Being busy is one of the biggest obstacles to making friends in the modern age. This isn’t really news. These days, if you ask someone how they’ve been I bet you’re more likely to hear “busy” than “good.”
Everyone is overscheduled. We all take on too much. I don’t know one person who, when I ask how they are, says, “You know, my life is really calm right now. I’m a little bored.”
But since we’re all in the same boat, being busy is not a good enough excuse to avoid being social. You make time for what’s important, and I think we all know by now that fostering friendships is on that list.
So here’s my problem. Right now I, like all of you, am busy. Even busier than usual because I have a manuscript deadline looming and out-of-town trips scheduled for the next two weekends. Because meeting my deadline is not optional, it has to be my priority. At least over the next few weeks. This means I have to be careful not to overschedule myself.
I might have to—gasp!—say no.
Last weekend a new pal invited me over for a Friends marathon. I said maybe, but when my work wasn’t done for the day I had to change that to a pass. Another friend asked me to join her for yoga. Same deal: Maybe first, no eventually.
I’ve trained myself so well in saying yes that I truly hate saying no. In fact, I think I’m scared to. After passing on my last two Friends marathon invitations, I fear that I won’t get invited again. Same goes for the yoga classes. It takes a while to build up to the lazy Sunday sitcom-marathon invitation, but little time to lose it. I don’t want to become one of those people who just stops receiving invitations because they always say no.
And yet, like I said, I currently have no choice. I can’t go to work, go on my weekend trips, finish a book and say yes to all potential social engagements. There just isn’t enough time.
So what I’ve chosen to do is be very clear. To say, “I would really love to but I’m on a deadline this month and am a bit out of commission. As soon as I deliver this manuscript, though, I would really love to quote Chandler/do chataranga/watch super-skinny Natalie Portman go psycho onscreen while she’s really falling in love with her choreographer and making his lovechild with you.”
I have not earned the right with any of my new connections to become a disappearing friend. It’s far too early in my search. So I accept that by allowing myself this month of saying no, I will probably need to work extra hard extending invitations of my own in February.
No one ever said relationships were easy.
Have you had similar fears of saying no to plans with friends? When you are in a super-busy phase, how do you juggle responsibilities with relationships?