Care, Ask, Carry: A Reflection on Friendships in a Time of Covid

As I write this, we’re 11 months into the Covid-19 pandemic. Like you, I went from disbelief that any segment of society could actually shut down, to settling in and accepting it, to an impatient ‘how much longer?’ Though I could list plenty of unforeseen benefits of this time, a casualty has been friendships.

The restrictions of the past year have challenged even the most creative among us. Introverts who may have found relief at not having to interact with people as much have begun to long for gatherings again. Extroverts languish at the thought of another weekend without plans.

Though we may be tempted to take any human interaction we can, this time has allowed us to stop and evaluate some friendships. Have I seen her only because we work together? How much do I miss hanging out with them? Has our friendship not skipped a beat? Is there someone with whom I’ve grown closer in spite of these limits?

Pre-Covid life, friendships were easier because common interests and work, school, and church naturally brought people together. Haven’t seen her in a week? I’ll catch her at church. Wonder how so & so’s vacation went? I’ll ask her at work on Monday. Without those in-person constructs, we’ve all had to be much more intentional. Some of us have become savvy on Zoom, others have upped our texting game; however, some of us shy away from forms of communication like those. If we’re not meeting up face-to-face, it’s just harder….more awkward, so we may become distant from our once-close friends. Others may use those methods, but it’s just not the same.

For me, this time has distilled my friendships. Distilling separates components based on boiling points with the goal of refining into something purer. Under scrutiny were not just the contents of my closets and uses of time (goodbye social media, hello more reading!), but also of the people in my life. Had I reached some “boiling points?” What needed refining? So, I asked myself – what do I need? What do I want? I realized that I need and want the same things in a friendship: for them to care, to ask and for a few – to carry. That will be true for post-Covid, too.

As the weeks turned into months, it became more obvious to me who was doing that – the caring, asking and carrying. With whom could I traipse out my story? Like, out into the light? Who didn’t flinch? Because let’s face it, Covid didn’t pause the weights we carry. It wasn’t just Covid that upended our lives – other hurts, stresses and fears didn’t go anywhere; in fact, for some of us, this time exacerbated them or even created them. The irony is that during a time when we need them most, we’re forced into distance from our friends.

I’m thankful that some of my relationships have deepened, not because of the amount of time spent but because of the way that we spent our time together. That time was more precious. We could see its value a little more keenly. And for some, it allowed us to look at our wounds more closely, to take a deep dive into what we may have been able to ignore in the rush and bustle of pre-Covid life. It hasn’t always been pleasant but it’s been necessary and thankfully, some have carried my burdens and I have been blessed to carry theirs.

I hope you’ve had the blessing of relaxing into true friendships – a judgement-free zone where you can bring your stories into the light. A friendship where you don’t have to meet unattainable requirements, but can share your messes together, celebrate the wins, grieve the losses.

All too often we feel alone – desperately alone – whether we live in a house full of people or not. The phrase “Now more than ever” has become trite, but this time, it’s true. We need our friends now more than ever and whether your friend list has been distilled down to just a few or you still connect with many, we need each other- to care, to ask, to carry. We’re blessed with a variety of methods to reach out to each other. Keep doing it. For some of us, a text or email is a lifeline and beautiful way to love one another.

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