making time for friends

A Practice for "I Don't Have Time for Friends"

Lack of time for friendships is easily one of the most common complaints when it comes to doing what we know would develop our friendships toward greater fulfillment.  We know that time together bonds us, but where does one find that time? Plus, it's a bit of a vicious cycle because the less time we make, the less fulfilling the time together can feel.  Which then undoubtedly leaves us even less motivated to make time again at future dates. We find ourselves musing, "Is going out with her occasionally to just catch up on life worth leaving _____________ (fill in the blank with work, kids, romantic person of interest, or whatever feels more compelling) and we can easily drift apart from someone not because we don't like them, but because we don't spend enough time together to feel really connected to them.

Our lives are crazy busy-- there's not denying that most people feel that way.  And if not busy, then at least full of our routines and responsibilities, which to step away from can feel challenging.

An Ancient Practice Called Sabbath

Enter the practice of Sabbath.

The practice of Sabbath is an ancient spiritual tradition of carving out one day a week to focus on that which is most important to human restoration.  For me, my Sabbath is filled with spaciousness--it's a day where only that which really matters is welcome: family, friends, long conversations, beautiful walks in nature, amazing food, spiritual growth, and acts of service.  It's one day a week where I get off the hamster wheel.

The word literally means "to cease or desist" so for thousands of years people have chosen to stop doing what they do every day: chores, work, errands, consumerism, to-do lists, TV,

Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often.

packed schedules, and rushed meals, in order to make time for that which feeds their souls. It's a practice that reminds me that I don't have to do in order to be be; that my worth doesn't come from what I accomplish; and that my value isn't connected to what I buy and own.  I rest from trying to "get ahead." I remind myself I'm good enough without needing to go buy more things.  I step away from stress and let my body restore itself.

More and more people are practicing mini-Sabbath's-- blocks of time where they engage in restorative acts, or practicing variations like "No Technology Sabbaths."  I practice, similar to Jews, a Sabbath from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night-- a full 24-hours of bliss at the end of my workweek.

The Invitation to Re-Orient Your Life

The invitation to step away from our emails, our productivity, and our household chores might sound nearly impossible for many of us.  But just because we live in a culture that runs on consumerism and productivity, doesn't mean it's the best way to live.

In fact, the more I researched the value of relationships in preparation for my new book Frientimacy, the more sad I felt that we don't live in a world that is oriented to that which we most need: love.  A few more hours of work hasn't made anyone healthier and a few more thousand dollars hasn't made most people happier, but the loss of time for relationships most certainly has made us less healthy and far less happy. Gone is the feeling that we can linger over long conversations, sit on our porches and talk to neighbors, or gather in our tribes every week.  We are strewn across this country, far too lonely, and missing deep and meaningful connection. It can break my heart if I think about it too long.

So for me, I can't snap my fingers and change the world we live in, unfortunately. If I could, I'd make sure we had more vacation days (and actually took them), longer hours to sleep, slower mornings for centering ourselves, spacious evenings with friends and loved ones, and weekends filled with laughter and amazing food. My tendency, if left unchecked, is toward being a workaholic, and yet I know that more work isn't the answer to feeling valuable. Being in connection with others is the only way to really know we're loved and feel seen and valued.  I know that.

So, for me, my Sabbaths are when I remember that truth.  I step away... in order to step in to something that matters more.  I can't reorient our entire culture (but God help me I'll keep trying! ha!) but we can each practice re-orienting ourselves toward that which matters most.  We can choose to let love and relationship be our focus.  We may not be able to do it all the time, but maybe we can do it one day a week?

Because you're right-- we don't have time for our friendships the way we're doing life now.  So we have to decide if we're okay with that.  And if we're not, then we have to stop doing something in order to make time for something that matters even more.  We can't just say yes to more love, without also saying no to something else.

For me-- a day dedicated to that which I most value helps ground me, heal my body,  re-focus me on my priorities, and remind me why I do what I do the other 6 days of the week.  What can you do that would help give you the space and time for your friendships? If you were to try it, what could a Sabbath practice look like for you?

