Consider the following scenario. Your best friend hasn’t returned emails in weeks other than some variation of, “Super busy — get back to you soon.”
A) Fire off an email letting her know how offended you are at her neglect, being careful to recall the times when you were there for her.
B) Back off and just wait it out until she decides to get back to you. Try not to get too steamed if it’s a long wait.
C) Have fun picking out a humorous “I miss you” card. Send it with a note saying, “Would love to catch up with you when you’re up for it. If there’s anything you need, I’m always here.” Alternatively, if she lives nearby, drop off a batch of homemade baked goods. Maybe she feels guilty over her neglect and is now too embarrassed to re-establish contact. A kind gesture will go further than recriminations.
Source: Sockey, Daria. “Making the Best of a Bad Situation.” Catholic Digest Jan. 2013
How would you, how do you, react? Years ago, pre-kid, my reaction probably fell somewhere between A and B. In my mind, I was understanding and charitable with my busy at-home mom friends, yet I fear their experience was a different reality. A more empathetic and spiritually mature Lisa would have performed a random act of kindness, resembling more C than A.
The scenario reminds me of a “Dear Abby” type of question posed by a childless woman in the column Tell Me About It written by Carolyn Hax and hosted at The Washington Post. Here’s a snippet of the woman’s question.
“I don’t get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners . . . I do all those things, too, and I don’t do them EVERY DAY. I guess what I’m asking is: What is a typical day and why don’t moms have time for a call or e-mail?”
In response, Ms. Hax gives the woman the what for — if roles reversed and the childless woman a mother, she would understand that when gifted with ten minutes to herself, she would likely want to be alone with her thoughts instead of emailing or calling a good friend. [Read the full exchange here.]
The column originally published in 2007, and it better resonates with me today than it would have if I had read it then. I get it now. Before children, the opportunity was largely mine to dictate when to experience silence. After children, especially once becoming an at-home mom, I effectively lost control of that dynamic. Naturally, when gifted with a moment of silence, I don’t want to fill it with sound. I relish the quiet. I enjoy the nothingness of the moment. I understand the dynamic of finally getting ten minutes during a busy, mundane day only to plop down on the couch and simply stare at the wall.
Confirm with my cousin that I will be at Grandma’s birthday celebration and bring a casserole? Oops, forgot to RSVP. Schedule that coffee chat with a friend I’ve largely ignored for 6 months? Didn’t get that done yet again today. Take the phone call and be mentally prepared to have a heart-to-heart with a friend I haven’t spoken to for several weeks when she randomly calls during this sacred respite? Absolutely, positively, assuredly not in the right mental state to have a deep conversation with her at that particular moment. But I confess, I do feel a tad guilty over this sporadic communication and want to, need to, re-establish contact with certain friends, those elixirs of life, who steady my way, fill my tank, and offer a burst of positive energy into the mundane. As much as I crave the staring-at-the-wall time, I love my sacred friendships better. So it’s best if I don’t let them die from neglect.
For the next six weeks or so, Joel and I receive a brief but most welcome hiatus from our intense deacon formation schedule. Finally, a bit of space in my calendar to schedule a coffee date with a girlfriend, secure a sitter for a date night with Joel and good couple friends, host that dinner for a priest we’ve been meaning to schedule for oh, two years now. Friends who are still around in spite of my, ”So tired I can’t even write a complete sentence. Sorry so short. Talk soon!” emails, texts, and tweets. I’m feeling extremely grateful for those wise and spiritually mature friends who show Letter C in action. And I’m thankful their kind gestures far outnumber any potential recriminations given my typical short and admittedly somewhat inconsiderate communications may provoke at least the thought of keeping score.
Some friends are on the other side of motherhood, whose babies have grown to a point where they don’t demand constant attention and drain mental energy. Others are empty-nester whose adult children and grandkids live several states away and crave to rock a baby to sleep and give motherly advice to a tired mama. Most are, like me, in the thick of parenting little ones, enjoying the ride of ups and downs, and highs and lows, who understand how challenging it can be to simply shoot off a quick email of all things.
We all greatly benefit from one another’s gentleness and humor, understanding and compassion — those random acts of kindness that tell us, “Would love to catch up with you when you’re up for it. If there’s anything you need, I’m always here.” A kind gesture is often all it takes to pull us out of our busy, mundane, and often lonely days.
Given my upcoming schedule allows some freedom to operate in C-mode as demonstrated above, I’m off to bake a batch of cookies with my kids to deliver them to a homebound friend I haven’t seen in some time. I really miss that friend. She makes me laugh, gives me hugs, loves my kids, and provides sage advice. She certainly is an elixir of life!