Craving Community (and not {just} the TV show)

Last spring three sitcoms debuted around the same time. Of the three, only one received the coveted full season renewal, and unless you’re a TV fanatic like me, you’ve probably already forgotten the other two – if they even crossed your radar at all.

The reason only one could survive and – in many minds – the shows were indistinguishable is simple: all three were about a small group of friends in their late 20s and 30s who hung out together day in and day out as, of course, hilarity and hijinks ensued.

As my friends (and husband) will tell you, I watch too much television. So it’s no surprise that I can name half a dozen shows that feature groups of friends hanging out all the time without even stopping to put down my remote.

Honestly, though, that’s not just a commentary on the way I spend my leisure (and laundry) time; it’s also a commentary on what we, as a society, are craving.

We crave community.

I recently read an article that asked, “Why Do the Sitcoms We Love Have So Little in Common with the Lives We Lead?” When I spotted that headline in my Google Reader, I assumed the post was about aliens, zombies and the ubiquitous vampires. (Or, perhaps the forensics lab that solves crimes in 43 minutes or less.)

Instead, the authors pondered the portrayal of friends on television and the vast differences we see in our own lives. Even if you frequent a coffee shop, diner or bar, I’m guessing you don’t spend hours there every day, chatting with your friends like the casts of Friends, Seinfeld or How I Met Your Mother. And while many of us socialize with co-workers or classmates on occasion, most of us don’t do it to the extremes of the folks on Parks & Recreation or Community.

So why is it that our favorite shows are about people who live like this, episode after episode? I think it’s because the ensemble comedy is today’s fairytale. Whether we realize it or not, we dream of having a place where everybody knows our name, our breakfast order, our business.

For those of us who went to college, those days in the dorms are likely the last time we experienced such close proximity and intimacy with a group of people. After all, it’s kind of hard to avoid it when you’re swapping clothes and snacks, studying on each other’s futons and sharing a bathroom. In that kind of environment, you naturally do the thing that so many churches today are advocating: you do life together.

It might mean you’re never alone, but there’s always someone to eat dinner with.

You might get woken up early or late (or all the time), but you don’t hesitate to pick up the phone when you need to talk to someone (or get a ride home) at midnight.

And diverse as your backgrounds and majors may be, the fact that you are experiencing so many of the same highs and lows (and common enemies . . . like finals and “Premium Night” in the cafeteria) removes all those barriers to allow solid friendships to form in a blink-of-the-eye amount of time.

Now that we’re grown-ups with bills and jobs and families and bathrooms of our own, it’s so much harder to cultivate the kind of community we had back then – or the kind of friendships we see on TV every night.

Making friends as an adult is hard. Maintaining friendships is just as hard, if not even more difficult. We’re busy. They’re busy.

But wouldn’t it be worth it? I mean, what if the oft-quoted passage of Acts 2 wasn’t just an old story or modern fairytale about grown-up life?

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:44-46)

I’m not sure how to make it happen. Or how to make it happen very quickly. I can’t very well force the other preschool moms or the couples in my small group to eat a meal with me every single day or to hang out with me at the Central Perk every afternoon (perhaps during naptime…?).

What can I do to foster this community I’m craving, then? Mark and I have been talking about this a lot lately. We miss having the close kind of friends who are all up in our business because we really are living our lives side by side. So far, we’ve only resolved to invite people over for dinner or out to lunch a couple times a month.

Baby steps, you know.

Help me out, friends. How are YOU creating community – real, authentic, got-your-back, know-your-kids, love-you-even-on-grumpy-days community?

Another great way I’m hoping to create some community is with (in)RL. If you live in Kansas City, I hope you’ll join me in Riverside on April 28. If not, find another meetup close to you!

The sound of my soul

I will miss commercials when I get a DVR. I can still watch them, right? I just have the option to skip them? Tell me I don’t have to give up [good] commercials.

Yes, I’m aware that’s really weird. So is using a VCR in 2012. Shut up.

I saw this one a few nights ago and loved it for so many reasons.

  1. That car guy? Is just like my husband. (He hates retro music and loves talking cars. “It’s important.”)
  2. Those friends having a good time, singing their hearts out? They seem fun. I want to hang out with them.
  3. I recognized the celebrity voice-over before my husband, even though recognizing celebrity voice-overs is kind of his superpower.
  4. I used to have a Chevy Malibu. I don’t know anything about its brakes, but I loved that it had lots of cup holders and both a tape deck and a CD player. I know. Big surprise.
  5. It made me think about all the times I’ve sung along to cheesy songs with my own friends.

