I made a decision last year NOT to mail out Christmas cards. I backed it up with the promise to personally reconnect with each and every person on my Christmas card mailing list. The idea? To cut through the crap on social media and REALLY make a meaningful connection with those I love. You see, life isn’t as sweet as our social media statuses might imply. And what this year taught me, is that life – real life – is the antithesis of a social media status. It can be ugly, heart wrenching, and downright shitty, but every once in awhile something truly remarkable can come of it. In reconnecting and sharing in the sorrows, hardships, and upheavals of my “tribe,” I rescued many a mouldering relationship.
The real joy came in the many reunions I made though out the year and introducing my kids to the people who helped shape me. Like meeting up with a cousin I haven’t seen or spoken to in more than 20 years to cheer on her son at a college swim meet. Or the week-long vacation we took to Wisconsin where we were able to reconnect with my sorority house mom and a pair of couples that met and married at KWQC around the same time Scott and I said, “I do.” I will forever treasure the weekend I spent in Iowa City with two of my sorority sisters and bridesmaids, who I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t seen in seven years. I know this because the last time we saw each other one of them was pregnant. That child is now in the first grade!
Painfully, far too many of my reunions were cloaked in sorrow and suffering. My loved ones battled strokes, cancer, leukemia, heart attacks, and various mental illnesses – not to mention many a surgery. A half dozen got divorced. And twice that many lost a loved one, lost a job, or lost their way. In fact, one friend lost both parents last year. I wouldn’t know any of this had I simply sent them a Christmas card.
Perhaps I’ve always known, but needed this experiment to remind me, that in times of need most of us tend to retreat. Not only do we not post these troubles on social media, we sometimes can’t bring ourselves to share them with family and friends. Sometimes they’re too painful. Sometimes they’re embarrassing. Our natural tendency is to withdraw when we’re hurting. But in doing so, we unintentionally send a message to others that we no longer value their friendship. It’s hard not to take that personally when you’re on the receiving end.
Scott and I spent years lamenting the loss of a dear friend when they stopped accepting invitations to dinners and birthday parties. But in reaching out this year, we learned they had been concentrating their efforts on keeping their family intact. It was hard not to take it personally at the time, but in hindsight it makes perfect sense. With that friendship renewed, we are reminded that everyone has their own “stuff” and instead of taking it personally, perhaps we should all take more time to reach out and see what’s making our tribe hurt. It certainly makes celebrating the sweet times even sweeter.
I tip my hat to the friends and family who toasted milestone birthdays, traveled the world, and took more fulfilling jobs. In the coming year, I look forward to celebrating my sister-in-law’s wedding, a number of high school graduations, and a killer trip out West to reconnect with still more family and friends. Thank you to all who humored me in this process – agreeing to reconnect “old school” – not just over the phone, but in person. My life is richer for having you in it, even, and especially when, it’s not social media status perfect. Here’s to 2019!