Once upon a time, I was a very social person.
I was not an extrovert, per se. I was never the life of the party, the reason people showed up to the cookout. But I appreciated a gathering of human beings, and I sought out relationships with a notable gusto.
I was also an open book. If the Walmart cashier asked me how I was doing, by golly she was going to find out. “So, anyway, if I had it to do over, I would’ve left the banana bread in another five minutes or so . . .” you could hear me say as I gathered my bags and the cashier stared at me blankly, having just heard an entire rundown of my week in the six minutes it took to ring me up.
Way back in high school, I was involved in the clubs and sports and went to most of the events. I was even on homecoming court if that counts for anything in your mid-30s. (Spoiler: it doesn’t.)
This character trait stems from several things, namely, well . . . I don’t know really. My mom is a self-proclaimed anti-social homebody, and she has the lack of social media to prove it. Maybe I get it from my dad. But he was a total no-show since childhood so who’s to say? Maybe he had too many social gatherings on his calendar to jot me in.
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Regardless, for most of my life, I have been quick to agree to get-togethers and have filled up my days with play dates and coffee dates and Bible studies. I sought out people’s stories, and I am a great listener. When we lived overseas, our house helper joked that sometimes she didn’t know if she worked at a house or a hotel because we had so many visitors. (At least I think she was joking . . .)
Yet somewhere along the way, something changed.
I could say, “Well, you know, COVID.” But that isn’t it. It was a soul-weariness that I couldn’t shake; something internal that shifted pre-pandemic.
After some soul-searching, I finally realized it stemmed from a lot of pursuing and very little fruit for my labor. I was socially spread a mile wide but only an inch deep. I was drained and had nothing of substance to show for it.
So, I decided to pause the pursuit.
I am learning to say no when I need to and yes only when it is life-giving.
And it is freeing.
Because seasons change and what used to be energizing is now exhausting. If I’m honest, I don’t have the fortitude to start from scratch right now.
Adult friendship is hard work.
It’s not like when you are a kid and you meet someone on the playground who looks to be about your age and you ask if they like dolls and they say yes and so you play Barbies together and suddenly you are BFFs.
It’s more like, “I’m free Tuesdays after 3 p.m. but before 5 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month but only before 1 p.m. and next January I have six slots open, but they are filling up quickly so let me know ASAP.”
I know this is not unique to me. I hear other women talking about this longing for true friendship and this elusive pursuit for our people. I also hear about the discouragement that comes when it just isn’t happening.
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I don’t believe this phenomenon is anyone’s fault. The good Lord knows it’s not for lack of trying! I would offer that the culture cultivated in America over the last century that rewards work and progress and downplays rest and relationships at the expense of everyone’s mental and emotional well-being has contributed. But that is a separate blog post.
Nevertheless, I am resting from the pursuit.
As an adult with growing kids and a spouse whose work schedule is whack and with a homeschool curriculum judging me from the shelf in the corner because I skipped two days last week and soccer practice and #life, I don’t have a lot of energy left for the effort required to build the foundation of a solid friendship. At least not the ones we fantasize about from movies where they’re living their excessively busy lives but somehow still manage to have Saturday get-togethers and girls’ nights on the reg.
So, I gave myself a break from friendshipping.
(Friendshipping, Verb: the pursuit of new friendships. My name is Ashley and I invent words.)
It doesn’t mean I am giving up on friendship altogether, but simply pausing the pursuit of those deeply longed-for relationships I haven’t found quite yet. I am choosing to invest my time in my kids, my husband, myself, and the friendships I already have even if they are from a distance. For now, that is all I can do and still maintain my sanity.
And it is enough.
If you feel overwhelmed by the quest for your people, consider this your permission to hit pause, too. You can try again when you’re ready.