The Self-Care Experiment Week 4: The power of the friend date

Everyone’s heard it: “It takes a Village.” I mean, mostly that statement crops up when we talk about child rearing but I think it applies to life in general. Whether we prefer to have few, very close friends or a large broader group of friends, we’re all built to need connection.

When it comes to seeing friends as adults though, things can get a bit trickier. There’s work, spouses, children and family obligations. There’s international moves and time zones to think about. Sometimes there’s additional courses of study, programming, and scheduling between blended families. Once you prioritize all of the ‘adulting,’ you turn around and discover that it’s been months since you last spoke with the people you call your nearest and dearest friends. And they don’t fault you either because the exact same thing has happened to them.

That’s the way it is though: “life takes over” and though your most intimate relationships with family are fulfilling there’s something missing. The connection that comes from being with people who understand us differently than our family, our spouses, our kids.

We’ve got lots of ways to stay in touch now, of course, and we’d be lost without them! From email to facebook messages, from texting to tagging on social media, there’s lots of easy ways to let someone know we’re thinking about them but they’re just the modern day equivalent to “passing a note in class” – not the same as really connecting. How often do you just chat on the phone with your friends these days? It takes a bit more effort and a bit more planning to make those schedules match up. But friends are like oxygen in my book – and when we don’t get enough contact it feels like my airway is slowly being closed off. Since we have a comparatively less complicated schedule than my friends who balance children, spouses, in addition to those things we all balance (work schedules, travel, parents) we often find it’s up to us to reach out. And that’s cool, like, we get it. But sometimes we fail at recognizing this too, and so the lack of oxygen is on us. It’s a two way street and it’s not always evenly paved on both sides.

And yet, we crave our friends. We need the belly laughs, the commiserating, the deep talks, and the critical conversations about the facial serums we’re loving, the things at home that are frustrating, how we feel about and what career decisions we’re making. We need our kindred friends for support, love, understanding, setting-straight, and belonging,    

So, given all of the obstacles that get in the way of having the social lives we used to have when life was a bit simpler, what could happen if we prioritize seeing or catching up with at least one friend per week?  Not just by text or by email. But actual, in-person bonding time?

How’d we do?

We didn’t want to actually tell anyone that we were adding this into our Self-Care Experiment, though plenty of our friends knew we were doing all kinds of fun self-care activities. We wanted it to be organic. But, we were also nervous. What if we put the effort in but everyone was still too busy? What if we couldn’t find time? Would we have to tell them about the ‘assignment’ to make it stick?

Oh that’s silly when we say it out loud, isn’t it? All it really took was some planning. The spontaneity of the good ole days might be less available but friends are always accessible.

The result?

Lonely days of Winter be gone! Springtime invites the urge to reconnect too, and it might have helped that a birthday or two were smack dab in the middle of our Self-Care Experiment that may have influenced an extra reason for friends to gather ‘round. So what happened? We…

  • Attended the first ever SOP (Sleep Over Party) for the child of two of our besties, at which we were instantly deemed cool by half a dozen nine year-olds. We discovered the reason that parents drink at this party, and had a blast singing, beading, cupcake decorating, soothing, and introducing the next generation to the gem that is The Princess Bride (FYI, the movie is 1 hour and 38 minutes, unless you watch it with six nine year-olds, in which case it runs about 2.5 hours).
  • Went for a lovely dinner with one beloved friend at a fancy neighbourhood resto – and were totally thrilled when another friend and her family popped in for hugs just because they were in the ‘hood
  • Found that a spa day with a kindred friend gave us the quiet time we needed to thoroughly catch up on the challenges of balancing co-parenting, career growth, and everything in between
  • Used the gift of an hour-long FaceTime chats meant that far away friends felt like they were right there with us, sharing tea and going through our makeup drawers in tandem
  • Were revived by a late cocktail hour on a Saturday night that had us in stitches, despite being completely and utterly pooped just before meeting.
  • Rediscovered that simple sushi, sake, and a sweet friend are sometimes all you need to feel like yourself again

Over the past few weeks we’ve stuck hard to our friend dates. No last minute cancellations – in fact, just the opposite! We were making sure our plans would stick by confirming a day or two ahead, and even adding some spontaneous additions when we found ourselves near the work or home of our beloved buds.  

And you know what? We found we were so much happier! Knowing we had a plan to meet up, or another hug or heart to heart just around the corner made us feel lighter and more free. That’s the power of friend-oxygen (froxgyen?) in action!

Will we stick to it after this week?

Yes, and with Spring and Summer bringing longer days and a higher inclination to get together – even if it’s for a drink on a patio – we think it’ll be even easier to have more regular friend dates.

We realized really isn’t hard to make sure you have enough ‘friend time’ but you do need to make it a priority and – you need to learn how each of your friends ‘works’ in terms of making plans so you can meet them halfway. The spontaneity of a ‘drop in visit’ works for some, while a few weeks’ lead time is necessary to get a date it into others’ calendars – just like any other appointment.

We’re a little of column A and a little of column B but our non-nine-to-five lives mean that weekends aren’t always the ideal time to see friends, even though it is for most others. We realized that as much as we want to be spontaneous, most of the time it’s actually best if we have just a bit of lead time to make plans. We’ve made appointments for a weekly phone catch-up with friend in another city just to make sure we don’t go too long without a session but we’ve also used that lead time to make in-person catch-up dates more creative than your standard cup of coffee.

But we also recognize that with the ebb and flow of life’s demands, there are naturally times when seeing each other regularly is more challenging than others and that staying in touch – even with a phone call – is still a great way to stay in touch with those who really matter in between. Hey, that’s what technology is for, right?


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