In the summer, our expectations about our relationships seem to increase (second only to during the winter holiday season.) The season of long days and extra sunshine seem to heighten our desires for all that we could be experiencing with others!
Expectations Increase in the Summer
Summer brings up a lot of idealized pictures: happy family vacations, backyard barbeques with neighbors, street festivals with friends, and sipped drinks on patios with our BFF's. Our summer activities beg to be done with others. Any time our expectations go up, we're at risk of having our disappointment rise with them. In that gap between our hopes and our reality often comes the surprising feeling of loneliness -- surprising only in that it's summer time where the truth seems most obvious to us.
Most of our chosen winter activities (i.e. TV, reading, crafts) could be done without friends as we left work in the dark evenings and enjoyed being holed up in our comfy homes. Come sunshine, however, our desire to soak up every drop of summer brings us out of our hibernation, looking for our playmates.
Scheduling Challenges Also Increase in the Summer
When trying to schedule a Sunday brunch with friends, it seems there are no available weekends when one of them isn't at some wedding, some get-away trip, or some family reunion, or doesn't already have tickets for some outdoor concert. It seems more moves happen in the summer so we sigh every time another announcement is made about a going away party. Our kids are home from school which means we have all kinds of changing schedules based on various camps, child care swaps, road trips, and longer evenings keeping them entertained. The yard needs more "sweat and tears," our home demands new projects, our calendar seems ever chaotic.
The irony is that the season when we most want to play is also the season when play is often hardest to schedule.
- First, acknowledge you want a greater sense of belonging. Loneliness is a strong word; we will do everything we can to shy away from admitting it to ourselves. We'll cover it up with activities with our kids, line up more potential dates for next week, or try to tell ourselves to be content with what we have. We will do our best to talk ourselves out of admitting it, but it won't make it any less true. The truth is that loneliness is normal. Very normal. For most of us, it's not a chronic condition; rather it's our heart's way of telling us that people matter to us. Like hunger or thirst, it's a message to us -- in this case a message to continue to lean into relationships in ways that we find are meaningful. If you don't acknowledge it, you're less likely to do something about it.
- Second, make a list of some people you want to be around. This list should include the specific names of people whose friendships you want to foster. It can also include the neighbors you haven't yet met, the hiking group you still want to join, or the long-distance friend you might want to go visit. Most of us know a lot of people but haven't yet put in the consistent effort that creates a committed relationship -- our goal will be to select a few people with whom to share more activities. Many of us, however, need to actually meet more people, expanding our circle of potential friends -- in that case, our goal will be to invest the time needed to meet a wider variety of people.
- Third, extend invitations with many options. Those options will include a variety of many dates, many people, and many activities. For example, to connect with a few individuals, you will want to email them to extend 3-4 dates/times when you'd love to get together and see if their availability matches up to any of them. To connect with a group of women, invite many of them to one event and expect that only half of them will probably be able to come. And that's okay! You're still building your circle of friends! If there is a specific art festival or concert you want to attend, post on Facebook or send out an e-mail to your friends asking "who wants to come do this with me?" The rule of the summer is to keep extending options and flexibility.
Our relationships, beyond our partners, our kids and our extended family, are important to keep fostering. Even when we're busy. Especially, when we're busy. Listen to the small voice inside of you that longs to have comfortable and easy friendships and know that you get there only by going through stages that involve lots of scheduling, intention, and consistency. But get there you will.
May you be surrounded this summer with a sense of purpose when it comes to creating friendships that matter.