816 Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: Fill in the missing piece, face to face, with a friend

Something was missing.

I did a mental inventory of my life’s activities: baseball — done; football — almost done; marching band — done; cleaning, gardening, cooking, writing, avoiding helping with math homework, podcast researching, erranding — none of that is ever done but I was as on top of them as I could be.

But I still felt something was missing until two things happened on Facebook that helped me realize and fill that empty piece.

First was a note from a dear friend who, according to the map, lives close by but you wouldn’t know that based on how often we physically get together.

“Susan, I miss you.”

I realized that it had been a very, very long time since I had gone out of my weekly routine and away from familial obligations to spend time with friends. I saw some at sporting events, school activities, the grocery store … but I hadn’t devoted even an hour simply to visiting for an embarrassingly long time.

The second thing that happened on Facebook was reading an article about a man, Matt Kulesza, who started a personal social media project called 1000+Coffees. His plan is to meet every one of his Facebook friends face-to-face for coffee. He’s documenting it on his Tumblr (1000+ Coffees) and other social media and calls it “an exercise in remembering to socialize with and get to know people outside of the ‘book.”

I thought it was brilliant. I also thought it was a sign that I really should get off Facebook and out of the house, so I started planning.

“Started” is the operative word in that sentence. Every family schedule is wackadoodle, and finding a night that two or more unrelated people have free is a feat in scheduling and a gift from the calendar gods. But my Miss You message friend and I coordinated dinner plans.

Life is always getting in the way of my best-set plans. The evening never happened, but friends are important and I needed face-to-face time.

Badly.

I regrouped. Clearly going out at night is a thing of my past and possibly future, but not of my present. I shuffled my daytime schedule a little bit and made plans to visit another friend in Overland Park who was expecting her third baby.

Our first attempt failed because of her day job; our second because of my puking child. Then she had her baby, and I finally saw her beautiful face while she was on maternity leave.

She said her house was a mess but it didn’t look like it to me because — OH MY! — I was with her! In person! I could hug her and love on her adorable baby and joke with her other kids and watch her inhale apple fritter cake.

It was glorious. Sure, a few hours away from home put me back some, but personal contact for an extravert who lives the life of an introvert is crucial. I had forgotten how much so.

More! I had more people that I had been putting off for entirely too long.

I picked another day and two friends who lived near each other. We met for lunch and Thai’d one on.

Facebook, social media and emails are stopgaps, mere bandages for busy lives. They are the Good Enough for Now connections that don’t reveal the whole person, just the parts we care, or dare, to show.

But when you have the gift of an opportunity to sit down, look someone in the eye and really see how they are doing, that’s healing. That’s building a friendship.

And it’s not missing from my life anymore.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.

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