The Friend Connection

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.
Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”

I miss my friends. Covid took away our in-person gatherings. Not just the hey-let’s-get-together kind, but everything. Weddings, funerals, proms and graduations also felt the burn. We were unable to spend time with anyone who wasn’t already living in the house. Isolation became our new normal.

It's Been a Long Time Without You My Friend, Friends, Covid-19, isolationIf you’ve felt cut off from everyone and everything then have a seat, you’re in good company. Socializing with others is a basic human need, and we’ve been deprived of that joy, along with our sense of connection and community.

A vaccine is slowly changing that, jump-starting activities that 2020 put on hold. For us, it’s something as simple as sharing a pizza with my sister and brother-in-law at a favorite restaurant.

It also means re-establishing my in-person friend connections—a joy so important to my well-being and so easy to take for granted—until it happened.

Missing My Besties

It is unthinkable that seeing friends can suddenly and unexpectedly come to a halt.   But it happened when Covid-19 dictated we could NOT see each other for fear of spreading this deadly virus.

Socializing was replaced with isolation, separation and quarantine. My husband and I found our social circle reduced the two of us stuck in a 1700-square-foot house. As weeks turned into months I began to think we would have a mutiny and  it would not end well.

Old Friends and New Friends

Our move to Florida meant a departure from the comfort of lifetime friendships in the ‘hood. We were leaving and I was afraid once I was gone the circle would close and I would be forgotten. My fear of making new friends overrode my common sense, making me forget lifetime friends are just that. I wasn’t giving mine up, but I was moving away.

Pre-Covid trips to Maine meant regular friend visits, but I knew I needed to cultivate new friendships. This is harder than it sounds. It’s kind of like going to a new school and hoping someone will eat lunch with you.

It takes a long time to grow old friendsOnce we got settled, I joined the new-residents club, attending newcomer activities and luncheons with women I barely knew. At first it was uncomfortable but as time passed it got easier and I made new friends.

One of my new friends shared that she never thought she would make new friends after she moved. We found ourselves laughing; admitting we all feared the same thing.  Suddenly I had lifetime friends and new friends I hoped would become lifetime friends.

The Zoom Life

But by March of last year my old and new friends were sheltering in place. We did not know when it would end. Forced disconnects rob relationships of so many meaningful experiences, especially those involving new friends.

Friendship in the time of Covid made it overwhelmingly important to stay connected.  We looked for new ways to check in on each other. Lockdown loneliness affects mental, physical and spiritual health. I felt this reality insert itself into our lives, leaving me with a feeling of loneliness for impromptu gatherings and road trips with friends.

The magnitude of this pandemic changed how we interact, prompting us to schedule visual check-ins. We created layers of communication throughout the week, including texting, phone calls, Skype and Zoom.

The focus of our conversations also shifted. After casual catching up, we did emotional check-ins—deep dives into the well-being of one another and our extended families.  “How are you doing?” became a loaded question.

Friend Connections Run Deep

Zoom, meetings, onlineWeekly zoom calls mean we see and hear each other. Looking at my friends faces reassures me they are staying ahead of things. We share recipes, photos, and crafting ideas. We also share coping mechanisms to bolster our fears. Hopes for an in-person visit once we are vaccinated are part of every conversation.

My friend connections run deep within me, I count on them to anchor me, uplift and encourage me. I hear my truth from them, grounded in our shared history. I cannot imagine life without seeing them. A missed call leaves me feeling disconnected and worried.

The Emotional Toll of Cabin Fever

2020 becomes 2021 and vaccination availability increases—by the end of May all of us will be fully immunized and out of quarantine. We begin to talk about seeing each other again. Wishful thinking turns from abstract into actual planning as we look at calendars together.

Last November I was in Maine for six weeks. Family and friends were a stone’s throw away in Massachusetts. Due to increased restrictions, I was told if I left the state, I would not be allowed to return. I could not even see our children. I was heartbroken.

Lack of physical contact and shared experiences inevitably redefines our perception of friendship. When we are unable to spend time together, we feel mentally and emotionally cheated. Covid gave us all cabin fever.

In my isolation I review my priorities and my friendships stay at the top of the list. These people know me best and keep me anchored in these uncharted waters. In the midst of our uncertainty, we enjoy a weekly glass of wine, affirming what matters most. This is where my heart lies.

A Time for Reunions

We are fully vaccinated, planning small reunions for the second half of this year. My sister has visited and one of my dearest friends is sitting next to me on our lanai. Hugging her in our driveway is pure joy—seeing her healthy and happy  is the best gift she could bring me. The second-best gift is catching up in person over a margarita. I am energized by the promise of visits to come, a reminder that our friendship connections stand the test of time.

I celebrate the value of these long-standing relationships. Forever friendships (old and new) are the good stuff—the gifts we give ourselves.

I am grateful to them and for them.