Girls Night

Shasta's Tips for Starting Women's Groups

I love few things as much as gathering women together.  There's often more laughter in groups and more diverse sharing and feedback. Plus, it also saves time being able to connect with a handful of friends at once, and it's more of a sure thing even if 1-2 people end up not being able to come. But there are so many kinds of groups to start! Your first question to answer is: What do I want the focus of the group?

  • Our Lives: This is one of my favorites-- basically we know that we are getting together in order to stay in touch, support each other, and invest in our relationships. We are the subject and ideally each person has time to share with everyone else what matters most in her life right now.  These groups should be started when you primarily want to bond by sharing your lives with each other.
  • A Theme/Subject: This category is one of the most popular types of groups because it includes such things as book clubs, support groups, entrepreneurs circles, mom's groups, Bible study groups, and political gatherings. These groups should be started when you primarily want mental stimulation, resonance in shared interests, and advice or support in a specific area.
  • An Activity: This category of group is primarily for gatherings where an activity is the focus whether it be a cooking club, a dining out group, a hiking group, or a group dedicated to training for an event. These groups should be started when you primarily want support/accountability in doing an activity, to experience new things, meet people with similar activity interests, desire more fun and socializing in your life, or to expand our horizons.

Of course there can be some cross-over, but it's important to be clear what desire is prompting your group.  If the focus is on hiking then one is less likely to leave feeling disappointed if no one asked her about her life, or if the focus is a mom's support group then we can put less attention to coming up with new activities and changing locations and devote more planning to conversations that matter to mothers. Knowing the priority serves as a filter for planning!

 

Another question that must be answered: Who is this group for?

  • Is there an ideal size? A minimum? A cap? If it's conversation-based it may help to be small enough to give time to everyone to share. If it's meal-based, do you want everyone to fit around a table? If it's networking based then maybe the more the merrier?
  • Is there something that everyone has to have in common in order to attend? Do they need to live in the neighborhood, have kids, or attend a certain church?
  • Is this an open or closed group? Can attendees invite others to come with them? Do you want to keep meeting people or go deeper with the same people?
  • What level of commitment is needed? Can attendees simply come when they want or is the intention that they come regularly?

I'll make a note to write more specific blog posts addressing some of the different types of groups since they will each have different needs.  But here are some of my overall tips:

  1. If you already have a few specific people in mind that you want participating-- then invite them to give input to such questions as 1) What type of group interests you the most? 2) Do you have others you'd like to invite? 3) Knowing we'll feel closer the more often we meet-- how frequently would you be willing to commit?
  2. Unless the focus is specifically to "try new restaurants in the city" or "explore new hiking trails" then keep the location as consistent and easy as possible. Every time you "switch" places it takes more brainstorming, planning, and communicating; plus attendees will be more likely to cancel if it feels like it will take a lot of energy.
  3. Similarly, come up with a "routine" and repeat it as often as possible.  People want to know what is expected of them and what to expect. My girls group "routine" is to chit-chat and catch-up while everyone arrives and before we put dinner on the table, but once we all have food on our plates then we switch gears to "going around the circle and each person sharing their highlight/lowlight." Maybe your book club talks about the book and then ends with mingling? Or is it the other way around? Aim for consistency.
  4. Keep the dates set even if someone can't attend.  Groups turn into a logistical mess when we start trying to change dates to accommodate different people. In general, it's best when the group can set their dates ahead of time (either the same day/time every week/month OR set their dates far enough out as a group so that everyone can plan around them) and then stick to them.  Every time you change for one, you risk messing it up for another, plus add to the communication weariness.
  5. Make sure everyone is given time to "be seen."  I'm a big fan of "going around the circle" so that each person has a chance to share--whether it's as small as an introduction before an activity or as big as giving each person 15 minutes to share on the topic of the evening.

What other tips do you have that you think would be helpful to others who are planning group gatherings?

Or, what other questions about group events do you have that I might be able to answer in a future post?

Shasta's Sharing Questions for Group Get-Togethers

This month, in GirlFriendCircles we're teaching "How to Plan a Meaningful Gathering" because we all know that there is a BIG difference between entertaining vs. engaging.

Why We Need Sharing Questions

What we don't want are more stressful or small-talk filled nights with people.  What we do want are more gatherings where we feel "When planning a gathering, always start by asking "how do I want it to feel?" and then plan to that desired outcome.seen, loved, and connected.  But, unfortunately, those are too far and few between these days for the vast majority of us.  So this month we're all committing to plan one meaningful night with friends we want to know better! (You can join us-- a class, supportive community, free advice, etc.)

A really important part of helping women connect is giving them the time and space to do it in a meaningful and structured way. For that reason we love Sharing Questions—they allow everyone to share, provide a focus of what to talk about (otherwise we end up talking about politics, TV shows, or the weather, instead of about us!), and help ensure that women start to feel like they know each other (as well as allowing each woman to be heard and feel seen).

Answering these questions is fun! They not only ensure that each of us has the opportunity to share, but they also focus our conversations on us rather than about celebrity gossip, news, movies, or our jobs and families.

How to Facilitate Group Sharing

Our sharing is shaped by so many things: how well we already know each other, the size of our group, the purpose of our gathering, and how much time is available, but here are a few fun ways to add Sharing Questions into your gatherings:

  1. Pick one question and go around the circle for everyone to answer.
  2. If your group is small and there’s plenty of time to share, have each person pick one question that everyone answers (so you’re answering as many questions as there are attendees, with everyone picking one question and answering all of them).
  3. Print and cut apart the questions and put them in a hat that is passed around the circle with each person drawing out a different question to answer.
  4. If the group is large, invite women to get into groups of 3 and give them 20 minutes to answer as many of the questions together as possible.

(Here are other tips for facilitating a group discussion.)

Sample Sharing Questions

If you're with people who know each other fairly well, here are some of my favorites:

• What is the one thing you want less of in your life right now? And one thing you want more of?

• What title would you give to the current chapter of your life? Why?

• What is one thing you love about your current job/role and one thing you would change if you could?

• In what way(s) are you similar to and/or different from one of your parents (or other family member)?

• What were you like in high school? And if you could go back and tell yourself one thing-- what would it be?

• What is one thing coming up in your life that matters?

• And, of course, my all time favorite question: What is a highlight and low light in the last week/month?

If you're with people who don't know each, here are some of my favorites (best ones are loosely connected to why the group is getting together):

• Share with us your name and how you know _______  (i.e. me--the host, the birthday girl, the bride-to-be) --where we met/how we've become friends.

• Share with us your name and one thing you did this last summer (or over the holidays/fall/spring) that stood out.

• Share with us your name, and tell us what you do for work, but more importantly, tell us what part of your work/job energizes you the most these days.

• Share with us your name, and because we're here celebrating x holiday, share with us one memory you have of a previous one. (St. Patrick's Day, Valentines, etc.)

•Share with us your name, and because we're gathering to meet new friends, share with us how one of your closest friends would introduce you-- how would they describe you?

• Share with us your name , and because we are all ____ (i.e. on this sports team, on PTA, part of this association) tell us what inspired you to join this group and why it feels important to you.

The real value of a Sharing Question is less about the exact question and more about letting everyone share and be seen-- it helps us feel closer to each other even if we don't end up having a 1:1 conversation with each person.  Plus, it gives us the beginning of a conversation thread that we can pick up and continue when we run into that person later.

If you're not practiced at leading Sharing Questions it might feel uncomfortable at first. But remember: feeling awkward doesn't mean it's "bad" to do it-- it just means we're not very practiced yet.  So let's practice!  :)

What have been your experiences in groups that initiate group sharing vs. just mingling or letting only a few share? And please share other questions you've used and loved-- let's compile a list!

Hosting a Friendship Book Club

Huge thanks to Kristen Baker for writing up her experience with hosting a book club about my last book, Friendships Don't Just Happen, so her story might inspire a few of you to do the same!  Imagine having a fun evening together and engaging in conversations about your friendships while all learning together what it takes to create healthy and meaningful connections? Win:win!If you do decide to try it, I wrote up discussion guides you can download for free whether you want to do a 1-time book club or a 4-week book-club. Not sure who to invite? Read this post for ideas!

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Girlfriends, I had a blast leading a book club gathering around Shasta's fantastic book Friendships Don't Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Friends.

I read Shasta's book after hearing her guest interview on Christine Arylo's class  (Me before We) on self-love and just loved her content. As I poured into FDJH, I started to see

Huge thanks Kristen for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club... and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!
Huge thanks Kristen for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club... and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!

patterns from my past emerge, patterns in my friendships, family relationships, even dating. It was truly a book about connection, intimacy, and vulnerability. I had so many "ah-has" and "Ohhhh that's why that happened," moments while I was reading. My eyes even welled up with tears as I read the chapter on forgiveness - releasing some past feelings of rejection.

So naturally, I had to share it with my group here in Houston. I lead a sisterhood for self-exploration, a coaching community - the Divas, here in Houston (and online) and we have a monthly book club, so I added FDJH to the docket. A small group started trickling in, and we started sharing our experiences from the book. The beautiful irony was experiencing these Divas sharing their struggles with vulnerability WHILE BEING VULNERABLE. While being authentic. They showed up, shared their struggles, we connected. It was magical.

