It was a sticky Florida Saturday and my husband, Braveheart, was hauling a wagon full of chairs, which later had to be shaken out to release a “friend” or two who occupied them during long periods of storage. Also in the wagon: a pop-up tent for those of us who fry in the sun, Doritos in two flavors, virgin pina coladas for the kids, iced tea, roast beast and swiss cheese, fresh taco salad, and homemade peanut butter cookies.
Braveheart had parked the car with a measure of patience and impatience, and he and Unthanklet 1 packed the wagon while Unthanklet 2 and I found our friends.
They were under a big, shady tree, waiting for us.
Which was awesome.
I’d lived in Jacksonville for a year, and I had finally made some friends. Come-let’s-share-a-drink-and-listen-to-Lizz-Wright friends. Meet us in front of City Hall and we’ll spend this hot, sticky day together friends. Reminisce about Back to the Future friends. Geek out about music friends. Here, meet my kid friends. Try this cheese friends.
And they have no idea how grateful I am for someone willing to spend the day with me and my circle of four.
You see, there’s a rare and precious thing those wrinkly-faced, white-haired folks always talk about between complaints about joint pain and those damn kids on the lawn: fellowship. That’s an old-fashioned word for getting your head out of your apps and having a face to face conversation for which you are not master and commander of the running time.
We’re losing our ability to do that, often glorifying our aloneness, uniqueness, and status as the hermit/victim to the point of antisocial narcissism.
We’ve learned to ignore. To interrupt. To redirect the conversation back to our interests, current situation, and comfortable context in order to keep talking for another minute or two. To not speak at all. To leave early. To decide that people are stupid, and they suck.
Watch out for this very popular little trap–it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you’re always looking for an excuse to leave a conversation or not have it in the first place, people are walking on eggshells around you, and you are making it unsafe for them, adding to the problem. Funny how rejection works, isn’t it?
Inconvenient and painful as it can be, pushing through social awkwardness and the desperate desire to withdraw is how you make friends–and these days, it’s practically an act of rebellion against popular ways of framing humanity.
People are going to let you down, even if they are good folks who like your husband’s collard greens. It’s what makes us human, and it’s no excuse for avoiding the joy of a true connection. Move in. Lean in. Stop waiting for everyone else to make the world socially safe for you… be one of the socially safe/ emotionally grounded people instead.
True friendships are worth the pain of awkward moments, of the mistakes we make with each other and eventually forgive, of the joy of shared cheese and night swimming and the sultry voice of Lizz Wright.
I dare you to try it… you rebel, you.