I recently went through a very difficult time which would have been all the more difficult but for the support of family and dear friends. My close friend Louise, who was constantly in touch and showing support, sent me a copy of a post originally published on Wendy Atterberry’s relationship advice blog “Dear Wendy.”
The point of the post was that despite how busy and demanding our lives have become, the single most important thing that we can do for our friends is to show up – show up when it really matters, show up even when it may be inconvenient, show up when it really counts. This I have always tried to practice.
The challenge now that I have moved to another state is how to show up when you live over 1000 miles apart. How do you make sure you have a presence in their lives when you are not present? How do you show up from a distance? Here are four suggested ways to do it and make each time count. Remember it is the quality of the contact and not the quantity that matters most.
- Forget Technology – reach out and touch. While texting and emailing are both convenient and quick, they are also impersonal and create even more distance between you and your friends. PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL!! You can hear the smile on your friend’s face. You can hear the sadness in her voice when she is down. You can tell so much more by speaking in person. Keep the texts and emails for the short quick check-ins or when sending photos of experiences or your new surroundings.
- Don’t keep score over who called last. It really doesn’t matter who called whom last. What matters is that the friendship remains intact and you show up for each other – just pick up the phone and call. If that becomes uncomfortable then what you really need to ask yourself is whether or not the relationship is one that you really want to hold on to or has it reached a point where you need to accept letting go.
- Send a card or letter. What a concept! Send someone a written document that they can actually hold in their hands and read and re-read when they need encouragement. There is something about knowing that someone took the time to pick out a card or write the perfect note or words of encouragement that makes your spirit soar. It doesn’t have to be an expensive card or a lengthy note but it is a tangible piece of you that becomes a gift to your friend.
- Don’t fall back on excuses! “I thought you might be busy.” “I didn’t know if you would be home.” I wasn’t sure of the time difference.” These are all excuses that we have all heard or used to justify why we have not stayed in touch. If you are truly in a valued relationship, if you truly want to keep that friendship going from a distance, these excuses will never cross your lips again. You didn’t know whether your friend was home or not when you lived closer, what difference does that make now? It really makes me smile to hear a message from a friend who thought of me and took the time to call and leave a message. I do the same. My mother used to always want to know when I was coming back from a trip not so much to call when I was home but to call and leave a message on my answering machine welcoming me home. They were the sweetest messages I ever received.
Think of how important your relationships are to you. Find ways to show up to let them know that you still have a presence in their lives even if you cannot be physically present. Whether for matters large or small, happy or sad or just because, love knows no boundaries so let’s not let anything get in the way!
*“Showing Up: The Single Most Important Thing a Friend Can do” by Wendy Relationship advice columnist at DearWendy.com.