Lone Wolf in Mid-Life: Cheryl Strayed on Friendship
In this new blog series, "Cheryl Strayed on Friendship" we'll be sharing excerpts from Cheryl's column Dear Sugar and her podcast on questions she's received and answered regarding friendship. If you need more Cheryl in your life (read: you do) get yourself a copy of her book, Tiny Beautiful Things.
One of my best friends (hey, Nikki!) sent me this on Instagram recently:
Raise your hand if you can relate. I personally could not relate more and I think it's a great companion piece as you read the below "Friendship Quandary" Q&A with our homegirl Cheryl Strayed (note: she has no idea we exist...yet!).
I have certainly shared the same gripe as "Lone Wolf in Mid-Life" over the years. I'm in my late twenties (fine, my mid-thirties) and between finding love, getting married, having kids, trying to have kids, taking care of said kids, balling out in their careers, or taking care of family, my friends are Busy with a capital B.
It's human nature to feel butt hurt when you feel like you are the last priority on a anyone's list, let alone a close friends. But if you take anything from this blog, let it be this:
"Try to keep your connections alive, even if they seem really minimal to you right now, because in the long-run, those friendships are going to matter." - Cheryl Strayed
I realize we are all engaged in technology, career, family and activities. My problem lies with the constant stream of friends who say, "I'm too busy!” “I'm swamped!” “I'm running in a million directions!" and on it goes. My translation is: “I'm too busy for you, and you are not a priority, and I am rather important.”
Worse yet is the faceless, voiceless communication. Am I supposed to be satisfied with a lengthy text message update about their life, and/or a Facebook status update to keep in touch? Or with statements being said rather than questions being asked? Things like, "Hope you are well,” “Hope you had a great trip,” “I trust all is well with your family,” “Enjoy your summer,” “You will figure it out.” No asking and listening, probing my heart and mind, seeking my thoughts. I guess no one really is interested or cares.
I have tried to be a good friend, put in the effort with my time, my ear, my physical presence and personal calls that go unanswered, straight to voicemail. Nobody is that bloody busy! So do I just “pull the plug" and walk away from these unsatisfying friendships?
Lone Wolf in Mid-Life
This is a really common conundrum, especially in the modern age.
I’m really of two minds. If you’re finding that you’re feeling dissatisfied with all of your friends, or a large majority of them, and feeling angry and alienated, maybe it’s not them – it’s you. I think you’ve just described me in your letter.
One of the greatest anxieties of these last several years has been that I feel like I’m not as good of a friend as I want to be. The reason is that I’m busy – I’m working too much, I’m traveling a lot, and then when I’m not doing those things, I have these two little children and they have to take priority.
I have just straight-out said to many of my friends: “I love you, I care about you and, yeah, sometimes we’re going to have to catch up on text.” But what I’ve also done is, every season or so, say, “OK, it’s been three months since I’ve seen you. We must get together.”
What I suggest to you is, first of all, don’t take it personally that your friends are busy. Some of these people truly might be using busyness as an excuse to blow you off, but most of them probably actually care about you, and they just simply have to prioritize other things right now. Sometimes with friendships, what you have to do is say, “This isn’t the moment that we’re super close, and there might be other times where we are close.”
Try to keep those connections alive, even if they seem really minimal to you right now, because in the long-run, those friendships are going to matter.