Case in point: Smitty and I broke into “Ice, Ice Baby” last Friday night as we cooked dinner. Yes, we do know all the words.

What songs do you sing with your friends?

What Married People Wish Single People Knew

three bike wheels

Smitty, Mark and I call ourselves The Three Amigos. We’ve seen movies together, thrown parties together, gone on vacations together and eaten a thousand meals together. Smitty actually knew Mark before I did, and she and I have been friends since kindergarten. Though Mark and I are the ones married to each other, he finds himself the odd man out more often, I think, than Smitty feels like a third wheel.

Despite our decades of history, though, there are still times when Smitty’s singleness and my marriedness play a part in our relationship. No matter how sensitive I am or how confident she is, the fact is our difference is sometimes the third wheel in our friendship.

In the past month I’ve read several posts about what single people want married people to know or what one single person wants other single people to know. It got me thinking, and I realized that I have a list of things that this married person wishes single people knew. I can’t presume to speak for every married person, but I suspect I’m not alone in these thoughts.

What I Wish My Single Friends Knew

  1. The rude comments other people make get on our nerves, too. Your uncle who corners you at the family reunion, wondering when you’re going to settle down? Your sister who hassles you about going out with her “cute” co-worker? Your manager who schedules you on the holidays because all the people with families asked for vacation? Yeah, they make me mad, too.
  2. We’re sorry for the rude comments we’ve made, too. Umm, right. As defensive as I get on your behalf and as sensitive as I try to be, I realize that I’ve probably hurt you, too. Ugh, the thought of that makes me cringe. But I realize there are times I take advantage or make assumptions or just say things without thinking. I am so sorry.
  3. We don’t know what to say. It’s true. And it’s partially why we’ve said stupid things in the past (and will probably say them again). For me, I’m never sure if I should acknowledge it at all. Do I bring up that guy you mentioned? Do I ask how you’re feeling about single life these days? Or do I wait for you to bring it up? Will you think I don’t care if I don’t ask? Will you think I’m acting like your mother if I do?
  4. Sometimes, we’re jealous of you. Maybe that seems ridiculous or even offensive, particularly on lonely nights or at wedding receptions. But from this angle, the single life has some things going for it. You get to control the remote and the thermostat. You can go out, spend money and even move across the country whenever you want or need to. And [just being honest here] you get to check out all the cute guys at work or church without feeling guilty at all.
  5. On that note, yes, we are always on the lookout for single guys. It’s not only because we’re living vicariously through you, really. We just want to help.
  6. We just want to help. I know, I already said that. And I understand that you may not want help or may not actually need help at all. Especially from someone who’s been married for a million years and thinks that dumb guy from Step Up is cute. [As a purely hypothetical example, of course.] I know that you’re not incomplete, I know that you’re not perpetually depressed over your unmarried status, I know. But if I’ve even seen a glimmer of sadness or frustration (much less more than a glimmer), I will move mountains to help you feel better. Or, you know, tell you about the late-night commercial I saw for a new dating site.
  7. We actually think online dating sounds fun. For real. And don’t even get me started about speed dating. I mean, have you seen it in the movies? Okay, fine. I’m not completely removed from reality. I understand that when these awkward institutions have actual stakes, it’s a lot less fun and a lot more overwhelming, stressful and discouraging. I’m just saying that perhaps letting your old, married friend help you make a profile and sort through the responses you get might be a win-win. [What? You mean this isn’t about me? Oh yeah.]
  8. Don’t judge all marriages by our marriage. Whether we’re constantly posting gag-inducing love notes on Facebook or bickering over everything from where we eat dinner to shoes on the floor to the meaning of life, please believe me: Not every marriage is like this one. Don’t swear off men because our man is Prince Not-Exactly-Charming. And don’t pine for romance because our vases are full of fresh flowers each week. Every relationship is different, every relationship has its ups and downs, and every relationship has depths and details the public – even our closest, bestest friends – never see.
  9. That guy [or girl] who hurt you? Yeah, we want to punch him in the face. That’s really all I’ve got to say about that. Except – you are awesome. And anyone who can’t see that? Deserves a punch in the face.
  10. We love you. No matter what. We may not show it the right way. And we may not say it enough. We may be annoying or ungrateful or insensitive or all of the above. But the fact is, we love you. And we want you to be happy, no matter what that looks like.

If you’re married, what do you wish your single friends knew? [And if you’re single, what do you wish your married friends knew?]

This post will be linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings.

Making New Friends Anyway {inRL}

A couple weeks ago we took a road trip to visit friends for the weekend. You may recall I mentioned them, saying they “had the nerve to move away.” Yes, I said it. Because honestly? I get really annoyed when people I love move away.

