It's Wednesday morning, and I'm sitting on the sofa at my parents house. This is the house in which I was born, where took my first steps, where I studied my heart out for the year-end school exams. Here I climbed the framing when the extension was added, and where I hung from the clothesline as though it were a playground toy. Turns out, it wasn't. I'm incredibly grateful to be sitting here because it brings these memories back so crisply. It helps me reflect.
Thinking back on these things warms my heart. It also makes me feel quite nostalgic because those events were all a long time ago. When I was growing up I tried and couldn't imagine myself getting old. I had all the time in the world, and yet, somehow, the minutes, days, then decades passed. It was hard to imagine who I would be as an adult. I still wonder about who I will be in the years to come.
But I've learnt a few things along the way that I want to share with you. If nothing else, it's the quality of your relationships that matters in the end. Who you are matters only in the sense of how good you are at paying attention to this. Are you reaching out and connecting with people whose company you enjoy? When asked, most of us reply that our relationships matter more than anything. Where we spend our time often shows a different pattern. We spend a lot of time at work, and we spend 20 hours per week (average) on our smartphones. I'm not sure many of us would say our smartphones or our work are our most important relationship in life, but looking at how time is spent, it might be. Looking at where you spend your time which relationships are you really nurturing?
Lockdown taught me how much I miss seeing loved ones in person. Lockdown taught me that if loved ones are far away, even a video chat can lift my spirits. Lockdown taught me that when I have more free time my default was to spend more of it on instagram, and that those days weren't more satisfying but it was a convenience I'd arranged by putting those apps on my phone. It was like stocking my pantry with popcorn, which is nice enough, and wondering why I never felt full. I could see the areas in my life in which the convenience was to my own detriment.
And then in case we hadn't connected these dots from the first lockdown, we had a second lockdown. Another window of time in which our connections were limited. Had I made a point to catch up with friends while we had 102 days in between the lockdowns? I had. Had I set aside time to do fun things with my partner, to walk my dog and let her play more, to see my parents more? I had. Lockdown was a second reminder that we don't have all the time in the world and that we have to make the most of what we can do now.
I'm grateful to 2020 because now I see my parents for a walk and a coffee on a twice weekly basis. I stop work by 5 pm each day and enjoy time with my partner. I make plans with friends who I might have previously seen 2x a year. I try to listen better. I realise how awful I am at listening. I try to remember that even noticing that is a good first step. I make notes to myself to become a better listener.
Relationship quality is by far the biggest predictor of happiness. But there's a huge divide between what we say matters and what we prioritise with our attention. Start noticing where you spend your time. Start noticing when you're in the company of loved ones is your attention with them or elsewhere? I don't know who I will be in the years to come, and I've learnt that it doesn't matter if I'm not first and foremost showing up as a caring partner, friend, and daughter.
What else should I have done?
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