When I was in college, I loved to be alone. I had a very full schedule between school, work, church, ministry, dating, and friends. I would get home, and immediately retreat to my room for some alone time. I had deep, meaningful friendships, and was around people all the time. I felt no lack or longing in my relationships.
Since graduating, getting married, and having kids, my schedule looks a whole lot different these days. I stay home with my kids, so time with other people is much more limited than it once was. I find myself each week mentally running through my list of friends and thinking okay, who am I going to hang out with this week? I grab my phone and start sending texts, trying to make some plans for each day. And after a year and a half of living in this town, there is something I’ve noticed.
If I don’t do this, it doesn’t happen.
Rarely, there are occasions where I have plans that I didn’t initiate. There is the occasional birthday party or group play-date. But typically, if I don’t take that first step to ask someone to hang out, I end up sitting at home by myself all week. Of course, there are the regularly scheduled church activities and mom-things where I am able to see friends on a pretty regular basis. I don’t go months without seeing a friend. But I could easily go months without spending intentional time with a friend if I do not make it happen. And I have.
There was a time when I would have taken this personally and been hurt by it, and most likely would have stopped asking a person to hang out if I felt like I was the only one pursuing a relationship. But then I had 2 kids 13 months apart. And during those first 2 years of being a mom, I was a really terrible friend. I pursued people very little, because I was constantly needed by my little boys, had very little spare time, I was really tired, and all my mental space to think about other things was depleted. As my boys have gotten older and more independent, more flexible, our schedule has opened up a lot. Looking back, I did very little to initiate relationships, but it wasn’t because I just didn’t like someone or didn’t care about my friendships. I neglected relationships and didn’t return calls to people that I genuinely loved, and it had nothing to do with them.
So, I realize it may not be a personal thing. It may be that my friends are just tired. Also busy, because everyone is (except me, I guess). Thankfully, my friends don’t dodge me when I try to make plans, so I don’t think it’s entirely that they are uninterested. I could be wrong, of course.
I used to inwardly whine about my lack of community and real friendships. You know what I’m talking about. There is a difference in those you see every so often and catch up with, and those you share your life with. But in this area at least, I’ve learned not to whine so much and blame others, but take responsibility for making these things happen. If I want friends, I need to initiate. I’m not saying I’m great at this now. I still could be a much better friend, and much more intentional. But I’ve become more active in this whole process, and less offended when others aren’t.
So I’m at this place where I am kind of trying to figure out what is normal in this town/in mom-of-little-children world/in my circles. My husband and I feel we often want to be with other people more than others want to be with other people. I would feel great about hanging out with the same person several times in a week, but I feel like I would scare some people off if I actually asked them to hang out a few days in a row.
I spent time with a new friend the other day, and afterwards she texted me and said she had fun and we should do it again soon. My initial response is great, me too! Want to get together again tomorrow?!? But then something kicks in that tells me my new friend will think that is too much and will be all like whoa, slow down, maybe next week.
So, am I wrong? Would other people be happy to get together more often, but maybe like me are hesitant to ask? Or is there actually some unspoken rule that you can’t see people too frequently? OR am I way off and everyone else actually is hanging out with people on a pretty regular basis and I’m missing something??? Friends, I need answers.
There are definitely days I retreat in my little home in the woods and don’t engage with the outside world. I know I can’t do this for too many days in a row, or I will, in fact, go crazy. But for the most part, I know my days are much better spent when I am walking through life alongside other people.
One of the things our family is passionate about is community. We desire depth in our friendships. We want to share our lives, and be on the receiving end of others sharing their lives. I know some people are pretty protective over their “family time” and I understand that when we have this built-in community in our own houses, our need for other relationships may not be felt the same way. But I feel like there must be other barriers that prevent people from pursuing relationships outside their homes. I also feel like there must be people like us that want to be with other people. So, how do I find those people? The ones that won’t think I’m weird because I keep asking to hang out? OR AM I WEIRD, I DON’T KNOW GUYS?!?
I read a great book recently about sharing our lives with others. If you find yourself, like us, desiring community with other people, you may enjoy The Simplest Way to Change the World. It is a super helpful, practical, challenging book that will help you think through your approach to building relationships, and leave you wanting to put yourself out there, and invite others in. I have a feeling I’ll come back to this book more than once.
I’d love to hear what your expectations for friendships are? Do you feel like you are constantly initiating? If not, what keeps you from pursuing other people? Let me know your thoughts!
Photo credit: Foter.com