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I used to be a good friend. I was the friend you could call if you needed to vent. I was the friend who would drive for hours in the car smoking cigarettes and listening to music while you mended your broken heart. I was the friend who would stay up all night laughing and talking about nothing and everything.

I was the friend who knew the ins and outs of your life and knew when you needed to talk even before you knew you needed it. I was in tune and in touch. Available.

That friend is gone. And I am so, so sorry. She didn’t leave because she values your friendship any less. She didn’t disappear because she couldn’t be bothered.

She’s gone because I refuse to be busy.

I needed to step back from the chaos that took over my life. She was busy. No busier than you. But busy. Frantically, perpetually busy.

I’m no longer busy.

I was exhausted and burned out and I decided that something had to give.

I found myself on the hamster wheel and it was all my doing. I was giving it all away and watching life happen all around me. I was running a house, raising three kids, being a wife and a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a friend. I was volunteering for a charity I am passionate about. I was working out and planning holidays and hosting dinners. I was squeezing in everything in a mad dash to get it all done and to make a beautiful and meaningful life. And it was glorious. I am not complaining about any of it.

And I started to write again. And I found myself wanting to write more. And more. The flood gates opened and my only problem was trying to squeeze writing into my already crazy life.

But there’s only so long you can juggle while running at full speed when all the things that you are juggling are too precious to drop. I knew I couldn’t sustain. I was multitasking my life away. I started thinking about what this would look like in hindsight. Would I remember the moments? Or would I remember the phone in my ear while I cooked dinner and helped my kid with her homework while texting about the swim carpool, all while cleaning up the dog pee? I was a traffic cop at rush hour in the middle of a four way stop. The frenzy and the crazy became the norm and I saw myself not absorbing and not focusing and not fully engaging any where.

So I made the decision to refuse to be busy.

I stepped back from some commitments. I set up a loose schedule for my writing. I vowed to spend certain hours of a few days a week focusing on my writing. I have things I want to do that will never happen if I don’t protect the time it takes to do them.

It’s not that I don’t care about connecting with my friends. I really care. I miss my friends. I miss long conversations on the phone. I miss the serious talks and the laughs and the support and the whole connection in a way that let me be a very current part of their lives.

I miss it but I’m not willing to be busy for it.

We are all busy. Our culture glorifies busy. We are all running in frantic directions every day just trying to keep up. It doesn’t matter whether I work or stay home. It doesn’t matter that I have more kids than the next person or less kids than the next. There’s always someone with more to juggle and someone with less on their plate. It’s all relative and I refuse to beat myself up because I should be able to make it work when the Bento Box Pinterest Mom has more kids and a full time job and a spotless house and 3 dogs and 2 cats and a high maintenance guinea pig.

It doesn’t matter. I refuse to be busy. I am trying desperately to simplify my days. To stop multi tasking my life away. I’m trying to dial down the frenzy. I don’t want my life to be a blur of stuff and obligations and squeezing ins. I want it to be savoring and relishing and languishing and satisfying.

But this all means something’s gotta give, so my friendships are taking the heat. And that breaks my heart but I don’t know how to do it any other way.

I love my friends. I love them fiercely and I will drop whatever I’m doing the second any one of them needs me. I will drive to see them, fly to see them, go out for dinner or drinks. I will hug them when I see them and I will tell them I love them. I will laugh at their stories and cry with them when the hurt they are feeling seeps into me. I will fight for them, go to battle against their enemies or be their biggest cheerleader when they accomplish amazing things. The women I consider friends are some of my real life heroes.

I will do anything for them.

But I won’t answer my phone if I’m cuddling on the couch with my daughter. I won’t answer the phone if my son just got home from school and is telling me about his day. I won’t pick up if I’m helping one of the kids with homework or eating dinner or driving with the kids in the car or enjoying some quality time with my husband. And I won’t answer my phone if I’m writing.

Unless you need me. In which case, you’ll need to send and SOS or a 911 or a simple “I need to talk.” Then I will tell my kids they will have to wait or I will get up from the dinner table or shut my laptop. I will stop whatever it is that I’m doing if you need me.

I haven’t perfected my life of not busy. I’m still figuring out how to balance it all and how to still try to be a better friend. And I’m still available for casual conversations and catching ups. Just not as frequently as before. Some of my friends and I have started meeting once a month for lunch. Some of us have planned weekend trips together. Some of us keep up in group text chats. Some of us connect in private FaceBook groups.

What I’ve discovered is that most of my friends feel the same way I do. Most of us have transitioned into the third phase of parenting. Older kids, different kind of busy. Our lives have become the lives of uber drivers for the tween set and new careers and busier activity/sport schedules that come with older kids. Most of them are feeling the same hamster wheel juggling act that is impossible to do unless you’re a Cirque de Solei acrobat. And most of them don’t have time for me either.

I’m sorry that that friend is gone, the one who used to make you mixed tapes to help pump you up after a broken heart or a lost job. She loved curling up on the couch on Sunday morning to hear about every minute detail of your date the night before. She loved talking on the phone with you for hours as our babies slept and hearing every moment and milestone you and your baby reached together. She loved the hours standing in the driveway talking while our kids ran around and wore themselves out before dinner time. She misses that.

I miss all that.

But now is good too.