The common themes that came up for us:

  • Our right-side friends (the deeper friendships) were not as full as many wanted.
  • We practiced gratitude for the left-side (we even had one ah-ha that if one of the women went back and re-did her circles again and added her male friendships - it would have been a much fuller chart!).
  • We talked about friendship and how it impacted our life goals, how friendship fit into the greater context of our life. We contemplated: how does it all fit together?
  • We talked about the overlap in romantic relationships, family relationships, dating, to what we had learned in the book.
  • We talked about what gets in the way of vulnerability: messages from our parents, past rejections and disappointments, rejection of self, approval-seeking.
  • We talked about opening up the possibilities of WHO we would pursue friendships with.

Some ah-has from our group:

  1. "Accepting yourself is the key to building intimacy"
  2. "Friendships don't just happen" (yes, this was an ah-ha! ha)
  3. "That I am not as vulnerable in my current relationships as I would like to be"

My personal takeaways:

  • I love connecting over a book club. So, yes, check - I want more of that!
  • I continue to deepen my understanding of friendship, and frientimacy as a practice of self-love, self-trust, self-acceptance. And really enjoy deepening that awareness.

I am so glad I chose this book for discussion, I may have a round two because there is so much richness in the book, it is chock full of insights and I could talk about relationships, intimacy and vulnerability for HOURS. And it is really beautiful to watch people open up about their experiences with friendships.

All in all, a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend it.

Love,

Kristen

Kristen Baker is a life and career coach, find out more about her here.

Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships!  :)
Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships! :)

Don't yet have your own copy of Friendships Don't Just Happen!-- Buy it here!

Did you read the book or lead a group? Share with us in the comments a bit about your experience.  Or feel free to ask any questions about how to host-- we'll help!  :)

3 Ways to Increase Meaningful Connection this Holiday Season

The caricature of women during the holiday season is one of a frazzled, exhausted, pressure-filled, and over-extended woman.   I'm not entirely sure how true that is anymore? I'm holding out hope that we're getting better at picking the events that matter, saying no to credit card debt, and letting go of the belief that we have to send cards and throw a party and hide the elf every night and make homemade cookies and buy everyone a present. I'm hoping... But even if we're not frazzled from over-commitment, it's far too easy to let the holidays whiz by without really sinking in to meaningful moments.

Here are three ways to help increase your sense of connection this holiday season:

1)  Initiate Meaningful Sharing. Far more important than scheduling time to be with family and friends is then making sure that real sharing happens.  I do this most often by saying, "Let's all share one high-light from this month (or week) so far and one low-light." (read my post about that favorite sharing question here) to ensure that everyone gets to share about the subjects of their choosing and to help keep the conversation real.

But another idea that's especially good for groups of people not used to sharing is to put a bunch of meaningful questions in a jar and during dinner announce that tonight we'll each draw a question to answer.  This extends the meal time and keeps everyone laughing and connecting longer.  I'm keeping a jar on my table all month-long for everyone who comes over!

It doesn't have to be fancy-- just a jar with questions begging to be answered by anyone who sits around my table this month!

Questions could include:

  • What is one thing that surprised you in a good way, an unexpected gift, that you’re grateful happened?
  • What is one thing that you’re really, really, really proud of from this last year… something that matters to you that we can celebrate with you.
  • What’s an area of your life (i.e. work, health, hobbies, relationship) that has been really energizing and fulfilling for you. What contributes to that feeling?
  • What is one thing happening in your life right now that gives you hope?
  • If you had to give the last year a name/chapter title—what might it be and why?
  • What are three unique (not the typical “God/Family/Health) things in your life that you’re really grateful for?

A little note on this before I go onto the next idea.  It's common to feel a little weird doing this and that's okay.  I just tell myself that making sure everyone leaves feeling seen and heard matters way more to me than whether it will feel normal, comfortable or easy on me, or anyone else.  I used to try to guess whether a certain family member would think it was stupid or whether so-and-so would actually share-- I've been doing this long enough now to conclude that most people prefer meaningful conversation to small talk, everyone wants to be seen, and that it's a gift to all of us to have some structure that provides permission and expectation to share.  Courage to you!

2)  Choose One Person You Miss.  Ask yourself who you miss having more regularly in your life and commit to connecting with them this month.  It could be a far-away friend whom you decide you will Skype or call with... no matter what.  It could be someone locally that you just haven't seen enough of recently whom you call and say, "You are my priority this month.  My month won't be complete without being with you.. so name the time and place and I'll come to you... I want to spend time with you."  Or, it could be an aging family member, someone you've drifted apart from, or maybe even somebody where there has been some tension between the two of you.  The point is to just pick one person who pops into your head and find a way to really connect.

The gift of this is that everything else on your list will feel urgent, with a time-stamp to it, but that doesn't mean they are all things we'd list as "most important"; whereas this connection isn't urgent at all (the reason you've let it slide until now) but you're claiming it's importance and choosing to make it urgent.  You're deciding that it is indeed urgent to make sure that this season has a deeper connection as part of your celebration. Initiate today... and be completely committed to finding the time to catch up and affirm and love on one person you miss.

 3) Pick Presence for One Event.  In an ideal world, we'd be truly present to every single event-- decorating ginger-bread houses, the kids choir concert, shopping with your mom, signing the Christmas cards-- but the truth is that many "fun" things don't capture 100% of our attention.  So let's not claim we can do it all season, but let's intentionally pick one that matters.  Look at your calendar and say, "For this event... I am going to soak it up!" And then really be as present as you can be: choose to find the magic, watch their faces, add music, dance and laugh, pause and breathe deep, communicate your love, receive everything available to you in those moments.

In this exercise we're not worrying about updating our social media pages, we're not hurrying everyone along, we're not more focused on the logistics than the people, and we're not quick to temper.  Quite the opposite, we are cherishing as much as we can, holding gratitude, inhaling deeply, and smiling.  When we get to January-- we want to look back and remember that we were there at that event.

In choosing to do these two of these three things, we're not really adding more time to our month-- we're simply infusing the things we're already doing with meaning.  We are making sure that for as intentional as we are about getting through our list of tasks that we're also making sure that we're intentional about the outcome of those tasks.  For what's the point of filling up the calendar if not to also fill up our hearts?

May the month hold meaning for you,

Shasta

p.s.  What are other ideas you have?  Share them here and inspire others!  What are you doing to help add meaning? To make sure you feel connected?

Choose Friends. Make Time. Repeat.

We've all heard the stories of people on their death-beds saying things like, "I wish I had made more time for my family and friends," or "I wish I had played more, not taken it all so seriously."  We pass around inspirational blog posts on Facebook of experienced mothers saying things such as, "I wish I had worried far less about keeping the house clean and far more about playing," and from the wise women who reach the maturity to be able to say, "I wish I had eaten more ice cream with friends instead of forever trying to lose those stubborn 5 lbs. What a waste of energy my entire life!" We hear the wisdom.  And we resonate.  We know deep down that it is truth.  But knowing 1468613_10151969864577435_82284094_nsomething and having it change the way we live our lives are two very different things.

It's past time, my GirlFriends, that we choose friendship even when it feels inconvenient, expensive, and time-consuming.  Even when we think we prefer sitting on the couch.  Even when we think we don't have the money to visit her.  Even when we think we don't have the time to call.

It's time to choose friendship in higher doses.  It's the medicine our bodies and souls are dying without.  It's the cure to that which ails us.  It's the love that will remind us how connected and supported we are.  It's the peace that comes with knowing we are not alone.  It's the safety net that will protect us when the storms come... and they always do.

What Could Choosing Friendship Look Like?

Choosing friendship means not missing the weddings, the birthdays, the big moments. We do whatever we can to be there even if it means buying a cheaper used car, forgoing a shopping trip, or putting off the new dishwasher.

Choosing friendship means we get on a plane and go see her.  Just because you miss her.  Even if the plane ticket goes on the credit card. We put far less important things on there and the investment is well worth it.

Choosing friendship means we tell our spouses, our kids, and our bosses that our annual girls weekend away is a non-negotiable.  We are going.  Every year. We don't ask if we can afford it this year, have the time, or if it's convenient on everyone else-- we say yes and figure it out. That's how we roll; that's what we do.

Choosing friendship means saying yes to a spontaneous invitation.  Or better yet, being the one to give a spontaneous invitation! I made a pot of soup-- can you come over tonight?

Choosing friendship means not allowing "tired" to be an excuse (the only exception is if you really will sleep during that exact time!) as whatever else we go home and do instead won't make us less tired, but it will make us less connected.

Choosing friendship means buying a random card at the grocery store, writing a few lines of love, and mailing it out to someone who pops into your heart. $4 and 10 minutes is always worth it.  Always.

Choosing friendship means initiating with new friends.  Even when the time together isn't yet as easy, meaningful and intimate as you would like it to be.  You initiate in faith that some of them will one day be your best friends. Much like we work out not because we see the difference in each work-out, but because we know we will over the long run.

Choosing friendship means telling your kids, "Just like you played with your friends today, it's time for mommy to go play with hers" even when they beg for you to stay home.  (And the more regular you are with going out, the easier it will be on everyone else!)

