Humble enough to listen

It’s a bit ironic that I’m distancing myself from a Whatsapp group that I started because it’s started to make me feel worthless and miserable. But the group that has become one of those groups that makes you feel worse than you did when you logged in. 

It’s the classic FOMO scenario: I started the group to catch up with a widely dispersed group of women who were close friends when we were in our 20’s. At that time, the group was very supportive of each other and, despite the lack of digital communication (it was the 1980’s) we managed to see each other through any career, relationship and money troubles that came along. We really leant on each other, and as always happens in cases like this, became extremely close. There was no “one-upmanship” (the forerunner to FOMO); we were honest in our weaknesses and losses as well as success and gains. We never judged each other – the unspoken directive that we silently adhered to without question – was that we were just there for each other. And it worked. Beautifully. 

Fast forward 30 years: marriages/committed relationships, babies, house moves and some separations/divorces have all come along and despite perhaps twice yearly conversation, we live quite separate lives now. And that closeness has gone by the by. 

So, I thought I’d try to re-kindle that closeness that we had, now that we’re at the stage in life where we have a bit more time to ourselves (after bringing up families etc). But, as much as I’ve tried, there doesn’t seem to be the same closeness and sisterhood.  

Okay, we haven’t been able to meet up due to the pandemic, and given that we now live in all four corners of the country, this would take a ton of planning to organise, even if the COVID regulations meant that we could.  

So, I thought a Whatsapp group might pave the way and re-establish our kinship until such time we could meet up. So I became the Admin of the group who asked questions that would hopefully generate some of the quirky sense of humour we once shared, and putting comments out there that I knew would push buttons and provoke responses – both positive and negative. 

It didn’t work. 

At first, in the early days of the group, there WAS a lot of interaction. Members explained what they were up to, what difficulties they were experiencing due to the pandemic and what they were looking forward to in the coming year. It all seemed hunky-dory and I felt pleased I’d bitten the bullet and started the group.  

But that didn’t last long. The end of the year (2020) came along and with it all the busyness of Christmas, having grown up children back in the nest for a time, and looking after elderly parents etc. So even when a series of my posts went unanswered, I felt a little hurt. But that was the time of the year, right? 

The new year came and with it some small sort of normality (as normal as you can get given what we’re living with currently). And the group still didn’t thrive. I put stuff out there only not to receive any responses which fed my already shakey lack of confidence with the group.  

Had I offended them in any way? Could what I had posted been misinterpreted? I began to view the group I’d set up with a degree of “not very niceness” – for want of a better phrase. And that rang alarm bells for me. I got into a bad headspace that didn’t allow me to reason through why they hadn’t responded. 

Some of them had full-time jobs which demanded they work on-site, despite the “Work From Home” directive by the UK government. Some were looking after parents that were ill and some had such large grown-up families with children of their own, that their grandparenting responsibilities left them time for nothing else. 

But, my somewhat dejected brain didn’t compute that. I just felt a degree of hurt that they didn’t respond. I know, selfish or what? But my point is, that one of the downsides of social media, Whatsapp included, gives you a very distorted view of real life.  

And, I own up, it was TOTALLY my mistake to think that I could recreate a blissful point in time based on conversations in a virtual world. Although we have had some honest (and heart-warming) conversations on the group, that thread would never, ever make up for meeting up in real life. And it was naive of me to expect it to do so. 

You see, the problem is not having the face to face interaction that we normally get a human beings. And with the fact that 65% of communication is done non verbally, how could we expect to have conversations that are meaningful? An article in the New York Times looked at the horrifying facts just how much verbal clues are needed in accurate communication. And it’s a lot! 

So, my plan, going forward, is this. Although I won’t be as prolific on my Whatsapp group, I will remember those members with the fondness I felt when we were in our 20’s. And I will be watching governmental guidelines for such time I can use my need to re-establish contact with these amazing women to arrange a meet up when we absolutely can. It will involve a lot of planning and organising, for sure, but it will be so worth it. 

And, I’m grateful for the experience in showing me a lesson I may not have learnt otherwise. You’re never too old to live and learn lessons, whatever format they may arrive in. 

Just be humble enough to listen. 

Take care & stay safe

Una x