under my tree. So kind of him. He also emailed me last night to wish me luck for a talk I was giving via Zoom and will no doubt be in touch today to ask how it went. He is so supportive and encouraging of me, and genuinely interested and active in my life, and I am hugely appreciative of that especially as I am so isolated. But it is a two way street – he and his wife were two of the five people I shopped for groceries for during the lockdown and I know how hugely appreciative they both were.
When it comes to our relationships we have to put verbs in our sentences. It’s not enough to say you are someone’s friend, you have to actively be a friend and this year in particular being a friend has never been more important.