It’s so hard to ever feel “caught up” with friends.
You know how you meet up with friends you haven’t seen in awhile, and you spend the first hour (at least 75% of the total time, whatever it is) catching up on events or following up on posts you saw on social media?
You go over what happened over Christmas, how the move went, what sports the kids are playing and the vacation to Mexico.
After you cover all that you have a little bit of time to stumble onto something a little more… I hate to say “real,” because it’s all real...But you know what I’m saying: REAL.
You can feel it click in, sometimes it feels like a wall just fell down right before your eyes and your friend, the real woman inside the busy body chasing kids or putting on her social face, shows up in a flash. It’s no longer a travelogue or an event list, it’s HER.
I have a theory I have yet to try: I want to have each member of a dinner party fill out a bulleted list of events and outcomes, prior to dinner.
—Joey was potty trained, It was crazy but we made it through and now we never think about it.
—I got the job and that was a relief. That event is no longer top of mind.
—Phil finished designing the remodel of our home. It’s a big job but since we don’t start for another year, it’s not something I’m dealing with right now.
…And so forth. Significant things, but not really soul things. Resolved things. Everyone reads these emails before showing up for dinner, and then we don’t discuss them at dinner. Even if something seems minor but the person wants to discuss it, it doesn’t go on the list. The point is, focusing on what does matter to each person rather than what seems to matter.
Do you know how many times I ask my friends “how that went” and it’s like they have to go back and think about it because it’s no longer life?
Or how many times I go back to tell about an event that was a big deal at the time, that seems like I should share, but by now I’ve told so many times it feels like reciting the text from an Instagram post? I’m not into it, but we talk about it because it feels weird to gloss over if it had been a significant event. Our minds are so linear we don’t allow for gaps in the story.
But do we really care? Is hearing the details of the fender bender of last month what friendship is made of?
Do you feel more connected to your friend after discussing these bullet points than you did before?
To continue my test, I would bring a stack of question cards that guide the whole thing. They would be based on what actually happens in a conversation to trigger the friends lighting up:
It’s when we say, What are you into NOW?
-What are you worried about right now?”
-How are you feeling about your relationship with your oldest daughter?
-What is your biggest goal for the next 6 months?
-What has your gospel study been centered on? What have you been learning?
-What’s the best thing you’ve read in the last 3 months, and why did it impact you?
-What’s the best conversation you’ve had with a close friend/family member lately- what was the main takeaway for you?
-What has been your biggest success at work the last 3 months? Your biggest failure?
-What are you listening to? Who is your favorite stand-up comedian/musician/podcaster?
-What is your brightest memory of the two of us?
-How has your relationship with your spouse changed for the better since you got married?
-What would you do differently in your life if you could change one choice from ages 20-25?
In other words, “What’s really going on?!” It seems like this would help to learn things about old friends you thought you knew so much about, but you find your info has grown stale. It should also help spark interest in new things.
If there’s other day-to-day stuff you want to hear about, ask about it! But could it be covered just as easily in a text conversation afterward? When perhaps the seemingly pointless but fun to discuss in person could take center stage while everyone is in the same room?
If you’re anything like me, these meet ups with friends don’t happen often enough, so it always surprises me that when they do, we spend most of the time talking about stuff that could be covered in an email, until the good stuff shows up in the last 45 minutes when time is crunched.
And if you’re anything like me, you love all time spent with your friends, but the stuff you remember happens after the warm up, when the walls of distance and time have melted away, and you can really see each other’s hearts rather than each other’s day planners.