Been giving some thought recently about cutting down ties in order to ‘downsize’ relationships to something more manageable, more purposeful, more fulfilling.
According to Carl Honore in his book “Bolder: Making the most of our longer lives”, studies have shown that from around 50 years of age, we begin to trim down and streamline relationships, focusing on quality not quantity.
Well, that perfectly describes what’s going on with me this year! I’ve started to prune as it were my network and contacts, though still seeking out new ones along the way. I’ve started moving away from reaching out to old friends like I usually do. Part of the reason has to do with my growing divergence from them, both in terms of mutual interests and life experiences. But part of it is also the desire to cut down communications to focus only on those that truly matter and who affirm me, as well as help provide me with relevant, useful and informed sound bytes of life in this next phase of my life.
To that end, I’ve let go of the desire to attend alumni gatherings, catch up with friends made before I was 40, and anyone who’s too wrapped up in their careers and who can’t engage me in conversations about my current pet topics: stay-home parenting, special needs children, inclusion advocacy, teaching and writing.
It certainly doesn’t look like I’m being ‘inclusive’ but then again, as an introvert, I really don’t socialise all that well actually. If I do, I soon tire and find the conversations becoming less and less meaningful, and more and more aggravating.
So instead, this year I’ve reconnected with a Christian support group, resumed writing more regularly, begun teaching part time and spending time at home with my kids daily. I’ve eschewed appointments to meet up with old friends, respond on the endless parade of social media posts that constantly stream through, and avoided replying to cursory and random questions like how are you, what you’ve been up to, etc.
In some sense, this is also kind of an experiment for me. If over the course of the next year or two those I once considered as friends don’t initiate contact with me despite my obvious silence towards them, then it proves they weren’t really close to me. It probably also means they never really valued me as a friend in the first place to be bothered to keep in touch.
If so, then I guess it will be a natural attrition. Will make my pruning job easier too.
Of course, there’s always the danger of me becoming lonely in my twilight years. Again, according to Honore, this is a major scourge of old age, and many have fallen victim to it. So even as I prune, I better make sure I don’t kill my entire network in the process! What I will do to avoid that scary fate is to focus on the relationships that value and need me. Those I will work hard to keep.
The rest as the pruning process goes, can fall by the wayside of my life, where they belong. And where for them, I belong.
A win-win for all towards final fulfilment.