When life is full at home, cultivating deep relationships with friends requires real effort.
I miss my friends and I am driving myself crazy.
There, I said it.
I’m swinging on the wrong side of the loneliness pendulum (which, if you don’t know, veers from super lonely to life-is-full-rich-and-loving), and am wasting entirely too much time checking other people’s Facebook feeds, fretting about parties or wine nights I haven’t been invited to, and even envying trips I hear about taken by people who are not my friends.
The thing is, I’m not particularly lonely. Or I am, but I don’t want to admit it. Or I am, but the effort it would take to change that is way too much, so I’ll just waste some more time missing my two pals who moved away from Boulder this fall and wondering when my social life is going to kickstart itself.
Hell, let me drive myself crazy a little more.
This is not a new state of being for me. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a social butterfly. I meet people and adore them from the get go and want to be good friends immediately. With everyone. Which, time has taught me, is impossible. That didn’t stop me from trying to befriend everyone in every grade from K-12. Or from having huge parties once I was out of school and living on my own. Or from knowing many people in many different groups, and feeling slightly scattered.
Deep and solid friendship is cultivated—either over time or through a chemistry so profound and intense that two people have no choice BUT to be friends. Acquaintances? They’re great—fun for a bike ride or a play date or a beer, but, by definition, the relationship stays mostly near the surface.
When you’ve got young kids, that’s usually fine, because who has time for deep and intense friendships? OK, not true. I, especially, need at least one deep friendship. And the pathetic thing (to me) is that I have wonderful, amazing people in my life. But I just don’t see them enough, or regularly, or on any sort of schedule at all.
This, I realize, is my fault. I don’t call people often and rarely do I plan things in advance.
Until this fall that wasn’t a problem because Janel was my friend and she was always the person planning huge, fun, inclusive parties, camping trips, and more. But she moved.
There was Emily, my daily confidante, the woman whose house I stopped by unannounced all the time, always feeling welcome. She and her family moved away a few weeks after Janel. Emily was the first mom friend I made after Henry was born, and together we shared pregnancies and births of our second kids, some great outdoors adventures, many glasses of wine, and hearing each other vent like crazy when one or the other went off the deep end.
But even though I was sad at their departures, I kept myself occupied. Work. Writing. Kids. Exercise. I kept myself so busy that life got a little frantic. So I chilled out, stepped back, calmed down, and got myself some free time.
And now where are my friends?
Apparently, they’re not just available on demand (what the hell?). And, according to Facebook, which never lies or distorts the truth, they are all having the times of their lives. Without me.
Look, I know it’s absurd to get up in a knot about this. I’m loved, I love, all’s well. But why, then, do I really miss feeling a part of a group?
I ponder this as I watch both Henry, who’s 4, and Jeff, who’s 44—both introverts, both curious, and most happy when they have tons of time to explore whatever is their fascination of the moment. I doubt Jeff has ever bemoaned missing a night out at the bar with a group of his friends, and I know Henry would rather watch fish in the pond most days then go to a kid party.
Part of it is their personality. They’re introverts. I’m not. But part of it is also their uncanny ability to stay in the present. I’m realizing that when I’m fretting about my lame-o social life, I’m miles away from the moment at hand.
So I’m making a pledge. I’m going to reach out a little more and be open to more invitations. But I’m also going to try not to overthink things. I was talking about this with a friend I went running with today (I realize how that sounds, thanks) and she sent me an email after our run with this insight, which I love, and which I’ll close with:
It is SO important to make things like our run and drinks happen. I think we get so caught up in our own kids and family that it is easy to start to feel isolated. And then it starts to feel like there are lots of people who you like, or think you could really like, but never get past that level without the time or the effort to do it.
Here’s to getting past that level.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Rachel Walker is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado, whose reported pieces and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Backpacker, Skiing, babble.com, and others. She is working on a memoir about the lessons learned from failed attempts at training young thoroughbred horses in her 20s. Find her on Twitter: @rodellwalker.
This originally appeared on Spawn & Survive. Republished here with permission.