CON­NECT CRE­ATIVELY Sim­ple, fun ways to make mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with friends.

In the Moment - - Contents -

When friends are scat­tered far and wide, stay­ing in touch in ways that feel signi cant can be hard. But as Anna Ali­cia has found, cre­ativ­ity can en­rich your lives with a deeper con­nec­tion.

Dur­ing a month when two close friends left the city we’ve shared and two more loved ones an­nounced their plans to move – one to the coast, one across the ocean – I’ve been think­ing a lot about keep­ing in touch, about stay­ing con­nected to the peo­ple I love, wher­ever they are.

It can be a won­der­ful thing to have friends and fam­ily spread across the globe, as so many of us do; to see loved ones be­ing where they need or want to be, for now or maybe for al­ways, ful­fill­ing dreams or just try­ing new things, com­ing home from trav­els with new friend­ships and last­ing bonds. But there can be loss and dis­con­nec­tion in the dis­tances be­tween us too – not be­ing able to pop round for a cuppa or o er a hug. Even when the dis­tances aren’t great, it can be hard to keep in touch in ways that feel mean­ing­ful and signi cant, to keep con­nec­tions go­ing.

There are so many ways to stay in touch now, at any dis­tance. A quick text or so­cial me­dia up­date, a Skype chat or email can be in­valu­able. But some­times some­thing more tan­gi­ble is needed, some­thing to hold, per­haps even to plant and watch grow, or just to pop on a shelf to glance at. Some­thing slower.

This is where my love of send­ing (and re­ceiv­ing!) things in the post comes in.

My friend Rachel and I used to live just a few streets apart and be­fore that we shared class­rooms and cor­ri­dors at school. I moved away to Lon­don in my early 20s while she stayed closer to our ge­o­graph­i­cal roots. We’re not far apart, as the crow ies, but not ‘pop­ping round’ dis­tance ei­ther, es­pe­cially fac­tor­ing in child­care lo­gis­tics. So we be­gan a prac­tice of send­ing one an­other things in the post. Just lit­tle things, noth­ing big or ex­pen­sive.

Re­cently, an en­ve­lope a lit­tle fatter than a bill, but still small, dropped through my door. I recog­nised Rachel’s hand­writ­ing and smiled. Sit­ting at my kitchen ta­ble I opened the en­ve­lope to nd a card and herbal tea bags tucked in­side. I can’t re­mem­ber now what the note said but I re­mem­ber feel­ing cared for as I made my­self a cup of tea and set­tled down to work.

I sent Rachel a tiny brooch I found in the shape of a bird once, at a time when I thought she might need

“Some­times some­thing more tan­gi­ble is needed, some­thing to hold, per­haps even to plant and

watch grow.”

a tal­is­man of free­dom. And a few weeks ago I sent nas­tur­tium seeds I had har­vested last year from my crowded bal­cony gar­den. She sent me a post­card from the sea­side.

We text and call too, and fol­low each other’s In­sta­gram ac­counts, and of course we visit when­ever we can. But there’s some­thing spe­cial, and nec­es­sary, in this prac­tice of send­ing things in the old-fash­ioned post, just now and then, that’s right for us. The joy of hav­ing some­thing to open, to dis­cover, never goes away for me. Sim­i­larly, the com­fort of glanc­ing at a post­card sat on my shelf or my new stash of herbal tea makes our friend­ship feel present in my own home, in spite of the dis­tance.

A card is of­ten enough as a ges­ture to make some­one feel cared for and thought of. I’m one of those peo­ple who like to keep a col­lec­tion of cards at the ready. Cards I’ve made, cards I’ve picked up at craft fairs or bought in my (gor­geous) lo­cal East Lon­don gift shop. My tod­dler is in on the act now too – we make cards to­gether cov­ered in shiny sh stick­ers, washi tape and scrib­bles.

Cards for birthdays, new homes and con­grat­u­la­tions are great, but my favourites are cards that could be for any, or no, oc­ca­sion – those are the ones I’m re­ally af­ter for my stash! Be­cause, while I’m all for cel­e­brat­ing at any ex­cuse, some­times I just want to send a card to say ‘hello’ or ‘hope you’re okay’ or (per­haps with a lit­tle bar of choco­late in­side, which is al­ways very wel­come) ‘I’m think­ing of you’.

“Think­ing about what kind of ges­tures might

keep a re­la­tion­ship

some unique ideas.”

Of course, there’s no ‘right’ way to keep in touch. We have to nd the best way for each re­la­tion­ship at each time. Think­ing about what kind of ges­tures might keep a re­la­tion­ship our­ish­ing, and the peo­ple within it feel­ing con­nected, might lead to some unique ideas. We can try things out and maybe start some new prac­tices of keep­ing in touch that are per­sonal to each of us. We can share the joy of re­ceiv­ing a card ‘just be­cause’ or a tiny pack­age that’s a mys­te­ri­ous sur­prise.

So maybe it’s a good time to dig out your ad­dress book and your stamps and let some­one know you’re think­ing of them. Whether you deepen a bond with an al­ready close friend, or re­con­nect with some­one af­ter some time, your life will cer­tainly be richer for it.

FACE TO FACE

If you’re con­nect­ing in per­son, put your phone away so you can give your full at­ten­tion to the present mo­ment and the per­son

you’re with.

MAKE IT PER­SONAL

Tried a new recipe? Post a copy to a foodie friend. Read a great book? Send a re­view. Funny news sto­ries, a joke, a poem – share them with like­minded loved ones.

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