I’m not mad at them, of course. Or any of my friends who have moved across town or the country, or any of my friends who never lived here in the first place and refuse to move next door to me.

But the hard, grown-up fact that I can’t gather all the people I love the most and force them to live with me, like we’re in the dorm at college? I kind of hate that.

Every time a friend moves away, I tell myself that’s it. I’m done. I’m not making any new friends. Because you know what? They’ll just leave. They’ll get a new job, go to a different church, go on a mission trip and never come home.

I’ve been pretty comfortable in that big baby scaredy cat mindset, too. But earlier this year, a sermon about this very thing hit me between the eyes.

The topic was connecting and community, so I didn’t have to work hard to apply the message to my longing for close relationships and fear that they’ll only end in hurt and “I miss you, please move back” emails. And it’s not like I’d never noticed that Jesus had close friends – close friends he knew would hurt him in the end. But I hadn’t really thought about the fact that while Jesus knew Judas would betray him and Peter would deny him, He chose to love them and live with them anyway.

After I was smacked in the face with that message, though, I felt frustrated. Sure, I get it. Community is important and relationships are worth the possible hurt I might encounter along the way. But how on earth do I make that happen?

There was a time when I was rolling in friends. I had work friends and church friends. I had single friends and couple friends. I had high school friends and college friends and new friends. (Notice how I didn’t call you “old friends,” lovely ladies from high school and college!)

Today is a different story.

Today is sporadic emails and Facebook messages instead of spontaneous happy hours. Today is scheduling a girls’ night out two months in advance only to cancel at the last minute because of a sick kiddo. Today is, “I haven’t seen you in forever!” and “We should get together soon. Yeah, we should.” Today is realizing that I have closer relationships with the people I Skype and tweet than the people I sit next to in church and drive past at the preschool.

Today is hard.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about?

Maybe you miss girls nights out or scrapbooking retreats or book clubs or coffee dates. Maybe your friends have moved away or drifted away. Maybe you’ve always had a hard time finding friends to connect with – or finding time to connect with your friends. Maybe it’s a little bit of all of the above. I know it is for me.

That’s why I love what (in)courage is doing in a few months.

(in)RL is going to be a day of (in)courage meetups all around the country and globe and a webcast for everyone to tune into. Women will gather to watch live webcasts of (in)courage contributors and community, connect with each other and discover new friendships they didn’t know were right around the corner.

On Saturday, April 28, thousands of (in)courage women all over the world will be getting together in homes, coffee shops, restaurants, or churches to connect in real life.

And even though it’s hard – and not a little bit scary – I’m going to host an (in)RL meetup. What about you? Will you attend a meetup or even host one?

Sure, those new friends might live across town. Or be different from you. Or hurt your feelings someday. Or move away and never call, never write. But what if they don’t? Or what if they do, but they also give great hugs and listen with their whole hearts and watch chick flicks with you and drink coffee with you at any hour of the day?

Let’s do this. Let’s reach out and connect in real life. Let’s make new friends anyway.

[Oh, hey! If you’re worried about planning a get-together, check out my ebook, Plan a Fabulous Party {without losing your mind}!]

Here are the links you need for (in)RL:

(in)RL website
(in)RL Q&A
Register for (in)RL
Host an (in)RL meetup

And don’t miss this great trailer video:

This post is part of a progressive blog tour. Don’t miss Sarah Mae’s post from yesterday or Arianne’s post tomorrow!

Do you find it hard to make friends anyway? Are you going to – or hosting – an (in)RL meetup? Will you come to mine???

P.S. I can’t remember who took the photo up above. It’s from Relevant, and I’d love to give credit where credit’s due. So if it’s yours, please let me know!

Now that I see you, I miss you!

grandpa's friends

Over the past few months, my husband and I have been looking for a new church home. At one church we visited, we ran into a couple we hadn’t seen in years. One of them made the most honest, striking comment.

She said, “Now that I see you, I miss you so much!”

After we visited for a while and then went our separate ways, I couldn’t stop thinking about that statement. I suppose it could have been a little insulting, to hear that she hadn’t been dwelling on our absence from her life all this time. But, really, am I any different?

I have more friends who live far away from me than I do friends who live nearby. If I let myself focus on how much I miss each of them and our relationships, I’d be crushed with sadness.

That’s why I’m so thankful for relationships that are strong enough to endure time and distance. And I’m even more thankful for the every-once-in-a-while visits with those heart friends.

To read the rest of this post, please visit me at (in)courage.