Step back to move forward

I watched a new episode of my favourite TV series.  I was disappointed, so I watched one of the old episodes to console myself, cross that I’d recommended it to a handful of new friends who might now question my taste.

I read a book review and thought, ‘This is it! This book will solve my negativity and show me what is right about the world!’ Then I read so many bad reviews that I didn’t buy it, annoyed that I’d been naïve enough to think a book could fix me.

I lingered a few seconds too long on an ad that Instagram’s ‘Big Brother’ kept pushing in front of my eyes: a new concealer that brainwashed me into being paranoid that my regular one revealed that I was ‘still using pre-2021 concealer’.  I did the quiz to match me to my perfect shade then reeled at the price  – it cost more than everything in my current makeup bag put together!  I was destined to be relegated to the passé pre-2021 makeup world!

I visited an old friend. Not a new one, not one made through being forced together during Lockdown, but an old one, one who has been around for half of my life and knows the history of the other half.  I plonked myself in her back garden, aware that I didn’t have time to meet her, but having already postponed twice, there was no way I could do so again.

The over-inflated expectations I’d had for the aforementioned new things – the TV show, the book, the make-up – weren’t there when I made the visit.  I’m ashamed to say I had taken this friend for granted and not really given her enough thought over the past year.  Much as I love seeing her, I was so caught up in my own list of self-important ‘things to do’ that she had been relegated too low down on the list of ‘optional extras for when I have time.’

We caught up – awkwardly at first, with me standing in the doorway and her making coffee, apologising that she hadn’t tidied up inside.  She gave me the comfy chair as we sat in her garden.  She remembered all my preferences for hot drinks, and I remembered hers.  We consoled each other, advised each other, and understood each other.  We were only a few months behind when it came to the happenings in each other’s families. We uncovered feelings and emotions neither of us had expected to reveal.  She gave me so much advice and reassurance over an issue I hadn’t even planned on sharing.  Two hours in, I sorely regretted the pompous ‘It’ll be a flying visit – I’ve been rushed off my feet’ message that I had sent on my way over.  She was a tonic to me. For the first time in a while, I was overcome with gratitude for old friends.

A week on, I’m still mulling over that experience – a timely reminder to cling onto what we had pre-2020.  Throughout the pandemic, I’d come to be satisfied with long chats with new acquaintances: neighbours, dog walkers, and the parents of my children’s new friends.  I’d told myself, and others, that as long as I had a chance to talk to someone – anyone – every day, I was content.  But I was kidding myself!  I needed someone who knew me before I had kids or lived where I do now or have the job I have now.  I needed to talk to someone whose family tree I can see plotted out in my mind’s eye so that when she mentions relatives in her extended family I don’t just nod politely, I remember them from her wedding.

Don’t fall into the same trap of being on a constant lookout for the next amazing thing, or a new, exciting person.  Don’t be satisfied with the ‘new normal’.  Well done for being resourceful and making the best of the past 14 months, but remember the old friends and your life from before.  Rip off your face mask (and the invisible mask beneath it) and provide each other with some much-needed therapy.

Perhaps you’ve lived with your best friend throughout all this, or at least been better at keeping in touch than I have.  Maybe you identify more with this idea of needing to embrace the ‘old’ in terms of going back to church.  We’ve all found lovely new ways to spend Sunday mornings.  For many, it’s been pretty impossible to watch online for a host of reasons: family time, new socially distanced activities, day trips, things to keep the kids busy.  The idea of going back to in-person church might not come particularly high up on your ‘optional extras for when I have time’ list.

We were pretty happy watching church online over the last 14 months.  All our home comforts were there. Other than getting annoyed at them for looking at their phone, we didn’t have to worry about how to get on with the person sitting in the next seat.  Snuggled up on the sofa, singing along to the worship, we could quite happily have carried on making Lego cars as we half-listened to the message.  However, when my family and I took the plunge and booked our places in the building, I saw people I have known for half my life.  I didn’t even need to speak to them to know they cared about me and I cared about them. Collective worship was so uplifting!  I didn’t know I had missed the old things because I had been resourceful about finding new things to fill the void.

Things might never be exactly as they were before, but I wholeheartedly recommend rediscovering the old as you keep in step with the new.


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