One of my favorite blogs, Captain Awkward, recently had an article filled with tips on how to make friends, which I found fascinating since it’s a great analysis of the logistics of how to be social. One of many excellent points made was on the effort it takes to be social:
“Having a social life takes work. Some people make it look easy, or find that it comes more naturally, but there is emotional and mental work involved in planning events, researching them, being the one who takes the lead on inviting people places, remembering their birthdays and what foods they can’t eat, keeping the cabinet stocked with snacks in case people drop by, asking how their day was, showing up to things when you have limited time and energy, etc.”
I’ve been thinking about this more than usual lately because I feel like I’m falling behind on my social life. Actually, scratch that. I am falling behind. Messages and emails sit in my inbox for days, and I don’t have time to get around to them, or even worse, I forget all about them. There are people who are going through big changes with whom I want to have long conversations, and instead we’ve exchanged a few sentences via text. I haven’t been making as many plans overall. And forget about making many plans more than a few days ahead of time.
Of course, this is all fall-out from the recent move, not a normal state of affairs. The move has been taking huge amounts of time and energy, and I only took three days off from writing–last time I moved I took weeks off–so I haven’t gotten much slack there. And I’m just so tired. Too tired to plan ahead. Too tired to answer emails before I go to bed. Too tired to go back and forth several times in an attempt to schedule something. (Interestingly, not too tired to offer emotional support when asked for or to hang out when the scheduling is easy and doesn’t require much of me. I’ve even had a few group game events at my new place, which is not yet all the way unpacked. There were even snacks at the second one, which took, amazingly enough, ADVANCE PLANNING.)
It’s really interesting watching myself fall behind because it makes me realize how much time and energy I usually do spend on being social. And I wonder if I make it look easy. I certainly forget myself how much energy I’m expending until a time like this when I don’t have the energy to spare.
What’s great is that during the times when everything is going more or less smoothly, we all build up social capital from all that social effort enumerated in the quote above. And that social capital doesn’t disappear overnight, which hopefully means we are granted some slack when life does a double flip and decides to join the conga line. It definitely means that in spite of the fact that I feel massively behind, I’m still receiving support from my friends at a time when I particularly need it.
I’m also noticing how some of my social rules–and again, Captain Awkward nails them in her post–really do work to save energy. The “only invite someone two (maybe three) times to do something, and then move on unless they reach out” rule? So useful as a way to cut down on effort. As is the “name a specific time and place instead of the vague sometime” rule. And the “if they never invite you to do anything, you can let it slide while you’re busy” rule. Not to mention the “go ahead and invite someone; as long as you’re polite, the worst that can happen is they say no” rule.
This all makes me realize what a privilege it is to have a social life. Because it does take time and effort. Because it does require putting ourselves out there, and it does sometimes result in disappointment, both of which draw on emotional reserves. And because I live in an area where it is fairly easy for me to meet people who are accepting of who I am and with whom I have things in common.
So right now I have too many balls in the air and occasionally I drop one of them, and sometimes it rolls off behind the sofa where I don’t even remember it’s hanging out. And my social energy is not what it usually is. And I can see why that’s happening and try my best to be patient with myself, while appreciating all the times it doesn’t happen.
Do you have any social guidelines like mine or Captain Awkward’s? If so, I’d love to hear about them.