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Signs of life are all around these days!

Magenta magnolia trees in bloom and lightening yellow forsythia brighten our blocks. Chatter and chirping, squawks and bird song fill the early morning air.

Beyond nature waking up, more of us are out biking and enjoying ‘First Fridays’ with our socially-distanced neighbors. Restaurants have increased their seating, and workers are returning to their offices.

Snaking lines of traffic are clogging rush hour traffic to reflect this movement. And, as my husband and I sit on our porch in the evenings, we can catch the faint sounds of live music down our block.

It’s clear to see that we’re eager to get out – to re-join the world!

We’re compelled to connect. You feel it, don’t you? Yet, the fear and frenzy of the last year have left some of us a bit timid to join in while others seem emboldened to reclaim life as it was pre-pandemic.

2020 upended what we consider normal, changed the rules of the game, and rendered us fully human, feeling vulnerable in ways we don’t typically want to acknowledge.

This includes taking a new look at our relationships.

 

Rejoining the World

Our social circles narrowed this past year, and though we initially struggled with the loss of a regular routine and those who ‘peopled’ our days, most of us have deepened our connections with a smaller subset of folks.

As our communities and workplaces re-open, many of us are rethinking our relationships.

Situational friendships — with the neighbors down the block, members of your faith community, someone you’ve been chummy with at work — have shifted dramatically. The lack of proximity has made it all too easy to fall out of touch.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that we tend to cycle through and replace approximately half of those in our social networks every 5-7 years.

Many people are surprised by this. Perhaps that’s because research in this area reveals that only about half of our friendships are mutual (yes, really), meaning that several friends likely don’t feel the same about you as you feel toward them.

“There are those we’ve longed to see and those it’s been a relief not to see,” said Kate Murphy in the New York Times recently.

I have to agree.

Some people I really miss, others less so, and I’m guessing that’s true in reverse too. Nothing like a pandemic to give us time to reflect on our social connections!

As I’ve reflected, I’m not sure I’ve been the best friend this season.

Yes, I’ve reached out. Yes, I’ve called. Yet, I feel like I somehow should’ve done more.

So I’ve been asking myself a few questions about friendships:

  • Who’ve I felt close to and risked seeing during the pandemic?
  • What kind of co-worker have I been?
  • Have I reached out enough to people?
  • Who’s reached out to me and how was that exchange?
  • What kind of friend do I want to be? What kind of colleague?
  • What’s the best size for a friendship circle anyway—as big as a football team? Smaller than the average book club? What’ my sweet spot?

The pandemic’s forced us to tighten our circle of connections. In the spirit of renewal, we can adopt the notion of spring cleaning to friends and connections. “To every thing there is a season…”

Marie Kondo & Spring Cleaning

When spring arrives I can’t help but think of dusting off winter’s cobwebs, rolling up my sleeves to sort and pitch and tidy my home. I want it to be inviting to neighbors, family and guests.

I’ve even employed a few of Marie Kondo’s tips, you know the NYT best-selling author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

In particular, her strong suggestion to consider the question, “Does it spark joy?” as I hold up my old navy sweater and make a decision about whether to keep it or put it in the Goodwill pile.

As Marie first developed her globally known ‘KonMari’ process, she focused on pitching everything that she didn’t use or wasn’t functional — yet clutter kept coming her way.

Marie later realized that her focus on elimination was all wrong. The better focus? What did she actually want to keep?

Could this work in others areas too?

We’ve had the time this past year to experience something different in our relationships across the board.

As our cities and towns begin to open up socially, and we start going out, eating out, working in an office, even traveling, it’s a great time to be thinking about the friendships we want vs. those we simply fall back into.

So, I asked myself, “What if we Marie Kondo’d our relationships?

Sound crass? I understand why it might, yet I don’t think it is. If it’s a natural phenomenon that we do cycle through relationships like we cycle through seasons in life, it makes sense–if done mindfully–to KonMari our relationships.

We can ask, “Does this relationship spark joy?” And, not just for us, but for our friends, too.

How to Tidy Up Your Relationships (inspired by Marie Kondo

Gather all your relationships

  • Make a list of contacts, by first inventorying those in your own circle. Like my old navy sweater, hold up the relationship, recall where you were when you first met your friend or acquaintance, and let yourself remember all the laughs or learning or loss you shared.

What comes up?

  • Does this relationship bring you joy today?
  • Is it a lot of work?
  • Are you your best self in it?
  • Are you a good friend to this person?
  • Are they a good friend to you?
  • Be honest with yourself.

Set and name your own choices

  • Can you choose to see the shift of relationships as a natural progression in our lives, like red blood cells that replenish every 5-7 years, and rise to the challenge of choosing?
  • What would it be like if everyone in your renewed circle warranted a resounding reply of, “YES!” when you asked if they brought you joy?

We all have different choices to make

  • Once you’ve completed the KonMari method, how will you re-integrate these relationships, since we’ll never return to our pre-pandemic lives?
  • How do you want to meet others today?
  • What kind of conversations do you want to be having?
  • Is it time to let go, say goodbye?
  • Listening to your self and leaning into the boundaries that feel best to you, to feel as safe and respectful as possible will be important. And doing the same for others will be equally important.

 

How will you be inspired by Marie Kondo this month?

“No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.”
— Marie Kondo