Choosing friendship means not letting your pouting lover dissuade you from going out... but saying, "I can't wait to come home... but I know if I want meaningful friendships that they require time together.  Thank you for supporting that!" And then kiss him/her on the mouth so hard that they recall just how much you love them... and then walk away for a few hours with women who will love you in different ways.

Choosing friendship means saying yes to more sleep-overs, more weekends away, more dinners around your table with friends, more evenings out, and more hours spent in conversation.

Choosing Friendship From a Place of Love and Hope

Yes we need boundaries,

yes we need to listen to our bodies,

yes we need to say no more often to some things,

yes we need to take our temperaments into consideration,

yes we are busy,

yes we don't want to rack up credit card bills,

yes we have more meaningful relationships to consider besides our friends...

yes, there are always ifs, and's, & but's....  

This isn't a post about draining yourself more and giving more when it feels yucky... no, this is a post about saying yes to people who have the highest likelihood of loving you in meaningful ways.

This is a post that reminds us that if we want to feel known, then we want to say yes to more conversation.  That if we want to feel supported, then we want to say yes to more vulnerability. That if we want to feel joy, then we want to say yes to more moments that make memories.  That if we want to feel connected, then we must fly, call, and talk more.  That if we want good friendships then we will want to invest whatever we can today knowing it will come back to us in fabulous ways.

It is all so very easy to get used to the routine, the slow drain on our lives, the ongoing stress of our finances, the burden of everyone needing more of us... but that is not the way we choose to live.  We want more.  WAY more love and laughter and connection and joy.  Way more!

And you, and only you, can choose to say, "I will not let a year pass without us getting together.  I will not let this week pass without meeting a friend after work.  I will not let this evening pass without calling a friend and telling her that I miss her."

We do it not from guilt, but from love.  From the whisper of our future self saying to us now, "You won't regret having more love and connection in your life.  Do it.  Say yes."  We do it because we know this is what we value and how we want to structure our lives.

We will probably feel busy, tired, and broke whether we reach out or not... at least if we don't use those as excuses to not then we will at least have the friendships in our lives that energize us and protect us from the effects of the stress!

Choose Friends.  Make Time. Repeat.

Always in love,

Shasta

Leave a comment:  what excuse do you most consistently use to not spend more time with friends?  What would it take to not see that excuse as a limitation or justified reason to not pursue more love? Are you willing to consider that you might feel that way no matter whether you do or don't spend more time with friends but that one option might leave you with more love and joy, too?

 

Time to Plan an Adult Sleep-Over with Friends!

The power of sleep-overs is something we don't think much about as adults, or do all that frequently.  But we should.  There are still few experiences that can accelerate our intimacy and deepen our hearts as having un-rushed time together that includes talking until ready for bed and waking up in the same place together. Visiting Friends

Traveling to New York City-- a trip I seem to make at least twice a year-- has become so much more fun since one of my girlfriends from San Francisco moved there a couple of years back.  I see her far less frequently now that we're not getting together once a month for dinner on the west coast, but the time we spend together living in the same place for a few days in NYC is bonding us in ways that few of my friendships get to experience.

When I was back there two weeks ago I couldn't help but observe just how much intimacy these sleep-overs have added to our relationship: making coffee together in our pajamas in the mornings, debriefing our days with each other in the evening, making plans for dinner with her hubby and her cousin on Saturday night, being at home with her when her new dining room table arrived, and getting a feel for their rhythm and schedule.

A few days together did for our relationship what would have taken years of dinners and phone calls to get to.  There's something so magical about staying up late talking, spending time in someone else's life and home, and having a few days together to get past all the updates and still have time to just talk about other things.

Planning Friendship Get-Aways

I experience this same magic every spring during my annual girlfriend weekend with four of my friends who are committed to us meeting up somewhere every year.

This is my dream-- not having to shower to meet up but simply waking up together and all walking to a coffee shop to start our day together.

Although in this case we're not typically staying in each others homes, which means we miss out on seeing each other in normal day-to-day life a bit more, the upside is that we're all stepping out of our lives and making the weekend together entirely about talking and connecting which deepens our relationships in ways that a hundred phone calls couldn't compete with.  It's a bit more like a slumber party in all the best ways.  (And since all these women are mothers of young children, it's even more amazing to me that they all commit to step away for a weekend every single year!)

We don't necessarily do each others hair like we might do if we were teenagers and we don't make movies and boys the focus of our time together anymore, but we still laugh, get silly, tell secrets, and fill each other up with love.

Local Slumber Parties

For many, I find that slumber parties and sleep-overs seem to happen primarily with only one circle of friendships:  the confirmed circle, the friends we used to be close to but no longer live nearby.  Like my two previous examples it's either because she lives where I'm visiting or because we've all planned to meet up somewhere together, but these aren't friends who live in San Francisco.

But one thing I've really been enjoying lately is thinking more about sleep-overs with people who live nearby.

When we were kids it was exactly those people-- our closest friends, even if they just lived next door to us-- that we'd beg to have stay the night with us. It was rarely because they needed to spend the night, but more because we wanted extra time with each other.

One of the coolest nights happened earlier this year when one of my husbands best friends invited us to come spend the night at their home only 30 minutes away.

We typically just drive home after dinner, but they begged us to bring our pajamas and spend the night, and even though we had to leave in the morning right after breakfast, I assure you that the time together was several times more bonding than had we left the night before.

I also experience this magic every time my step-daughter asks us if she can spend the night with us when her husband occasionally leaves town.  We're lucky that they're local and we get to see them regularly, but it's an extra treat when she comes and stays the night with us-- the slower conversations, the watching of TV together, the embracing of her into our daily routine is fun in a way that just having them over for dinner cannot replicate.

Whether it's spending the night in normal life or leaving normal life to spend the night with each other-- they are both bonding in ways that can't easily be duplicated by regular get-togethers.  All the 2-4 hour scheduled dinners in the world can't replicate the experience of unrushed time and casual lounging around that sleep-overs afford.

(A few adult slumber party resources for you from other bloggers if you're up for planning a really intentional one:  5 reasons to host a slumber party, ideas for hosting, and fun ideas on pinterest)

Your Invitation

I challenge you to think of someone in your life who you might consider initiating a sleep-over!

  • Maybe it's someone who lives far away and you just want to call and say "Hey, either I should come to you or you should come to me-- but let's get a weekend on the calendar!"
  • Or maybe, it's two to three local friends who have all been getting to know each other better and you're ready to help deepen the bond by saying, "Hey maybe we should all try to find a weekend where we can have a sleepover together, like when we were kids!"
  • Or maybe, it's just skipping the hotel on one of your trips to see if a friend is up for hosting you, or calling a friend you know who travels near you and saying, "Hey next time you're in town, you are so welcome to my place! I know it's not as comfy as a hotel, but it might be more fun!"

We talked about vulnerability in a recent blog and this is an example of the "practicing new ways of spending time together" option.  It will feel a little awkward and it will require a little initiation... but trust me, when it comes to making you feel closer to someone, there are few experiences that can deepen your friendship than the gift of a night under the same roof!

LEAVE COMMENTS: Do you have friends spend the night? Share with us your ideas, how it helps your friendships, etc.! Never done a slumber party?  What's holding you back? Did this inspire you?  Will you accept my invitation/challenge?  :)

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Come to an already planned slumber party!  :) We are guaranteeing spots to everyone who registers by Nov. 1 for the New Years Retreat that I'm hosting in Northern California this January 2-4, 2015.  This weekend away might be a perfect excuse to call a friend and see if she wants to join you for a slumber party!  You can read all about the retreat by requesting the invitation here.  We already have women in their 20's and 60's signed up to be there-- so all ages are welcome!  It's going to be a super special weekend of celebrating/honoring the past year while preparing for the upcoming year with excitement and anticipation!

Reveal 2015

Comfy lodging, healthy and nourishing food, walks in beautiful nature, jacuzzi under the stars, retreat activities led by me, new friends, tons of laughter, and lots of time to hear your own heart whisper-- if that's your cup of tea, I so hope you do whatever you can to be with us!

NOTE: The retreat was initially designed for two friends to come together, but due to several requests, we're also opening it up for women to come alone and we'll match you up with other women who are coming alone so that you can all meet, share, and have someone witness your journey when appropriate!  So come as a pair of friends, or come and meet new friends-- but if you value reflection, listening to your own heart, connecting with other women, and rejuvenating your spirit-- then know that you are welcome at our slumber party!  RSVP by Nov. 1!

 

 

 

Do You Want More Meaningful Friendships this New Year?

At the beginning of December I was already looking forward to New Years.  There's something so beautiful about having an external invitation, like a holiday, to pause for reflection.  Most years, my husband and I spend an evening journaling-- using questions such as:

  • What was the hardest part of this last year?  How did I respond?
  • What do I want to celebrate from this last year?  What did I accomplish, where did I grow, and what am I proud of? How can I foster even more gratitude in my life?
  • What did I lose this last year?  Have I grieved those things fully?  Is there anything I want to do right now to honor those loses or let go?
  • Where do I hold angst, stress, guilt, or frustration?  What might I do now to go into the New Year with less of those feelings?

And then I inevitably pick a few words.  A theme.  An intention.

I don't do goals.  I do feelings.  What do I want more of in my life? And I name a word. Or two or three.  :)

Past words have included: gratitude, traction, abundance, courageous, and connected.

