An old friend said I should call her once we moved to different towns. “Every day!” she said. I knew that wouldn’t be sustainable, but at least we’d try to connect regularly. Every day turned into twice a week, then once a week, and then hardly at all. The same thing happened with text messages.
I checked in with her to see if everything was alright between us. It was; everyone is just busy. Boo hoo, I thought.
Then I remembered all the other messages I left to marinate in my inbox. Unanswered Christmas cards, birthday wishes (some that are over three years old!), warm greetings from friends in faraway lands: each one lovely and worthy of a wholesome letter in return.
With work e-mails and calls, I am speedy. I reply within a day or two. So why don’t I extend the same habit to old friends? That mismatch in priorities doesn’t feel right. My favorite (and most deadly) rationalization: “I’ll write back when I have the time to make a worthy response”. But of course, that day doesn’t come.
I can’t complain in good conscience when I’ve left other cherished people hanging in the past. If anything, this is another reason for me to double down my efforts in making timely correspondence a regular habit.
Reframe: Rather than excusing yourself by saying “I stink at responding to messages”, think of timely correspondence as a skill to develop, or as a muscle to strengthen. The next time an old friend slips up, throw them a bone and be gracious, just as many others have been to you.
Here’s an example I like to return to, this one from Suzanne after I neglected her message for 11 months: