Nurturing Our Friendships
Lori Jakiela’s profile this month hits home for a lot of us who have struggled with limited human contact during the pandemic.
She writes about Janeen Ellsworth, a mother of two from Bloomfield, who at times has felt disconnected and lonely. To help herself and other women build deeper friendships, Ellsworth in September started “Women Friends,” a podcast/social network that aims to “vanquish loneliness together.”
Ellsworth says that friendship is the real self-care, and she credits a texting group of other parents as a lifeline to get through the difficult days. They share memes and jokes throughout the day. “It makes you feel part of the world,” she says.
I’m fortunate to be part of a similar texting group. We’re longtime friends who had regular dinners and travel adventures to places like Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York City before the pandemic. Since then, we’ve met on Zoom twice a week. But it’s the daily texting — sometimes starting with shared pictures of sunrises from our morning dog walks — that strengthens our connections.
Another lifeline has been a 7 a.m. Sunday running group I’ve belonged to for more than 20 years. I joined when my kids were little, and early Sunday mornings were the only times I could get away — a primary reason others participated, too. We share tips and recommendations for books, podcasts and TV series; boast about our children or career accomplishments without feeling like braggarts; and try to boost each other’s spirits when we face rough patches in our home or work lives.
Two studies recently reported by the Washington Post point out that the bonds of many friendships have frayed as the pandemic stretches into its third year. Some people’s circumstances have changed; there have been job losses, family issues and financial strain. Others feel guilty about not keeping in touch and don’t know how to reach back out.
The Washington Post quotes Marisa Franco, a clinical psychologist and friendship expert (yup, that’s a thing!) in the D.C. area. She says rekindling friendships requires action, and reaching out can be challenging. “Loneliness can induce self-doubt, which can make us think people dislike us,” Franco says. “And when negative narratives take over, we may be less likely to connect because we’re afraid of being rejected.”
Like Janeen Ellsworth, I have learned through the pandemic just how important friends are to have and especially to nurture — something I wasn’t so focused on before March 2020. I often didn’t take the initiative to keep and strengthen these connections; I waited for someone else to reach out because I was too wrapped up in my own world and family matters.
Friendship is something I won’t take for granted in the future.
Virginia Linn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.