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Announcement: Inviting You to My Sabbath Practice!

You are invited to join me for 7 Sabbaths in a row where I will teach and inspire toward deeper friendships for one hour.  I typically don't work on Saturdays but I feel compelled to foster the space for us to spend an hour together reminding ourselves of how significant love is to our lives and what we can do to develop greater intimacy around us. The calls will be recorded so if you can't join us on Saturdays, then you can listen anytime in the week that's convenient to you!  Join me for 42 Days of Frientimacy!

42 days of frientimacy

When You're The Only One Making Time for Friendship

Dear Shasta,

I’ve been binge-reading your blog and very happy I discovered it. I think what you are saying mostly makes a lot of sense, but I’m struggling with something: It is so very hard to meet people who are open to new friendships. On the rare instances that I find people who seem like they are, it’s almost impossible to find people who have the *time* to get together regularly. It’s hard to move friends down the pipeline, so to speak. Everyone seems just so very busy.  I can’t find anyone to say yes regularly enough to build meaningful friendships. Heck, it’s hard to get anyone to say yes at all. What do you suggest in situations like these?

Dearest Willing to Make the Time:

First, kudos to you and your awareness, intention, and willingness to foster friendships!  It's awesome and it WILL serve your life.  I promise!  Guard that commitment-- don't let others who are less aware steal it; don't let anyone saying no rob you of it; and certainly don't let apathy drain it from you.  What you know to be true: that friendships are worth the time, will benefit YOUR life.  Regardless of the outcome or of anyone's responses-- you know the truth and it will bless you.  Stay with it.

In fact it's your super power!  Not everyone knows they have it.  You're lucky you do.  SO many women are lonely (and the busier she is often means the lonelier she can feel!) and they don't have the energy, know-how, or motivation to change it-- but you do!  The ability to initiate repeatedly is a super power that will ensure you build meaningful friendships.

What Won't Work

Let's just be clear that what you secretly hope for isn't going to work:

  • Their schedules aren't just going to open up.  If I could wave a magic wand for you, I would, but it doesn't work.  So we can't wait for them to "not be busy."
  • Just because you initiated last time doesn't mean it's their turn.  A thousand potential relationships die every day because someone believes this myth.
  • Taking their silence, their no's, or their forgetfulness personally will never lead to friendship.  And the good news is that in the early stages of friendship-- we don't need to take these as a sign that the person isn't good friend material. No one can make everyone a priority in their schedules.  As your time together (even if it's at your initiation every time) becomes more meaningful, so will it get easier for her to commit her time to it.
  • Resenting them for not "stepping up." You're not initiating for their sake, but for yours! It's not a gift to them, but to yourself! So you don't ever need to resent them for not reciprocating-- this is your goal and need so you just keep leaning into friendships... and you will get what you crave.
  • Focusing all your energy on 1-2 people isn't enough.  Cast a net, not a fishing line, and be open to who might surprise you as a great friend down the road!

    Shasta and her friends

Ideas to Try for Building Friendships with Busy People

Instead of hand picking a couple of people and casually asking them to do something "sometime" and then hoping that *poof* a friendship will develop from that-- what we need to do is try everything and anything that will help us connect with as many women so we can eventually see who is responding with their occasional yes:

