Recently we did a really fun thing. We planned a family dinner with some friends of ours. These friends are old-yet-new in a way, meaning that even though we have “known” them for a long time, we are just now getting to know them in a deeper way. Hence the dinner.
At some point during the night my friend said something along the lines of, “It’s a long drive home for you all, be careful, sorry you have to be out so late.” What she said nagged at my mind the whole way home. (When she just read that line, I pray her heart didn’t sink…the nagging was in a good way. That means the creative juices are flowing.)
I sort of hated that she was sorry that we had to drive so far to have a wonderful, cozy, perfectly imperfect family dinner with her family and mine. You see to me, I would have driven another thirty minutes—just to be able to have that dinner. Part of the reason is—it’s the same distance from her home to mine as it is from mine to hers. It’s not a shorter trip for her to come see me.
I did feel though, that the real reason why this was nagging at me was something deeper. A deeper-rooted feeling that needed to be uncovered. I think that underlying thing is that we all crave deep, meaningful connection but often we aren’t willing to do the work to get there. Her and I both are though. When I had my surgery in 2017 she cooked me two pots of soup and then loaded up her kids and drove to my house just to bring my family a meal. She couldn’t stay long, it was basically just a there and back trip. That trip absolutely meant the world to me and my family. So, then I feel like the problem must be even deeper than working for connection because we are both doing that already.
It is not the lack of wanting to work for that connection. It is the fear of disappointment or the fear of losing that desire for connection. No one wants to put anyone out. “Oh, it’s too much trouble? Do not even worry about it!” Nothing can be too much trouble. That isn’t something we do now days. We don’t want to trouble our friends.
But that is exactly where we are wrong! I am identifying a very common theme among parents these days. We don’t want our kids to be upset, mad, angry, or bored. We don’t want our friends to be upset, mad, angry, or bored. And part of this is because there is no cooling off period. You see, if something doesn’t go as planned—your friend is a two second text message away. In earlier times, it was a drive and a letter in the mail that was your cooling off period. You might have traveled half a day in a wagon just to go have lunch with another family. (I know you just snickered at wagon.) My point is, that we don’t allow ourselves the time to consider why we are upset, mad, or angry. When we are those things, we put the expectation on our friends to FIX those feelings. Often times if we just have a cooling off period (the thirty-minute drive home) we are over our boredom or anger, we realize it was completely insignificant anyhow. Not only is it not our friends job to make sure we are not bored or offended—it is NO ONE’S job to make sure we are ANYTHING.
If you are angry, that is not anyone’s fault. If you are bored, it is not anyone’s fault. If you are upset, it is not anyone’s fault. It is not anyone else’s job to make sure you are happy and content in your personal life. That is on me, myself, and I. That is not to say that we shouldn’t practice compassion, grace, and love. But, we have to stop casting blame for our own problems and negative feelings.
As a society, we have put this expectation of perfect complacence on our friends and family. If someone is mad at us, we immediately think, “How dare they be mad at me!?” (Myself included.) We want to try to put everything we are feeling on someone else. And the pressure weighing on everyone to make sure everyone is happy and perfectly satisfied in their personal lives is exhausting. I think my friend felt that pressure the night of our dinner. When she thought of us driving the drive home, she worried we would be unsatisfied with our lovely evening. Coen screamed the whole way home and the whole way there and even that didn’t damper my satisfaction on our lovely evening.
My challenge for you and for myself is, to let that strong desire for the sense of belonging and connection overrule any and all minor infractions that could get in the way. Let’s let joy, happiness, and contentment get the last word in our relationships. After all, it’s exactly the same distance from your home to mine.