Do You Have to See Friends to Be Friends?

IRLMar 7, 2018by Tracey Jackson Comments

Someone interviewed me recently about life and choices, raising kids and having a career, and the concept of “having it all.”   She asked what I had sacrificed to do both. Could one have it all?

I answered her quickly – an answer I believe, though perhaps had not thought through entirely.  I said that if you know your intentions and your priorities,  it’s not a sacrifice.

I  have two solid priorities:  doing my work which has always given me great joy, and a sense of purpose and being with my children and family.

Saying no to parties, events, or meeting someone for a drink after work never seem at all like a sacrifice.  It was a choice that became a habit.   I made a  vow – we would only go out two nights a week.

I  spent my weekends with my kids, unless they had other plans, and until they were teens I had to get them to and from their plans. And since I had them so far apart this has been going on a long time.  Never a sacrifice, my joy.

The part of the equation I left out was friendships. I dropped the ball on friendships.  I have friends. I know people.  But good friends?  Friends I really talk to on a consistent basis, next to none.

I don’t have a group of girls I see. I never joined the group who had coffee after drop off or the gym as I had to work. My choice.  But that is how friends are made and kept, with consistency.   You do things with people.

It isn’t that I don’t see people.  I have people I love to see and do make time for lunch or a coffee. Friday, my husband and I had dinner with one of my girlfriends and her husband, but in the six years of my friendship with her, that was the first time we did that, a foursome dinner.

It’s hard to have close friendships when you are not actively feeding and watering them.  We all have people we don’t see a lot, and we can pick up where we left off.  But not that many, and ones that fall between that almost familial familiarity do require time, face to face, conversation, a type of focus many don’t have time for and I fear now because of the internet a type of focus many have lost the ability for.

Emojis are not emotions.  You can send all the hearts you want, but it does not compare to a real conversation, a consistent ongoing interaction. A hug.  It just doesn’t.

I have three people – all men oddly, one dead sadly, who I have the Holly Hunter/Albert Brooks relationship from Broadcast News that is described perfectly in the now famous quote…

“I’ll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that time.”

Now that is a friendship.

I have to own that yes, in being a fulltime mom with a fulltime job I did let those types of friendships go.  And now I feel the fallout from that.  I only have myself to blame. But I made a choice. And I wouldn’t change it.

My girls used to complain we didn’t have “family friends.”  They both had friends where the kids and the parents were all close, took vacations and spent tons of time altogether. Outside of one family the Mendelson’s who we were close to when my oldest was born it’s never happened again.

It’s not an easy thing to do, everyone has to like each other. You can’t just be friends with people because you have kids the same age. And when you have kids ten years apart it’s almost impossible.

It’s not just people with jobs and kids who feel this. We had dinner with new friends the other night.  They don’t have kids, the man of the couple said that he had let many of his friendships go as he did not have time to write his books and keep a fulltime practice, he is an analyst, (analysts do this too) and keep his friendships up. We all talked about how we no longer talk on the phone with people. Those long phone conversations we all used to have with our friends.   “Oh my god we’ve been on the phone for three hours.”  When was the last time you said that?

But the woman of the couple had found ways to rectify the situation, she had a friend she realized she had lost touch with and they made a pact to meet up in person, every week and do something face to face.  “It doesn’t have to be big but it has to be in person.”  She said it’s down to twice a month now, but it’s a commitment. And it resurrected the closeness of their bond.

I think it’s a good idea. I think standing dates with people are good. And I think the older we get as our kids drift into their own lives, many of our careers slow down and some people end up without a mate, our friends, like in our youth become a central part, a truly important factor in our connectedness to the world and a mirror to our souls.

People need community. Living things need community.  People need friends. People need interaction that is IRL and not just virtual.

So what do you do if you fall into the I’ve not paid enough attention to my friends camp?

  • Make a list of five friends you haven’t talked to for awhile. Write it in your datebook and make a plan to call them. Stick with it.
  • Do what my new friend Rebecca does, make a standing date with someone. Make it non-negotiable and keep those connections strong.
  • Make new friends. We lose friends along the way and often don’t replace them. I’m made two lunch dates with new people this week.
  • I now have a friends journal and I write down who I want to see and connect with and I am trying to be consistent in doing it.

Our friendships don’t have to look like the photo above.  They just take some effort and planning and picking up the phone.  They require listening without checking our Instagram feeds. They take putting aside work,  shopping or useless time on FB and meeting up at the museum, park, or seeing a movie that does not stream into your house.

It’s kind of like life in the old-fashioned lane, but I seem to remember that was where I saw a lot more of my friends.