Then, from there, I can better make decisions about what would help me experience those feelings.  It ensures that I never set resolutions based on obligation or guilt, but based on pursuing the things I want to feel.

Entering my 2014

This year, in early December, as I was already scheduling a few weeks out to block off an afternoon for reflection, I pictured myself sitting in a group of women.

Just thinking about us all having a place to share our reflections and witness each others losses and celebrations thrilled me! I sent invitations out.

And yesterday afternoon I sat in that circle I created.  I don't think any of the 9 women who came knew more than 1 other person in that circle, and most of them didn't know anyone else.  But as always happens, because humans crave more meaningful conversation that we typically get, magic ensued.

What  a joy to be able to not just journal on my own, but then to also share some of my reflections with others.  And to hear their stories.  To resonate.  To be inspired. To process out loud.  To hear myself get clearer as I shared.  To celebrate each others wins.  To bear witness to their losses.  To collectively decide that we want to enter a new year with more clarity and less fear, doubt, and uncertainty.  We committed to live lives of love in 2014, instead of acting out of fear, and we chose it together.  That's powerful.

So this year when I chose my words, it wasn't just written on a page, but it was spoken out loud in a circle of supportive faces. I spoke mine and they spoke theirs.

My chosen words for 2014: "I want to feel generous, present, invigorated, and expanded."  I can't wait to see how I show up in my friendships with more presence and generosity!

What would you say if you were in that circle? What do you want more of in your life this year? (Here is a partial list of feelings words to see what jumps out at you!)

Choosing Connection

Is connection on your list?  Or, what about acceptance, belonging, appreciation, inclusion, mutuality, or affection?  Or maybe Frientimacy-- the intimacy of close friends?  Does one of your words include inviting more love into your life?

If one of the hungers of your heart involves being connected to others-- whether that be making new friends, repairing some old relationships, or developing some friendships into deeper and more intimate experiences--I invite you to join me this Friday night (1/3/14) on the free call I'm leading.

If one of your themes has to do with friendships, surrounding yourself with good friends, then I hope you'll carve out an hour at the end of this week to give yourself the pause to start thinking how to turn that word into reality.

Yesterday, as these women left my home... they just kept saying, "Thank you for organizing this... I needed it, but would have never done it on my own."  That's true for most of us.

So I extend the offer to you, to sit in a virtual circle with me this Friday!  Give yourself the inspiration and information you need to attract more meaningful connection in your life.

If you have a phone line, then you have a circle of women waiting to be with you.  :)

www.FriendshipsWanted.com

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Activity Idea:  A couple of years ago I came across Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map who does something similar but she adds some brilliant questions that I now answer after I pick my word/words:  What can I accomplish/experience this year to help generate these feelings?  What can I do this quarter....?  What can I do this week...?  What can I do today...?  Brilliant.  Reminds us that even drinking one green smoothie or sending a card to a friend might move us toward our word.

In the meantime, leave a comment sharing some of the words you're choosing for your 2014!

 

 

 

 

 

Throwing Myself a Birthday Party of Gratitude!

My birthday was last week and I lived it up this year with a retreat-day (complete with a massage, soaking in a rooftop infinity hot tub, and journaling), an afternoon of shopping with my husband, 3 days of play, America's Cup races, and yummy food with my parents who came into town, and on the actual day of my birthday I threw myself a little birthday party with some of my girlfriends. One or two people made comments like "You shouldn't have to throw your party!" but I smiled and said, "That's what I want to do!"  And indeed it's exactly what I wanted to do.  Why leave it to chance? Why risk it not being fulfilling in the ways that only I could possibly know I need? Why not create the evening I most wanted to experience?  Besides, life has been full with so many different events and groups the last couple of years that so many of my friends hear me talk about each other but haven't actually had the privilege of meeting each other. I could think of nothing I wanted more than to be surrounded by some of my friends and showing them off to each other, possibly even launching a few new friendships among them!

We live in a world where there is only a 50% chance that any two of our closest friends know each other! It's so easy to meet people from here-and-there, giving us the feeling, at times, of having lots of friends but not really having a "group" of friends.  I've realized recently that I have several amazing groups of friends, but that my worlds hadn't collided in a little while.  It was time! A birthday is a fabulous excuse to bring the people we love together! (And with my birthday being on 9/11 I feel an ever greater joy and honor to spend that evening celebrating life and friendships!)

So I made my dream list of local friends. They were quite varied: one has been a friend for the entire 8+ years I've lived in San Francisco and another I just met in May; one was in her early 30's and another in her early 60's, one came in fierce stilettos & fashion garb and another one was make-up free and walking around in her socks; one is traveling around the world on a mission with her life-changing book and another one who isn't quite sure what she'll be doing next; one who has created and celebrates her financial abundance and another who isn't exactly sure how to pay next month's rent; half are mothers, half are not; one has been married over twenty years, another is happily single... And those are just some of the differences between those who could come!

The night was SO very special. I kept the planning easy (tacos!) so that hosting was a breeze.  I wasn't there to impress anyone with my party throwing skills as much as I was there to make sure everyone felt loved!  I don't think anyone who came knew more than 2 other people, some didn't know anyone but me.  But by the end of the evening, I couldn't have been more blessed by the loved felt in the room.  Email addresses were being exchanged, photos texted to each other, and I just sat their gleaming in pride at how amazing my friends are!

That's me in the white tank--the little black lines read love...love...love...:)-- surrounded by some of the women I'm lucky enough to call friends.  Call me a grateful birthday girl!

In fact, one might think that to sit in a room with amazing women who are showing up in this world in such big, beautiful, authentic, and deep ways might be intimidating.  But on the contrary.  As I went around the circle describing each friend to the others I kept hearing myself use words such as "truth speaker," "strong," "independent," "a fierce protector of causes and people," "living out her mission," and "generous." Those words kept coming up over-and-over, and I slowly realized that even while we all couldn't be more different from each other, in other ways we lived out the truism that "You are the sum of your friends."

These ladies have rubbed off on me... been contagious in their courage.  I've not only been more inspired to be those things I admire because of watching them be those things, but it has given me permission to be those things without fear of failure, judgment, or jealousy.  We see each other all doing our best to be the blessing in this world we feel called to be and we cheer each other on. They give me confidence.

My take-aways for you:

1) Throw your own party! I am proud of myself for planning the party I most wanted.  And I ended the night with satisfaction that I was surrounded by the women I wanted around me and that I could run the party how ever I wanted! (complete with sharing questions and stories about each woman!)

2)  Show your gratitude!  I actually named mine a Girlfriend Gratitude Birthday Party, went around the room and bragged on each women in front of everyone, and sent them each home with a card telling them what I admire about them.  (You can get more ideas from my book on page 134-135.)

3) Don't be afraid to collide your circles! I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I felt a small pang of worry the afternoon of the party wondering if my circles of friends  were just too different from each other to really connect, but deep in my heart I knew they'd all rally and fall in love with each other, just as I had.  And it was magical!  Now I feel more joy knowing that many of my friends have met each other.  (And it makes me want to throw myself a monthly birthday party just to do it all again!)

The season of thanks is coming!  So you don't need a birthday to plan your own little soiree.  Just pick a date in early November for a Girlfriend Gratitude Party of your own, make a list of girlfriends and start inviting!  :)

 

 

Advice & Encouragement from GirlFriendCircles.com Members

When I interviewed Shoshana a few weeks back about her personal experience in GirlFriendCircles.com down in the L.A. area, I discovered that a group of 11 women from GirlFriendCircles.com all went on an overnight trip together to San Diego, a couple of hours away. I was so thrilled at the idea of a group of women building their friendship in such a way that I immediately asked if a few of them would share their experiences with all of us so we might just see what is possible!  :) Not the best photo quality but at least all 11 of us are in this one!

How did this trip come about?

Shoshana: "I can't remember exactly how the San Diego trip came about, but after talking about going to Santa Barbara and maybe renting a house for the weekend, we ended up landing on San Diego since most of the girls could only do one night. I then created a Facebook page for the trip and invited everyone to join. Another one of the girls made the suggestion to take the train and we were off. I reserved rooms for us at the Hard Rock Hotel and for our dinner, collected everyone's money through Paypal or checks, and posted on our Facebook page all the info that everyone needed, including which train to buy their tickets for. We got seats together and talked for 3 hours the whole way there and back. It was definitely a great way to travel with 11 girls. I'm not so sure our neighbors on the train would agree!"

Dinner was so much fun after having talked all afternoon on the train!

What did you all do together on this trip?

Shoshana: "We hung out by the pool, had a great time eating dinner together, and basically just hung out together.  A highlight was definitely dinner! We were seated in front of a big window on a busy street so a lot of men enjoyed dancing for our big group of women in front of the window or ripping their shirts open which produced a lot of fun laughs. (We were in San Diego's Gaslamp district so it's a very fun scene.) After dinner we went to a place for dancing for a little while before hitting up a rooftop bar. But my favorite part of the trip was getting to know the girls better during the train ride down and back where we could all just talk.  The going out and pool part was fun, too, but the activities mattered less to me than the time I got to spend connecting with these great women."

Okay, bringing in a few other GirlFriends-- tell me what you were feeling on your way home from this weekend!

