Monday, January 4, 2021

Fueling wider circle connections in a COVID world

One surprising joy of this strange COVID holiday season has been the unexpected reminder of how my wider circles of friends and acquaintances provide necessary threads in my life fabric. 

As a hearty extrovert who is an Enneagram Two and ENFJ, I thrive on being around people and finding connect points between them. But the opportunity for this type of interaction has been in short supply the past ten months. It wasn’t until the holiday season arrived that I realized how much I miss this wider circle of people in my world and the connections they bring.

While I’ve made a real effort to stay connected to my family and inner circle of friends through frequent texts, Facetime, Zoom happy hours and outdoor visits, these wider circles of friends and acquaintances have been neglected - not intentionally so, but sidelined because of circumstance. 

Regardless of how you may define them, we all have these wider circles of people in our lives who connect us to the world outside our own. 

Maybe they are friends of friends. Or they could be the neighbors you know because your dogs are friendly. Or they might be the people you only see once a year at a specific event. Perhaps they are the people you’ve come to know because of daily routines – the barista who remembers your unusual coffee order or the workout instructor who knows about your quirky back issues. Maybe they are former co-workers or people you know from sharing a hobby or interest. 

It wasn’t until we started to settle into the odd reality of this COVID-Christmas that I began to understand the significance of these wider circles and the random jolts of joy that result from everyday interactions with these people – and not just in the holiday season. 

The Cheers Factor Connection

I miss the random, and often unanticipated, connections - small things like grabbing quick visits with my parents’ friends when I go by to see them, running into my friends’ now-grown kids and their friends, or connecting two of my friends so they become part of each other’s circles. 

I miss the “Cheers factor” that comes from my hot dog lunch at the counter at Crave, leisurely breakfasts at Eggs Up, Monday music nights at Tombo or weekend pizzas at LaBraskas. I frequent these places “where everybody knows your name” because they make me feel connected – both to the people who work there and to the people who are also regulars in the booths or at the bar.

Just before Christmas, this need for connection really hit me when I opened an envelope holding what looked like the invitation to a party we’ve been attending for 25 years. Until then, I thought I was OK with not doing the usual holiday events this year. I thought I was prepared for things to be different. 

I read the sweet note from the hosts reflecting on the many years they had held party and the donation they made to Harvest Hope in lieu of the party. I suddenly realized how much I miss seeing the people I connect with only occasionally at events like this. 

This party is where I got to visit with friends who I’ve never figured out how they are connected to the hosts. Or the people I know from my early career days in politics who are connected forever by the bond of campaigns. Or the kids who tagged along to the party with their parents and are now older than we were in the early years of the party.

But it’s more than just missing out on a party. It’s recognizing the significance these circles of people play in my life and how I value the random connections to a wider world that often result from knowing them. Their threads add texture and color to the fabric of my life.

Threads that patch our ragged fabric

I’m guessing everyone’s fabric is feeling a little ragged right now with holes showing up in odd places where you least expect them. We all have different things pulling the fabric apart – and different ways of applying patches and filling in the holes. For me, these holes are caused, in part, by the absence of the people in my wider circles.

During this odd holiday season, I found myself slowing down and being grateful for new ways to patch and restitch my fabric and different ways to connect with the wider circles of people in my life.

Instead of getting my “wider circles of people” fix from the usual big holiday parties, I enjoyed having the time to walk the neighborhood for Christmas caroling with the growing number of young families around my block. I treasured the smaller-than-usual group of girlfriends who were able to come to my annual holiday soup supper that usually overflows around my large dining room table. I delighted in unexpectedly running into some in my music circle of friends when I took the time to walk down to the neighborhood church parking lot to listen to their youth band play Christmas music instead of rushing home to get stuff done. 

Hopefully, one of the beauties that might come from this COVID season is recognizing the significance these wider circles have in my life and how they feed my need for connection.

Something good to remember for 2021.

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