Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You Just Call Out My Name…

Have you heard about the Lifeboat project?  I stumbled across this today and even as I type this, I can hear a little voice in my head* intoning that there are no coincidences.**

You see, I was just thinking recently about how I miss our old house, as it was in the flow of things and friends would kind of regularly drop by. We were just down the street from the local elementary school and the park where many in our circle played Little League and basketball. We averaged one to two drop-in visits a week, and it was nice to be so plugged in to our friends' lives.

Since we moved to our apartment a year and a half ago, we are out of that pleasant little loop. We are just a few miles away, but parking on our street is challenging to say the least, and there’s the intercom to deal with, and the maze of our complicated apartment complex that newcomers have difficulty navigating. However, even beyond that little circle of local friends, I miss my larger circle of friends and how full my life has become that I live in the same city as many of my friends and still don’t get to see them.

So, back to Lifeboat, a “movement of people rediscovering great friendships.” Apparently in this hyperconnected age, it is quite common for people to have tremendous numbers of Facebook friends but still spend only 4% of their actual face time with their friends. The movement was spurred by a couple who were lamenting the decline of their relationships with their friends the further they moved into adulthood (in their case, their 30s). Well, good heavens! You might say this is a very first world problem to have.  But I do think there is something to this, as our emotional relationships are so very important to our overall health. I can say that despite my busy life, there are times when I do feel very lonely.  I love my husband, and I love my children, but sometimes I just need a girlfriend to vent to or hang with, and sometimes it just seems like such a project to get it together that I stop before I’ve even started as the thought of organizing something exhausts me.

Recently, I had lunch plans with some girlfriends who had to cancel because they work together and got roped into working on a Saturday (March 2nd) at the last minute. As we were trying by email to coordinate our schedules around our children and other commitments, we realized that we probably wouldn’t be able to get together until nearly mid-April. We were all pretty bummed. A couple of hours later, one friend excitedly emailed that her stepson’s mom had emailed to ask to switch visitation weekends, so we are good to go for March 23rd.  Ultimately, it worked out, but it gives you an idea of how difficult it is to plan things. Lunch during the week is out because of distance and after work is out because two of us have issues with childcare.

That’s not to mention friends who I only see once a year or every couple of years, who live in various far-flung areas in Los Angeles County. It is not impossible for us to get together, it just takes some planning. In the Lifeboat spirit, I am trying to reach out and see people I haven’t seen in some time. Consider yourself forewarned.

Has the frequency of your friend interaction changed over time?  Do you think this Lifeboat movement might be helpful to you or are you appalled that such a thing exists? Or are you somewhere in the middle? I’m curious.

* Note that I am not hearing other voices. I am not having auditory hallucinations. But thanks, thanks if you were concerned. No, really, thanks!

** Note that I am really disturbed to realize that the voice I am hearing in my head is Master Oogway (one of the Worst Phonetic Spellings Ever, I have to add) from Kung Fu Panda saying, “There are no accidents.”


Alia McKee said...

Hey Lisa,

First off, I love the "You've got a friend" reference.

Secondly thanks for sharing your thoughts on friendship. The idea behind Lifeboat is to get folks thinking more purposefully about how they relate to their friends in the good times, the tough times and the hard-to-schedule times (hooray for March 23!) Needless to say, I was excited to see your thoughtful post.

Also, in response to your prompt about whether folks might be appalled that something like Lifeboat exists, I don't believe trying to increase the strength and health of bonds with friends is overly-indulgent at all. As you point out, friendships do affect our health, our stress levels, our happiness and our sense of purpose/meaning.

I think a little self-reflection about how to invest deeply with a small group of friends in an age where "friending" has become as easy as a click of a mouse is a good thing.

Thanks so much for starting this conversation! We really appreciate it.

With Lifeboat

Lisa Blah Blah said...

Hi Alia,

Wow, I am honored that you responded. Welcome to my humble little blog! (shoves dirty socks under the couch, hopes you don't notice dishes in sink)

I have to say, I was reading through the website about how this idea got started and I could really relate to that moment when you realized you had kind of lost your way. I have been feeling that same kind of back burner anxiety, feeling a little unmoored.

My friends are deeply important to me but I don't often tell them so. I think Lifeboat is giving me a little kick in the pants as far as that goes, so thanks!

All the best,

Bridget said...

I had to marinate on this post for a day or so. (Another great one, Lisa.)

For me, personally, a lot of it is about location. Semi-rural does not lend itself to drop in visits. Bah. And yet there's a part of me that wonders if anyone does that anymore, regardless? Is it a text now? Double bah.

As I get older (and still continue to make friends and put myself out there) I've noticed that it's not as lucid or flexible as when you're younger. It's either logistics or family obligations...or other intangibles. Lately I'm mulling over the possibility that people's personalities become more permanently fixed. Not everyone is that open to letting others into their circle (unlike the easy "friends" of FB) and sometimes your own now lengthy experience says, "This person is certifiably nuts. Run away."

Last night I was chatting with an awesome friend who is also an artist and we were talking about a painting she's working on. She said, "Well, Ms Snooty Art Director, what did you think of that one element? Should I keep the blue?" I said, "Don't introduce another complicated color into it, J. A brown tone would work just as fine." And we both nodded in unison 26 miles apart. It struck me that this twenty+ year relationship had a precious sort of shorthand that just can't be replaced at the drop of a hat.

It's something to be cherished, for sure.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

First off, I love your beautifully written comment.

Secondly: yes, there is something especially special about those long-lived friendships where you don't have to explain yourself because there is that depth of understanding of -- well, of you, of your you-ness. No more needed to be said.

And there is something to be said about Facebook for connecting with old friends. In elementary school, my sister and I were best friends with another pair of sisters, each our age. We lost touch over the years but via FB we were able to reconnect. Had we not done so, I don't think I would feel comfortable getting in touch with them if I were back in my hometown. But now, we communicate regularly through FB and I would make an effort to see them if I happen to travel back east.

Interesting how friendships evolve over time, and interesting how frienship itself has changed in this digital age.