Yana: (a member since Dec. 2012, who first went on a one-on-one and then started meeting others through ConnectingCircles)  "On my way home from San Diego as I looked around at this group of women, I felt..... like part of a community and grateful to have these amazing women in my life! Why? It was such a diverse collection of women of all backgrounds/ages/professions and yet we all took the initiative to get together and go on an overnight trip. Eleven girls traveling could be a recipe for disaster but everyone had such a good time eating, dancing, and socializing."

Kelly: My first event with GFC was last October. I signed up for the site after Googling "how to make friends in LA." Moving from another state, I found it really hard to connect with people in this city.  But on my way home from San Diego, I felt really happy knowing I'd met an awesome group of women who are all interested in making friends and sharing new experiences. Looking at the group of women that spans the age range of 26-44, its amazing we all met over the past 6 months and have become friends that hang out all the time.  I've finally connected!

Nina: I feel like I'm super lucky to have gotten to know such a lovely group of women. Each and every one of them has been committed to developing friendships. They are an open-minded, kind bunch of girls who simply likes to have fun and experience life together. I moved to LA 7 years ago, and up until this point... I had really struggled with forming close friendships with women in LA. I had girlfriends, but hardly any of them were local. Now I have this group of supportive SoCal women in my life that I couldn't be more thankful for.

As for specific memories from the San Diego trip....when we were eating dinner, we kept drawing attention to ourselves b/c we were such a big group of women sitting by a window. People kept waving at us. A little boy even kept coming up to our table to perform dances for us. It was super fun to get away and spend time just chatting/ really getting to know the girls that I roomed with.

A few of us waiting for the others while enjoying drinks!

Stephanie: My first event with GFC was only a month or two before this trip! I went to a happy hour in Venice, organized by Shoshana, in the first part of June and met half a dozen women, most of whom came to San Diego.  On my way home from that trip... as I looked around at this group of women on the train with me I felt a few things:  Very proud of myself that I had reached out, risked being vulnerable and asked for friendship, and also lucky to be in the company of women who are making their way with courage, openness and a sense of self that just nice to be around. We had all had fun in the group as a whole, but some of us had broken off into smaller groups and done our own thing.  It seemed like everyone was content with the weekend happening whatever way made everyone comfortable. We all had each other's backs at the clubs and if someone needed out of a situation, there was someone there to extract them.

Shoshana: Yes! One of the important things we learned about group travel was to give everyone the freedom to do things in their own way.  For example, the distance from the train to the hotel was about was a mile so some of us walked and some of us took a taxi. We then all had a late lunch all together, but then again some of us lounged by the pool while some went to go get manicure and pedicures. At around 6pm we all headed to our rooms to nap/relax/get ready. And again, a few of us were ready first so we went downstairs to sit outside and grab a drink before the others joined us. The wonderful thing about a group that size is that we don't all have to do everything together, but that we could break into smaller groups when appropriate!

So many of us would love to go on a trip with friends... what so you think specifically helped you build these relationships?  In other words, how did you get to this place?

Yana:  I moved to L.A. due to a long distance relationship and a year and a half later still found myself unable to make the city my home. I took the initiative to search for websites to find friends and dove right into making connections and going to events.

What specifically had to happen to create these friendships? Not being afraid of rejection and making the time and commitment to nurture and grow these relationships. I feel like at this point in my life (engaged, new puppy, planning wedding, working in finance) I just don't have the luxury of being in high school and surrounded by people also ready and willing to make that connection. As I didn't go the traditional going away to college and living on campus route, I don't have those 4 years to go back to for friendships. As I get busier and busier it's important to make time for building a foundation of friendship in a new place without the luxury of old friends and family to have my back.

Kelly: We got here because a lot of the girls in the group were proactive in creating their own group events on the GFC CalendarCircles. That made a huge difference. People started inviting other girls from the site they had met individually and pretty quickly there was a larger group of girlfriends.

Nina: My first event with GFC was a Connecting Circle in November at Cafe Gratitude in Venice, CA. I believe there was 5 other girls present, 4 of whom have become close girlfriends of mine. My first impression was something like "Wow! these girls are really nice and normal!"

I was pretty skeptical going into the whole process since I had previously tried to meet some girls in LA via craigslist and had some issues with flakiness, lack of commonality, etc. I was assuming GFC would be more of the same.  But I knew from the very first night that my experience with GFC would be different. The girls were intelligent, sweet, funny and truly open to making friendships. I reached out to a couple of the girls right away after my first Connecting Circle to meet up for coffee or dinner. I think this was the most important step I took, because it ensured that I began to form relationships with some of the girls.

Stephanie: I could see myself being friends with some of these women for a long time.  Some I will perhaps get closer to, and some will come and go.  I think acceptance of each other for who we are is very important, not having too many rules for others to follow, and knowing what my own expectations are from the friendships are important.  I didn't expect to come away with a new BFF - but I may have found a friend or two who I would like to travel with in the future or have other adventures with.  I really loved that so many of them were like me - okay doing things on their own but also happy to be in a group.  It's been a long time since I've had a weekend with women that I came home and felt like the whole thing was a great time.  A very nice memory and (hopefully) the beginning of some new friendships.

Any advice would you have for other women just joining GFC?

Yana: Sign up and reach out to people out of your age range/economic background/likes. It's a bit more difficult to do that in L.A. due to the city being so big and traffic dictating what one does during the week, but weekends are the best. Go to events and make events of your own and don't be afraid to mix your "GFC" friends with connections you've made outside of the website.

Kelly: Try to go to as many of the CalendarCircles and ConnectingCircles as possible because you will meet many different kinds of people and are bound to eventually find one or more new girlfriends you really connect with.

Nina: Even though I met amazing women at the first event, I also continued to attend ConnectingCircles to meet more girls. Once I started to get to know the girls more, I simply made sure that GFC and these ladies were a priority in my life, by attending as many group/ individual get together's as I can.  I even set a specific goal to make sure that I got together with at least one of my new GFC friends at least once/ week and chatted with other girls in between. After awhile, the friendships became more natural. I would definitely recommend taking initiative in reaching out to girls you click with. I also would make sure you make time/ prioritize your new friendships as well.

A huge thanks to Stephanie, Yana, Nina, and Kelly for being willing to share a little of your experiences, and a HUGE thanks to Shoshana for being a catalyst.  What a gift you gave, not just to yourself, but to all these women.  May we have more women like you who are willing to put events out there to help women connect.  There will be friendships formed because of your initiative.  THANK YOU! 

 

 

Best Girls Night-In Idea: Host a Friendship Book Circle

A book club can be a fun way to get to know other women better, but I have something even better than that!

Host a "Making Friendships Happen!" Book Circle

Sure, discussing a novel can be fun, but what about getting together with a group of women and making a fun night where you grow your friendships while learning more about them? Way better!

I’m looking for 100 women to lead local Making Friendships Happen Book Circles in February 2013 to facilitate sharing among groups of women around my new book:

Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends.

Far more than just talking about friendship, these groups will be designed to help create more meaningful friendships among those attending and benefit all their other friendships!

Will you sign up?  We want you!  All women are welcome-- from any state or country (note that the book is only in English though!) and any age group.

  • It's easy!  Schedule a date in late February, start inviting women to join you, open up your home (or pick a cafe!), and follow the provided discussion guide to create a fun and memorable evening.
  • It's full of possibilities! Instead of just reading about friendship on your own, use this Circle to help you foster your current friendships and/or get to know new women who could potentially be friends!
  • It's temporary! Instead of committing to monthly get-togethers, this is just a temporary commitment in February.  Then you're done.
  • It's meaningful! Instead of talking about characters in a novel, talk about yourself and get to know the other attendees better.

How to Invite Members to your Circle

Maybe you're already part of a book club and can be the point person for your group?  Awesome!

But if not, and you're wondering who you'd invite, here's a list of possibilities:

  1. Invite the women you want to know better. Just make a list of women you’ve met from various places and shoot them an email invitation: “I’m inviting a handful of women I admire and inviting them all over for a book circle about female friendship. Hope you can come!”
  2. GirlFriendCircles.com. Post it on the GirlFriendCircles.com calendar. All posted events are sent to all local members every Wednesday. And be sure to send personal invitations to other members you’ve met or want to meet.
  3. The Contagious Invitation. Invite 2-3 women you know and invite them to each invite 2-3 more women they know so you’re all meeting new friends!
  4. Recruit at work. If appropriate, share the invitation at work: “Research shows that having friends at work does more for our happiness than getting a financial raise! Let’s get to know each other better!”
  5. Consider existing groups. What organizations are you already involved in that you can host this as a way to deepen connections? Church. School. Mothers Group. Club. Gym.
  6. Use Social Media. Make an event on Facebook and invite everyone nearby. Post a shout-out on Twitter and use the hashtag #Shastasbook to see if anyone else is looking. Reach out to contacts on LinkedIn!
  7. Tell the Men. Don’t be shy about letting the guys in your life know about this event—most of them have girlfriends or wives who want more friends, or they may know of a female friend who just moved to the area and doesn’t know anyone. Ask them to help spread the word.
  8. Post online everywhere. Post in any online forums you belong to—there are always people online who want to meet offline (i.e. mom’s boards, networking groups, women’s organizations, meetup.com, craigslist.com)
  9. Bookstores and libraries. Ask your local bookstore and/or library if they help advertise book clubs.
  10. Offer to your Clients/Customers/Readers/Community. Depends on your business, but this could be a fabulous way to get to know your clients and help build some community for them through something they already all have in common. It can be an extra perk you offer while increasing brand loyalty.
  11. Invite the neighbors. Make up a flyer “It’s time we met our neighbors. I’m hosting a book circle for any women on the block (on in the apartment building) who’d like to meet each other!”

