I am not the best person at staying in touch. At every job I’ve ever worked there have been people who made difficult days easier, interminable meetings shorter, and unbearable bosses tolerable. When I’ve left, or they’ve left, I’ve always meant it when I said “Keep in touch.” But it takes work to maintain a friendship and I’m sorry to say that I exhibit a lot of laziness in this area.
New job demands, the next family crisis, or sometimes the introvert’s concern about intruding on another person can make me hesitate to get in touch. Then before I know it, so much time has passed that calling an old acquaintance starts to feel awkward. I worry about interrupting, or being an unwelcome bother, or sometimes — if it’s been long enough — if the person I remember so fondly will even remember my name.
Extroverts like my husband do not wrestle with such questions. For Gary, to think is to do. As soon as a friend he hasn’t talked to in a while crosses his mind, he puts action to thought and picks up the phone. He has the extrovert’s confidence that everyone will be delighted to see or hear from him, anytime. And they always are. Sometimes, when I think he is taking a quick nap, or balancing the checkbook, or working in the yard, I’ll discover that he’s been on the phone with an old acquaintance, checking to see how they’ve been for the last week, or month, or decade. If he is in an enforced period of solitude, as he was during recent recovery from some minor surgery, he’s good for three or four outreach calls a day. Thus he maintains a roster of friends that numbers in the thousands — or so it seems to me. At any rate, it’s a way longer list than mine.
Fortunately for me, I do have small circle of low maintenance friends. These are people I may not see, or talk to, or email for weeks, or months or sometimes even years. But whenever we do connect, there are no recriminations or apologies for lengthy gaps in communication. Instead, we slip right back into the easy camaraderie of common values and shared histories whether they stem from school, or college or work.
Last week I had lunch with a couple of people who fall into that category, and we talked well past the time when our waitress was hoping we would leave. We laughed, we confided a few worries and shared some disappointments, but mostly we had fun. It was the kind of connection that always makes me think, “I have to do this again, soon.” But usually, I do not. However, I realize more fully as the years go by that we don’t have an infinite amount of time to connect. And an opportunity deferred may turn into an opportunity lost forever.
And so, though I have always depended on the kindness of low maintenance friends, I’m determined to put a little more effort into that maintenance. The next time I say “Let’s have lunch soon,” I won’t just mean it, I’ll actually make the call and do something about it.