  • Extend an invitation to everyone you know for a standing girls night every Tuesday and be happier with the few who show up each week than disappointed with the many who don't.  But keep inviting the whole group each week (and tell them to bring a friend with them if you want more there!) and you'll see that those who show up most often will feel most close by Christmas!
  • Start a 4-week book club (long enough commitment to develop some friendships, but short enough for no one to feel stuck) as the excuse to gather everyone together. (My first book has a free 4-week guide, is written to help the group get to know each other, and has the extra bonus of reminding everyone how important consistent time is together!)
  • Ask for a commitment from a friend who says no. If she can't make the time we suggest, then follow it up with a "When works best for you?  Give me a date or two and I'll do everything I can on my end to make it work." Don't let the ball drop.
  • Build a relationship with unscheduled time. She's too busy to commit? Then just make a note to randomly call her every so often-- call her the first time with a follow-up reason: "Just wanted to call you real quick and hear how x went!" Another time call her "I'm just on my lunch break so only have a few minutes but was thinking of you and wanted to just catch up and hear how x is going!" Another time: "Hi! Hopefully this will just take a few moments but I had a question for you..."  Keep the calls short, ask a specific question to get the conversation started, and let her know you're thinking of her.  This does facilitate bonding and can ultimately make get-togethers more meaningful.
  • Try for spontaneous.  I've found that a lot of my friends feel overwhelmed with their schedule when they are looking at their calendars a week or two out, but that my odds go up if I am willing to try for day-of opportunities every so often. Text her-- "Hey any chance you're up for a 30 minute walk after work tonight?  I'm feeling the need for some fresh air and friendship!"  Or, "Hey, I'm getting my hair cut tomorrow near your office-- any chance we can sneak away for a bite to eat before or after my appointment?"  Or, "I know this is so last-minute... but just thought I'd try to see if there was any chance we could just stick our kids in front of a movie tonight for 45 minutes while we drink wine in the kitchen? Ha! You in?"
  • Invite on social media.  We may not want to post "I need friends.  Help!" but we can certainly post to our local friends: "I want to do x next week, anyone up for joining me?" Or "I'm tired of my walking route and am looking for someone who will take me on theirs! Ha! I'll drive to you!" Or "I'm thinking of having a decorating cookie party this holiday season-- who wants to come?" This helps expose you to possible friends who may not be on your radar, helps you see who might make the time, and shows you as an open and fun person who values friendships and enjoys life.

Do you see the patterns in those ideas?  Initiation With Many + Repeat As Often As Possible, with a Sprinkle of Fun and Lightheartedness = You Soon Having Friends.

The more we can call you "Making the Time" the sooner we can call you "The Girl With Healthy Friendships!"

Good luck, much love, and thank you for being a woman who prioritizes friendship!

Shasta

Update on 11/5: For more on this subject, in part inspired by some of the comments from this post, see the follow-up post: "If my friend really liked me then she'd initiate more..."

Guilt & Pride: How They Often Show Up Together

Why do things that are good for me often come with feelings of guilt?
Why do things that are good for me often come with feelings of guilt?

This morning as I was sipping my Chai tea, talking with one friend after another on the phone, and coloring in my adult coloring book (a trend I'm happily jumping into!)--two all-too-familiar feelings emerged, again, together: Pride and Guilt.

Pride, or a sense of gratification, because I was taking a slow morning since I wasn't feeling super energetic, because I was coloring which has to be good for my creativity on some level, and because I was catching up with people I love. All good things, all meaningful to me, and all restorative.

But with it, like a Siamese Twin, was the feeling of Guilt. Guilt because I took a relaxing day yesterday and should be more productive today, because I really needed to shower, because it's almost noon and what respected and accomplished women just color in the middle of the day?!

Where Pride & Guilt Lurk

I've observed recently how these two feelings seem to act like best friends in my life lately-- always wanting to hang out near each other. Whether it's the rescheduling of an early morning phone call even when I know my sleep is more important or the guilt I feel leaving my husband at home to go on another TravelCircle even when I know that traveling in this way is invigorating to me in an important way.  It seems weird to me that the very things I am proud of myself for doing are the areas where I feel the most guilt.