Who's the Book For?

This book is written to women ages 21-70 who value healthier and more meaningful friendships. From how-to meet new friends to how-to foster deeper friendships with the women we already know-- this is a guide for healthy female friendships.

The book is divided into three main parts:

  1. “From Loneliness to Frientimacy” helps us evaluate our individual relational needs using Shasta’s 5 Circles of Connectedness so we can better see what types of friends we already have and which ones we might want to add. Another unique paradigm offered in this book is that of Frientimacy—Friendship Intimacy—that articulates the closeness we crave, the awkwardness that can come from it, and the 5 developmental stages of relationship that we must cultivate.
  2. “Five Steps to Turn Friendly People We Meet into Friends Who Matter” covers the 5 Steps to Friendships, taking one chapter to cover each step: Be Open, Initiate Consistently, Add Positivity, Increase Vulnerability, and Practice Forgiveness. Each chapter is filled with personal stories, research, practical tips, reflection questions, and personal growth concepts. Chapter 8 includes the Frientimacy Triangle that illustrates how to increase our vulnerability in a way that is constructive, meaningful, and safe.
  3. “Friendships Don’t Just Keep Happening: Be Intentional” covers the Five Friendship Threats—jealousy, judgment, non-reciprocation, neglect, and blame—and healthy suggested responses to each of them so we can ensure that our friendships continue to grow in maturity and meaning. The book ends with a clear plan of how to move toward the friendships that matter most to the reader.

The Sign-up Details

I can't wait to collaborate with all one hundred of you as we foster healthier friendships across this country!  Won't be it be exciting to know that anywhere between 600-1000 women could be learning how to show up with more confidence in their friend-making process?   I'll be offering exclusive calls for the leaders and we'll be providing you with everything you need along the way to ensure that you feel part of the momentum.  Hope you can join us!

We want 100 women to commit by December 31, 2012.  Sign-up here.

 

 

 

My Annual GirlFriend Group: The Benefits of Long Distance Friendships!

Tomorrow morning I fly out to San Antonio for my Annual SoCal Girls Weekend. SO EXCITED! SoCal Girls Group

We used to all live in Southern California (hence why I still refer to us as the SoCal group!) where we would get together weekly for an evening of tea, book talk, and life sharing. I think we met for just over a year before life started moving some of us to new places, but we made a pact that we'd all get together at least once a year for the rest of our lives. We're seven years in to that commitment. I love that we made that decision.

Since I'm always championing local and new friendships, I thought I'd rave today about  some of the pay-offs that come from our time spent with more long-term, albeit long-distance friendships:

  • Provides Ongoing Intimacy: I rate myself pretty low on the "good at staying in touch" with long-distance friends scale.  If it weren't for this annual weekend these would be women who I simply would drift apart from. Sure, some of us see each other here-and-there if we're traveling through each others cities on business or visiting family nearby.  A few texts and phone calls are exchanged between different ones of us throughout the year, and we also try to periodically stay in touch on a group Facebook page and via a couple of scheduled conference calls.  But those are all just updates.  It's staying up all night talking for a weekend that brings us back to real Frientimacy.  These weekends are where we share the real stuff with women who know us.
  • Non-Negotiable Commitment: It's a no-brainer every year to buy the airline ticket. Since we already made the decision years ago that this is going to happen, we don't ever have to ask "Can I go this year?"  We don't get input from our busy calendars, our budgets, or our spouses/kids as to whether we can go this year-- we just say yes. The truth is we can always talk ourselves out of things if we raise the question--work will always be hectic, funds will always feel tight, kids will always need us-- so it's nice to have the important things in life already decided. Our friendship is important to us so we'll keep the weekend short and inexpensive, but we will always be there.
  • Protected From Life Change:  Since our time together is really only a weekend every year-- my friendship with these women doesn't go up in flux if they get married, have another kid, change jobs, move to a different city, or go through a divorce. That's a gift right there.  Most of our local friendships are constantly being impacted by the choices we all make-- we get our feelings hurt when one person is too busy or goes through a big life change. So the downside to our long-distance group is that we may not know each others kids and husbands well, but the up-side is that any of that can change and it won't change the fact that we are getting together for our 3 days.
  • We Know History & See Growth:  One of my favorite parts of our time together is that we all answer a few questions on paper about what our lives look like right now-- things we're grateful for, wounds we're nursing, fears we're feeling, goals we've set-- and we put them in a folder that we only look at this one weekend.  This year, we'll all open our long-forgotten page from last year and see how life has changed from then.  It's like this mile-marker for life, giving us a chance to say "oh yeah, I remember feeling that fear... look at me now" or "interesting that this same thing keeps showing up every year on my page..."  We share with each other what we've written-- sometimes crying, often cheering, but always loving. It's nice to have friends who see us deeply once a year.
  • A Bigger-Picture-Type of Sharing: I love my local San Francisco girlfriends-- we can talk on the phone ten minutes here-and-there, get together for tea, share dinners, and know what we're each facing every week ahead.  There's a consistency there that supports me in the best way ever.  But there's also something really special about the friends who are removed from my day-to-day life, the ones who only see me occasionally. We talk about different things. Whereas friends here might ask what I'm doing today or this weekend, these friends ask about highlights and lowlights from the last year. The conversations give me a chance to think about life in a broader way, to reflect on the bigger issues.  They observe changes in me that might be harder for people who see me all the time to notice. They ask about things I'd long forgotten. They hold a space for me to learn about myself in different ways.

I tell you all this because if you don't have this and want it-- you can make it happen.  We did not all know each other when the six of us all started getting together weekly.  It's not like we were all a clique from college.  I was new to SoCal and just started asking some girls if they wanted to come over for a weekly book discussion. Some of them invited someone else they knew... and our group formed.  You can do that.

For many of you it may be that you already have a few women flung across this country that you love and it may be that you simply need to make the decision to be the catalyst that gets you all together.  It can be affordable-- Southwest has flights on sale all the time, hotel costs decrease when split among several of you, and you can just buy a few groceries to keep it simple.  This kind of friendship is worth the investment.

So tomorrow I board the plane knowing that on the other end will be women that I may not have seen in a year, but that I know will hug me and love me like few others can.

 

Frientimacy: The Intimacy of Friends

This is a posting that was originally posted April 26, 2010 on my former blog. Because I've been writing more about Frientimacy, I wanted to re-port this illustration of how it's played out in my life. ________________________

Sitting in that circle of six women was powerful. There is nothing like being seen by friends you love and who love you back. Intimacy is a word that just brings up too much romance, so I call it "Frientimacy."

We all live in different cities, but this last weekend we had all flown into Seattle for our Annual Girlfriend Get-Together. And so there we sat catching each other up on our lives. Our real lives.

Frientimacy Is Authentic We listened as one shared that's she not sure she wants to stay married. Another, found out her husband cheated. And another just broke up with the man she wanted.  One is trying to decide if she wants kids. Another is due next month. Another just found out her baby isn't developing on schedule. Another isn't sure she'll find someone to marry before she has that choice. Another is struggling with weight and another with financial security and still another with contentment.  We shared our pains and disappointments.

We also listened as we went around the room sharing 3 things we celebrate about our lives in the last year. It was spectacular: The risks. The wins. The accomplishments. The completions. The new beginnings. The Ph.D, the new baby, the new business, the new office, the new love. The big anniversary.

It was beautiful to be among friends who have history sharing both. These are six beautiful, amazing, professional, intelligent women who live life fully and are committed to truthful friendships.

Frientimacy is Awkward And while it sounds so good to be honest, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge how hard it can be go there.

We are far from being a homogeneous group: some married, some single, some divorced, some with kids, some with step-kids, some with none.  Through the years many us have traded those roles-the married one becomes single and the single finds her love. Often at the same time.  And we have to celebrate one and grieve the other. It is hard being the first or only in the group to have kids, and equally hard to be the last or only to not be in a relationship.

Even with people we love and respect, there is no way to be friends without bringing our personal insecurities, fears and baggage to the relationship. It's hard to celebrate each others joys even when we're jealous.  To hold their pain without projecting our story into it.

There were definitely awkward moments. Moments where you want to judge, give advice, justify your decision that's different than hers, wallow in self-pity rather than give her a high-five.

But we've practiced. We've made commitments to be generous with each other. Honest. We trust the commitment is bigger than the pain. We trust the history is deeper than the present moment. And we're still practicing.

We forge on. There will be lots of awkward moments we will witness and hold.

Frientimacy is Developed We can only trust our future because we've experienced our history. It wasn't instant.

It was due to consistency that we have fostered this.

