• Resolving Problems

How The Pandemic Changed My Expectations And Some Friendships

Published: September 16, 2021 | By | 4 Replies Continue Reading

“When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things as they are, instead of what you think they should be.” ~Mandy Hale

The word “expectation” has been on my mind lately. During the COVID-19 pandemic, so many of our plans and expectations were put on hold or canceled entirely. 

Consider all the things, large and small, that were usually expected of us, or that we expected of ourselves, before the pandemic. Things like driving to work in our good clothes, for instance, or shaking hands when we meet new people. Or attending large parties and restaurants without thinking twice about getting sick. 

A year and a half later, the virus is still changing how and where we socialize — and even what we expect from our personal relationships. I discovered during lockdown that I’m not really the extrovert I thought I was — or that most people have expected me to be. This insight came as a surprise.

In the past, I was a social initiator — the person who usually called first to make lunch dates or dinner plans. I’m the one who organized the group activities, invited folks to neighborhood potlucks, sent greeting cards to keep in touch, and hosted crazy Halloween costume parties. It was a role I’d grown accustomed to playing for years. 

But I spent the early weeks of the pandemic drowning in waves of grief and anxiety that were — for lack of a better explanation — triggered by fear of the virus and political unrest. I barely had the emotional energy to phone a close friend for a chat. 

So, I was secretly relieved when lockdown orders canceled the pressure to socialize in person. I welcomed the chance to retreat while reflecting on what was happening to my beleaguered country and the rest of the world. 

With my usual social obligations curtailed, it was interesting to see who reached out to me after I pulled back. I realized then that a few of my social and family relationships were clearly one-sided; that I was always the one to pick up the phone to check in or initiate a get-together. I wondered how authentic, stable, or healthy some of those relationships really were. Which ones could be repaired? Which ones deserved the effort? 

It also occurred to me that maybe the relationships in question had expired for other reasons and it was time to let go. Later, during conversations with others, I learned that the pandemic forced many people to reconsider some of their relationships along with their priorities, too. 

In quarantine with my husband, I shuffled around our house on my own schedule, with nobody expecting anything more of me. It felt blissful, at times. I spent quiet afternoons tinkering on new projects — braless and in sweatpants — without worrying about dressing up to go anywhere later. 

At the same time, I stopped stressing over what I was achieving — or not achieving. 

It occurred to me that so much of what I expected (or thought I wanted) for myself had become enmeshed with what I assumed others expected or wanted from me. Like many women I know, I still wear the hopes and expectations of my family, my friends, and my culture like a heavy shawl around my shoulders. I have a lot of unraveling to do.

Left unmanaged, expectations can lead to letdown or disappointment. Or burnout. 

If we’ve learned nothing else during the pandemic, maybe we’ve learned how to go easier on ourselves. As hard as we might try to meet everyone’s expectations, it’s nearly impossible to fuel and maintain that level of approval without running dry eventually. It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time with people and making them happy. I’m grateful for the caring support of good friends and family. It’s just that I savored, if only for a year and a half, the sweet relief of fewer expectations. 

Cindy La Ferle is a nationally published lifestyles columnist and author. The essay above is excerpted from a longer blog post. Visit her blog, Things That Make Me Happy, to read more of Cindy’s work. 

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Comments (4)

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  1. Cindy La Ferle says:

    You make some excellent points — and you might consider writing an opinion piece to elaborate on the valid points you make. You have every right to be “critical” when offering a differing opinion on the topic.

    I appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts. I should add that I too have lost loved ones to COVID-19 this year, and have several loved ones and friends who work in healthcare.
    ~Cindy La Ferle

    • Sandra J Gurvis says:

      Thanks, yes, “we are all in this together” and have differering opinions. I am indeed writing an article on pandemic friendships, which is why I read yours with such interest. Thanks for your thoughtful reply, a bit of (polite and kind) disagreement is always healthy!

  2. Sandra J Gurvis says:


    I have to admit, I found parts of this article disturbing. For example:

    Every time I read something like this, I always think about people who live alone and also people who have “long haul” or died of COVID. While gratitude is always a good thing, this reeks of a bit of smugness and entitlement – what about those who weren’t fortunate to be happily ensconsced with constantly supportive, all-loving family or enough money to cushion the blow of the pandemic? What about those who had to work in healthcare or 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet?

    Think about how *they* might feel reading these words. Not trying to be critical or mean, just trying to explain points of view you might not have otherwise understood or considered.

    • Sandra J Gurvis says:

      Here’s the part that was somehow, weirdly omitted.

      “So, I was secretly relieved when lockdown orders canceled the pressure to socialize in person. I welcomed the chance to retreat while reflecting on what was happening to my beleaguered country and the rest of the world.”

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