Staying Connected

My job requires a lot of personal interaction throughout the day — with colleagues, parents, and kids. I take phone calls, answer emails, speak to people in person, and spend time with junior high students 1. As an introvert, this is good practice. It pulls me out of my shell and has helped me become a little more outgoing 2. But, for me, all of this interaction is a challenge. I often leave work drained and eager to retreat into a my own quiet space where I can read, write, and disengage from people. Perhaps you can relate?

That is when everything is normal.

Now, throw in some pandemic fatigue (this seems to be an en vogue phrase), and our desire to be withdrawn, quiet, and alone may become even more appealing. While some of that seclusion could be deemed self care (more en vogue language), too much is probably not a good thing. It may lead us to avoid interactions with people for whom we care deeply and with whom interacting might actually bring energy and a positive outlook.

Last night I spent about an hour on the phone with a close friend. We have been trying to connect for a while, but it just hadn’t happened. This was primarily my fault (see reasons above). It was getting late 3 and I was a little tired when the conversation began, but as we spoke, I noticed my energy level and happiness increased significantly. When our conversation came to an end I honestly felt refreshed. So much so that I stayed up for an extra hour to read.

Meaningful personal interactions (and relationships) are a little like exercise — when we need them the most they can be the hardest to sustain.

We feel too tired to take the phone call. There is too much going on to respond to the text message. We will get back to our friend…our sibling…our parent. But, what if (as with my conversation with my friend) taking the time to make that connection improves our energy and our outlook?

As one final example, I want to tell you about a Bible study I recently joined. I have two younger brothers, both of whom I love dearly. Given the circumstances of our individual lives it can be very hard to connect. I often feel guilty that we don’t talk more frequently and the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. But six weeks ago, we decided to schedule a weekly Google Meet to read and discuss the Bible together. While we do discuss our “assigned” reading, we also spend a significant amount of time talking about episodes of the Mandalorian, critiquing my youngest brothers pandemic hair, discussing fishing, and reviewing the state of high school basketball in Kansas. Getting our meeting scheduled takes some effort, but our conversations are life giving and quickly becoming one of the highlights of my week.

If you are are feeling a little out of it, pick-up the phone and call someone you care about. Staying connected is worth the effort.

1 Time with junior high school students has been scientifically proven to keep you young at heart while simultaneously turning your hair gray.

2 In spite of my progress, I am still the guy who tries to find a seat at the staff social with my back to the wall and then never moves. Baby steps.

3 Currently, “getting late” is defined as anything past 7:30 PM, Arizona time.

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