Seven years ago, we were mostly strangers to each other. I invited a few women I had met to commit to a weekly group in my apartment. Some invited someone else. And over time, with one leaving here and another joining there, we had a group that was consistent. We didn't all necessarily feel like we would be friends with each individual in the group if it weren't for the collective time, but we knew the value of going deeper with other women so we kept coming.

What we celebrate now has taken effort. It has taken consistency. Far more than most women are willing to put in. Most of us think if we get together once a month with a new friend that a friendship will blossom. And I'd say once a month is enough to keep liking each other, but probably not enough to build enough history that when your lives change (and they will) that you have enough history behind you to stay connected through it. Once a week for one year gave us the gift we'll enjoy the rest of our lives.

I no longer live around those women so I've become part of another group of local women who meet weekly. We don't have the same history yet, but we will keep meeting and keep sharing and we are definitely developing our own new Frientimacy.

Who are you being consistent with? How can you schedule in some consistent time with other women? How are you building upon the new friendships you've started?

Frientimacy is Worth it You may not feel the potential after your first time together. Or your next time together.

You may doubt it. You may feel like they're too different from you. Or that you're not sure you like each of them.

You may feel insecure around one of them or find that one annoys you. It's likely.

But you will also begin to know you have a group that sees your life. That knows it. That you don't have to update but can simply share. You will feel the difference it makes to have close friends. Local friends. Not the kind you have to impress, but the kind you get to be real with. It's likely.

I had an amazing weekend with the women who have known me and loved me for seven years. And I'm committed to building more of that in my life, locally and on a weekly basis.

Frientimacy is authentic. It can be awkward. It takes time to develop. But it is so worth it.

Lonely Mommy: How Motherhood Took a Toll on my Friendships

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I’ve invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  Today I’m honored to host Daneen Akers, a good friend of mine honestly sharing how hard it was to make and transition her friendships after becoming a new mom.

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Once a week my 2.5 year-old daughter Lily and I go walking in the woods of San Francisco’s Presidio with several other moms and toddlers. Lately, as she’s been learning the concept of friends, Lily likes to make the friendship boundaries clear.

“I’m so excited to go see my friends,” she says. And then she’ll add possessively, “They’re not your friends, Mommy. They’re my friends.”

Sometimes she’ll toss me the consolation prize of, “You can be friends with the mommies.”

That’s big of her, but I’m afraid I haven’t found adult friendship, especially after becoming a mom, nearly this easy to define or nurture. If only a shared identity was all it took.

Friendships and Motherhood: A Tough Transition

When I became a mom over two years ago, I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to transition my existing friendships to the next chapter, and I really had no idea how hard it was going to be to develop real friendships with other moms.

On the surface, motherhood is the ticket to a whole circle of new communities of belonging. Suddenly you share this profoundly life-changing, heart-expanding, and utterly exhausting experience with women all over the world. I was a mom now—I felt this unspoken kinship with every pregnant woman, new mom, and grandma that I spotted on the bus or at the park. Women just like me were making do on cat naps, feeling lucky if they took a shower, and wearing the same pair of milk-stained yoga pants for days on end. I could spot another new mom a mile away and almost always shared a knowing look as we walked past each other, not wanting to stop and risk waking the sleeping babies that connected us.

There are groups aplenty for moms—support groups, breastfeeding circles, mommy and baby yoga classes, play groups, and a host of online networks. I quickly became a joiner, trying desperately to not feel so lonely in the midst of motherhood.

Despite being utterly in love with my daughter and having a very involved husband, I felt desperately isolated as a mom. Perhaps it was because I was the only one of my close girlfriends to have a baby. Perhaps it was because I worked from home. Perhaps it was because families in our culture have little to no support —we have non-existent or anemic maternity/paternity leaves, often don’t live near family, and have had very little preparation for the grueling work of parenthood.

But even after packing my schedule with support groups and gatherings, I still felt lonely. In fact, I was even more lonely because I was surrounded by women like me and yet I felt that nobody really knew me. We talked and talked, but it was almost always about how our babies were sleeping, how breastfeeding was going (or not), what new thing our babies could do now, what baby-related challenge we needed help with. It was all baby.

Babies change quickly, so our conversations evolved, but often just around the next surface-level baby/toddler topic. I deeply wanted to feel like I knew the women I was sharing this important part of life with and, just as importantly, that they knew me.

It wasn’t at all that I only met shallow women. Quite the opposite, the moms I’ve met are amazing. But conversations are inherently fragmented when a baby has frequent needs, and this only gets worse the more mobile they get. Soon we were meeting at playgrounds and feeling lucky if we could manage two or three minutes of adult conversation before one of our children needed attention, sometimes to be pulled off each other as they inevitably squabbled over a toy or turn. Ironically, we often had more meaningful conversations over email where we could put two thoughts together, but this sometimes made the frustration of in-person meetings more tangible.  I distinctly remember when Lily was two talking to a mom I’d met in a birth prep class and realizing that I had no idea what she had done before she became a full-time mom. All of my knowledge of her revolved around her mommy role.

And moms are just running tired. Whether we work in the home, from home, or out of the home, it feels like everyone wants a piece of us all the time. If I had two moments to myself, I usually needed to be alone or to sleep just to survive (I’m not sure what it says about me as a mother that my last two Mother’s Day requests have been for a day alone!)

Three things helped my lonely-mommy situation improve dramatically.

1)  Foster a Few New Friendships: First, I cut back on most of my mom-related obligations and focused on fostering a few friendships. I had sensed reciprocity with a few women, and I made a point of making these women a priority. Women like my friend Julie, who once managed to start a terrifying real conversation at a moms’ group by asking, “So, can I ask if anyone else is disappointed by who are finding yourself as a mother?” And women like my friend Sara, who asked questions about me as a woman and not just a mom and kept making the effort to find times that we could meet without our babies (luckily a wine bar opened in her neighborhood)

2)  Commit to Time with Current Friends: And second I made a weekly commitment to meet with my non-mom girlfriends. This might seem counter-intuitive at first. I was starved for female friendship but found respite with women who didn’t share one of my most important life journeys with me.  Their lives continue to look very different than mine. But that has turned out to be a blessing for our conversations. There is absolutely no chance that we’ll end up spending an hour talking about potty training.

My time with these women sustains and centers me. These women have shared my life for three hours every Tuesday night for two years over homemade meals in each other’s homes. They have seen me gradually recover a sense of myself in the midst of my motherhood, and I have heard their hearts as we all navigate the vicissitudes of life. (A nice side benefit to this particular practice is that my husband and daughter have developed their own Tuesday night routines.)

3)  Be a Good Friend To Myself: And, finally, I have found that everything in my life improves when I take my required alone time. I’d actually started this post with two turning points in mind, but half-way through writing I went to a yoga class after not making it for one reason or another for the past six weeks.

As I lay in Shivasana, feeling myself relax at my core for the first time in weeks, I realized anew that I am my best self when I truly embrace the concept of putting my own oxygen mask on first so that I don’t pass out while trying to help others, even my own child. When I am keeping my well full, I find my own inner peace and don’t have to project my lack onto others.

I still find myself lonely at times and struggling to feel like I give enough and am fed enough in my friendships, but I am starting to feel rooted again in my community.  I am finding my joy, my center.

An Extra Pay-Off to Prioritizing Friendships

Lily doesn’t make it easy to leave her. It can be difficult to explain why I’m leaving for a night off or a yoga class (or, I hope more often, an evening with my mom friends sans our adorable progeny). Last night her usually joyful countenance turned mournful, and she wailed, “But I want you to stay with me!”

As I gently hugged her and then pried her off of me to hand to my husband, I told myself that I’m setting an example for her. Friendship matters. Making time for a relationship with myself matters. How I model friendship in my life matters as much as the lessons she learns as she walks in the woods with her toddler friends. At least, that’s the hope I’m hanging my diaper bag on.

Daneen Akers writes from San Francisco where she's a mom to a vibrant two-year-old, a documentary film producer, and an occasional blogger at http://www.lifewithlilybird.com with an emphasis on parenting and spirituality. 

 

 

 

5 Tips for Finding Time for Friends

If you're anything like me-- and you don't have to admit it if so!--I can get caught up in the idea of doing things more than the actual doing of those things. I like the idea of being someone who reads the classic books and authors, but when my reading time is limited, those aren't the books I pick up.  I think of myself as a traveler, though wonder how many years I can go without traveling abroad and still have that self-identity?  I want to do more physical activities outside, but often choose sitting at a cafe when free time arises. I love the picture of having friends over all the time, entertaining in those magazine-inspired ways, and effortlessly throwing together parties on a regular basis.

clock running out of time

And while I want to keep holding the ideal version of myself... I also know I need to create a way to still lean into what I value even if it's not ideal.  For we don't all have unlimited time to read all the books we want, the budget to travel every year, the energy to choose tennis over a drink in a cafe, or the space in our lives for ongoing party-hosting.  So I can't always have it all.  But surely I can have some of it?

Time-Saving Ways to Connect with Friends

So in our ideal worlds we have 3-7 women we keep in touch with, hopefully getting together regularly and easily for potlucks, parties, barbeques and girls nights out.  But what about when life doesn't warrant that all the time? Or, any of the time?