I hear it in my friends, too:

  • They feel proud of themselves for making the time to go out with friends while feeling guilty for leaving their kids in the evening.
  • They feel feel proud of themselves for practicing their independence and meeting their desire for adventure by traveling or going on a girls weekend while they struggle with guilt for spending money.
  • They feel proud of themselves for having great friends even while they feel guilty leaving their husbands/partners without them for the night.
  • They feel proud of themselves for saying no to attending another meaningless event even while they feel guilty for letting someone down.
  • They feel proud of themselves for saying yes and going outside their comfort zone even while they feel guilty for how that yes might impact others.
  • They feel proud of their amazing promotion, accomplishment, fulfilling marriage, or amazing kids while they feel guilty for how that might make others feel who don't have that same pride.

Why does guilt come on the heels of pride so very often? Is that the way it has to be? Do we just shrug our shoulders and say, "Such is life?" Is one feeling more real than the other? Are they both equally valid? Am I supposed to ignore one of them?

What My Pride & Guilt are Telling Me

If the definition of being an Emotionally Intelligent (High EQ) person is contingent on my being able to accurately identify what I am feeling and know how to move myself back to a place of peace, then it is crucial that I listen to my feelings. But what does a girl do when her feelings seem to conflict with each other?

  1. Examine each feeling, starting with pride. Starting with pride, I close my eyes and ask, "Does this feel nourishing to me? Good for me? In alignment with my values?" My head nods.  "Do I believe deep down that this is what I need? That I'm in fact proud of  myself for listening to my inner wisdom?" I know I do.
  2. Next, examine guilt. I then turn to examine guilt. Guilt is the healthy response to wrong behavior, it's our indicator that we've acted outside of our values so the last thing I want to do is just shoo it away without checking in.  So I close my eyes and ask, "Have I done something wrong? Am I acting outside of my values or code of ethics? Am I hurting someone willfully? Do I owe anyone an apology?"  While I might feel bad that someone feels disappointed or inconvenienced, I know to my core that I have done nothing wrong.
  3. Explore the origins of my guilt. Rather than just tell Guilt that it doesn't belong here, I wish to understand why it's here in the first place.  And the answer comes to me almost instantly: I think I'm supposed to feel guilty! For me, the sense of gratification for doing something good for me is a natural byproduct of my choice for self-care, for nourishment, for connection. But the guilt is a learned feeling-- a feeling that emerges when I sense that others might or could judge me.  It's not guilt from messing up, but fear that I'm not doing something "perfectly." In the exploring, I realize that one feeling (pride) is what I am really feeling and the other (guilt) is what I have generated based on my comparisons to my ideal or that of others.
  4. Moving back to peace.  Just running through this process this morning while I was coloring gave me so much more freedom. I wasn't doing anything wrong, just something unconventional.  But the coloring and talking to friends was actually more in alignment with my values and who I want to be than feeling pressure to "work" because it's the middle of a certain weekday. I felt a peace come over me as I released the need to hold the guilt and instead embraced the gratification I felt that I was doing exactly what was best for me today.

If we don't articulate our feelings and manage them to return us to peace then we risk living with these unprocessed conflicting and disorienting feelings all the time.

And if we name them but don't choose which one we want to give precedence, then we're at risk of simply saying no to that which is good for us because we give in to our unexamined or fake guilt.  But how sad would it be if we didn't go out with friends, travel to amazing places, say yes to big things, say no to meaningless things, or spend time coloring in the morning all because we didn't realize that the guilt wasn't really ours? It's not authentic guilt. How tragic would it be to live our lives more in alignment with this crazy picture of what others (or ourselves) think we should be instead of what our hearts and inner wisdom tell us we need?

Next time you feel guilt... I hope you'll ask yourself "Is this authentic guilt or is this fake guilt?" And follow in the direction of the choice that makes you most proud of yourself; you know, that feeling of maturity, gratification, and real connection to yourself. We need a lot more women doing that which is good for them instead of complying with their fake guilt.

