Circumstances change in our lives, and bring new relationships or end existing ones. Sometimes a change in employment means that we don’t see the same people we used to see daily. Sometimes the loss is more final – a death. The recent death of a colleague of mine has brought into stark focus the value of my connections with the people in my life and the importance of investing in my network of relationships.
Due to recent events at work, there have been a large number of people in my life who I used to interact with daily and who I now no longer see on a regular basis. This is not the first time this has happened, usually surrounding key events – I moved away from my family, I graduated from school, I left a job to take a new one, my marriage ended. Something ends, often making way for something new. Relationships built must change. Some fade away, dependent on the situational context to exist. Those that remain require investment of a different nature. I have maintained connections with people from all aspects of my life – school mates, work colleagues, sisters, parents of children’s friends. In order to do so, I need to be intentional. Noticing when I think of someone, and taking action. Reaching out (usually via email, sometime text or phone) to say hello. It takes extra energy to pay attention, to not let the thought just go by but to attend to it, make the effort, invest in the relationship. I used to feel drained by the energy required to maintain relationships beyond my immediate daily interactions, perhaps because I had small kids and they required so much of me.
But now my experience is different – whenever I connect with someone, I usually get as much back as I give, or more. I visualize all the people I know as a true network, supported by the virtual network. Some connections are stronger than others. Strength is not always a factor of frequency or proximity – some of my strongest relationships are with people I rarely see, but we went through hard times together and developed deep intimacy. We know each other so well, that when we do reconnect we pick up exactly where we left off. I recently had dinner with my college roommate in town for a conference, and it was so lovely with lots of laughter. So now I have an opportunity to recreate relationships with people who I value having in my life, former colleagues from work.
The colleague who died was someone who I served with on a volunteer board, and both our terms had ended. I did not know her well, but we had been through a lot together over the past year as we supported the organization through some really challenging times. We had planned on getting together with the entire board for dinner now that our official service was completed, to honor what we had accomplished and bring a sense of closure to our time together as a group. Her death was sudden, abrupt, a real shock. I think of all her connections, all the people for who she was an important relationship – wife, mother, friend – and I have a sense of the enormity of their loss. I am reminded of how much I value all the people in my network, and how important it is that I tend to my connections so that they remain vital and don’t fade.