We have jobs, relationships, kids, mortgages, yard work, a growing pile of mail, parents to call, emails to respond to, facebook to check in on, a toilet that needs scrubbing... the list goes on.  There is no doubt that we live busy lives.  And that list doesn't even include the hope that we can find time to have our "me-time" to include our exercise, yoga, meditation, or at least a glass of wine and fifteen minutes on the couch before bed. We're tired.  Busy. Stressed. Where are we expected to fit in our friends?

Here are five friendship ideas I gave to the Chicago Tribune last year:

  1. Book it: Make a standing appointment with your nearest and dearest. Say every Tuesday night. Or first Sunday of the month. Or get really creative and buy yourselves a season subscription to a theater, or orchestra, or sports team. That way there are no five e-mails back and forth figuring out what works. You've got the slot; stick to it.
  2. Piggyback it: Figure out what you need to get done, what your dear friend needs to get done, and do it together. Be it a pedicure, or shopping for undies, or a trip to the gym.
  3. Bond it: When you do make time to be together, don't dawdle around on the surface, take it deeper. Ask questions that matter. Don't just get updates on the kids but find out how she's feeling about her parenting. Use the time to actually bond, not just be together.
  4. Make it multiples: See a few nearest and dearest friends at the same time. Get together in groups of anywhere from three to six close friends. I don't want to sound crass, but it takes less time to share stuff once, instead of calling each of those friends and retelling the same story. And that way you get four unique responses at once. This generous approach helps more of you reconnect — and if a pressing deadline or last-minute obligation forces one person to cancel, the rest still get to bond.
  5. Pare it: The challenge for some women is that their network of friends is so vast, they feel they can't possibly keep up with everyone. Pick anywhere from three to five friends who matter the most. You simply don't have to be friends with everyone as that risks you not really feeling close to anyone. Prioritize. Give the most time to the ones who matter most and who feed you the most.

The honest truth is that time spent with friends really will boost our energy so it's worth adding into a busy schedule.  But we're gonna have to cut out the guilt trips we're placing on ourselves to do everything!  Find a few women who are your priority and start leaning into more time with them in creative ways.

It's not all-or-nothing.  We can have meaningful friendships with a little something.  :)

What other ideas do you have?  How do you make time for your friends?  Leave comments sharing your tips!

Used-To-Be Friends or Still Friends?

We all know those fabulous women we have loved over the years, the ones where our shared history with them puts them in that special category of proven friends. When we talk to them, we  pick up right where we left off.  They're the kind of women we don't have to explain ourselves to, apologize for the time lapse or call them all the time to know we're still loved. So certainly it pains me to pop that bubble of idealism, but sometimes it must be said: Just because you can call her and know she'll be there for you doesn't mean you do.

One of the most common traps that keeps us in denial about needing more friends is that we used to have good friends.  And, the greatest risk happens when we think of them still as our closest friends.

Used-To-Be-Friends Or Still Friends?

This trap throws off the best of us.  We can quickly name 5 amazing women we call friends, and often feel better with our sense of connectedness. But then we still hear that nagging voice whispering that we think we need more friends. We feel lonely.

If you’re only sending Christmas cards, seeing each other once a year, calling every couple of months and giving little sentence updates on facebook—that may be why you still feel a sense of loneliness?

Risking redundancy, it stands to be pointed out that your current loneliness is not because you haven't had amazing friendships before. Rather, it's because you may not be engaging in them now.

I know for me, when I moved to San Francisco, I pushed away my awareness that I needed to make new friends by telling myself how awesome my friends were.  And yet, even though they were only a phone call away.  They were still a phone call away.  A phone call I didn't make with most of them frequently enough to keep it intimate and easy.

southern cal girls

And I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have these "former" friends.  (And by former, I only mean that the intensity & consistency may have been more in the past than the present.)  My girlfriends from Southern Cal lived through some of my worst and best moments with me-- I will always want to stay connected with them.  Those friends give to us in many ways by knowing who we used to be, giving us a sense of a wider net in our lives and helping us feel less alone in this world.

It's life-changing to know you have these friends you can call if you are diagnosed with cancer. You need to know you have people you can count on in the "big things."

However, I often talk myself out of calling these friends because while I know I can pick up where we left off... that's part of the problem.  I have so much updating to do with them to catch them up to life right now, that I often decide I don't have the time for a long conversation.

What Do We Most Need to Add to our Connectedness?

But what most of us crave are the kind of friends you can call to just ask her what she's making for dinner. Or how her day went. Or what she bought over the weekend. Or whether she wants to go get drinks tomorrow night. The "small things."

We usually feel more intimate with the people we can talk about nothing with as easy as we can talk about something with.

For the truth is, fortunately, that we make dinner more than we get cancer.

No matter how many women you used to be close to—you can still feel lonely now. And sometimes just knowing that you can call isn't enough. To abate loneliness we actually need friends we can go live life with, not just report life to.

SF girls

I ended up having to start over with local women.  It doesn't mean I don't still meet up with my used-to-be-friends every year for a weekend together.  Or that we don't call when the big things happen.  But it means I now have friends to call for the small stuff.  The small stuff that actually feels more important on a day-to-day basis.

So by all means, love those used-to-be women for the history they hold and the way they make you feel known, and by all means stay in touch with them!  But I invite you to own the fact that your loneliness may be your hearts way of saying “I would like some women who can journey with me more regularly.”

And perhaps 1-2 of them can step into that role. I called up one of the women in this circle for me a few years ago, told her how much I missed her and asked if we could schedule a weekly standing phone call to live life together a bit more.

But maybe that's not enough.  Maybe you still need new friends?

But either way, don’t confuse who used to be your best friend with the fact that you might need additional ones (or rekindled ones?) in that place now.

The 4-Week Consistency Challenge

I tend to do most of my reflection and goal-setting around my birthday every September more than I do around New Years; but without fail, something about January & February calls me to more routine, organization and simplicity. Organizing for our Energy Ironically, our energy seems to increase in what seems initially like counter-intuitive ways. While your temptation might be to step back from a schedule in order to find more energy, research says that the more routine we have in place, the less energy it takes to do what's important to us! So it's not about staying busy, but about creating a routine that regularly invites us to do the things we say are important to us. The more consistent the routine, the higher the pay-off and the less energy it takes from us.

Research shows you're more likely to work out if you do it at the same time every day rather than wait to feel the inspiration. It takes less energy to attend church regularly (because you end up planning your life around it) than it does to attend occasionally (because then you have to fit it into an already full weekend). It takes no more energy to bake an entire pan of brownies than it does to bake one, but obviously you have more to show at the end of one over the other. Sometimes stepping into more costs you little and gives you much.

I have benefited from this principle when it comes to establishing meaningful friendships in huge ways and can vouch that having it scheduled ensures maximum energy input, with minimal output.

Scheduling for our Friendships Every Tuesday night in my world is Girls Night. What that means is that there are five of us (who didn't all know each other when we started) who have committed to carving this into our lives each week. We switch homes weekly and the hostess makes the entree and everyone else bringing wine, dessert, cheese/bread & salad.

If I simply tried to get us all together without that schedule-- it would probably take a minimum of a dozen emails to find out everyone's schedule and it probably would have to be scheduled three weeks out to find a time that works for us all. Someone would also have to feel the pressure to come up with the plan, organizing an activity or restaurant. Each girl then would have to plan around this new and intruding event-- the moms finding baby-sitters, the office workers stressed about trying to get out on time, everyone feeling this big event and pouring emotional energy into anticipating it.

But simply placing it on the calendar every week actually takes less energy. All those planning details repeat themselves automatically-- so the effort actually decreases AND the benefits actually increase since our conversations become more consistent and intimate due to the regularity.

The things you do regularly benefit you the most. With a decreasing cost to you.

Schedule 4 Weeks of Friendship in February! Friendships do not happen easily when you see each other once a month haphazardly. They happen when you see each other over-and-over. It's why making friends in school felt easier. It's why we bond with people at work. It's why all friendship experts are constantly encouraging you to join something-- a book club, a network association, a cause.

This February, experiment with regularity. There are four weeks in the month so come up with a creative way to build up your friendships with a weekly get-together.

Three Planning Tips:

  1. Keep it the same all 4 Weeks: Don't use up your limited energy being too creative-- people like familiarity. Make it Taco Tuesday every week. Sunday Soup Night. Monday Happy Hour. Plan it once and reap the benefits of those plans all four weeks.
  2. Invite women you'd like to get to know better. If you know a lot of people-- invite over a group of girlfriends and simply say come as many weeks as you can this month. You'll bond. If you don't know many people, find 3-4 potential friends on the ClassifiedCircles postings on GirlFriendCircles and invite them to join you, giving them all permission to bring 1-2 others with them so you can all meet new friends!
  3. Keep it simple.This isn't about throwing a party that wows people. It's about connecting. So don't wear yourself out cleaning, cooking, menu-planning and dish-washing. Take-out on paper plates accomplishes the purpose just as well.

It might sound daunting up front, but the benefit--feeling a stronger sense of belonging and being known by friends-- is so worth it. And each week requires less work on your part to get the same benefit.

This February, invest your limited energy in ways that promise to bring you happiness, greater health and less stress by returning your energy tenfold. Build a bond with regularity.

p.s. I'd sooooo love to hear other ideas. Let us all know how you've done this before or how you intend to give it a try now!