To all of us celebrating the choices we make that support our lives,

Shasta

Moms: Please Model the Friendships You Wish For Your Kids

Before I jump into the subject I really want to share today, I want to post some links to the 2-3 minutes videos that have been playing all week over at the Dhana EcoKids blog. Today ends a 6-part video series I did in collaboration Shamini, the CEO, a woman who knows the value of female friendship. She interviewed me talking about the friendship challenges that her audience (primarily mothers) face as they engage in friend-making:

  1. Intro Video: Meet Shamini & Shasta--read a summary of the whole series.
  2. Day 1: The Three Challenges Moms Face in their Friendships
  3. Day 2: 1st Challenge: Being Friends With Women at Different Life Stages
  4. Day 3: 2nd Challenge: Not having the Time or Energy for Friend-Making
  5. Day 4: 3rd Challenge: My Kids Friends and My Friends Aren't Related

And today, is the last video of the series: Model the Friendships You Wish for Your Kids

One of the exercises I used to have women in my friendship programs do was journal about what they remember learning from their mother about female friendship.  I encouraged them to try to go back through all their memories to see what was spoken or modeled to them-- do they have memories of mom going out for girls nights? What did their moms say or imply about female friendships (worth it? not trustworthy?) Do they remember seeing their mom gab on the phone with girlfriends in the evenings?  Did their mom have friends over frequently?

And while this isn't scientific polling, I'd estimate that 7 out of 10 women ended up confiding in me that they were shocked that they couldn't remember if their mothers even had close friends.

It was a rare woman who said that her mother had what she'd call healthy friendships, the kind of community she wants to replicate in her own life. I've had only a handful of women say to me, "I had great modeling."

Unfortunately, most of the women have this ah-ha that says "Oh, this may speak to why this is so hard for me... I never had healthy friendships modeled to me."

Now, I want to give the benefit of the doubt to most of those mothers and hope that their daughters who I'm working with in my programs simply don't remember.  I want to believe that their mothers really did have meaningful friendships that mattered to them.  But it still raises the question about modeling.  If your child didn't see it-- they didn't pick it up. If it all happened when they were really young--they won't remember it.

If we don't have it modeled to us, then how are we supposed to learn it? We certainly aren't taught any classes in school. We end up just thinking we're supposed to just naturally be good at female friendship-- instinctively knowing the different types of friends, what healthy expectations look like, how to transition relationships through various life changes, how to foster them through the five stages, and how to ask for what we need--while rarely having our teachers or mothers explain to us what's normal, healthy, and meaningful.

More than wanting our kids to have healthy friendships, we have to show them that it's a priority in our lives.  We have to kiss them good-bye in the early evening and say "Tonight is when I get to go be with my friends-- see you in the morning."  And we can't just do it once.

  • I think of my friend Daneen who leaves her daughter every Tuesday evening for girls night-- her daughter knew that mommy was playing with her friends and that she was going to have a special night with Daddy.
  • I think of my sister who, with her best friend, gets their families together all the time-- not for the sake of the kids, but for the sake of the moms.
  • I think of my own step-mom who left me with memories as a little girl of her going shopping on Sunday afternoons with her girlfriends.
  • I think of the time I walked down the stairs late one night to see my mom and her friend Ellen eating a whole pot of tapioca pudding and giggling-- to this day it's one of my favorite memories.
  • I think of the women in my girls group--Val, Karen, and J'leen-- who, every spring, tell their kids that they are going away for a girls weekend with their girlfriends, and then leave their kids with spouses, parents, or friends.

Hard to do? Absolutely. Important, though? Absolutely.

My invitation to you is not an easy one.  But I implore you to picture the friendships you want your kids to have when they are adults.  And model that to them now.  There is simply nothing more powerful than modeling-- you are the most influential person in their lives--you showing them how important those relationships are will serve them their entire life.

And the good news? It's not just for their benefit that you are prioritizing time with friends. The gains will be worth the time and energy.

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Speaking of Girls Night Out-- I'd LOVE to have you join me at one of my upcoming book launch parties from Feb.4-Feb.8. For the price of my book, you'll also get goody-bags, wine, treats, and get to hear me read and share from my book before I sign them!  I'll be in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago.