I have a friend, we'll call her S. She's a lovely person. When I spend time with her, it's like the rest of the world is somehow in the deep background, out of focus and non-distracting. I've tried to figure out why an afternoon cocktail with S is so relaxing and comforting, cocktails not withstanding.
Our conversations are not always positive. Occasionally we descend into gossip. Sometimes we bitch and moan. So it's not that she's a bundle of never-ending joy and happiness. Mostly we chat aimlessly about family and friends and loved ones. S will tell me about her dad. I'll fill her in on Kim's latest project or a crazy case. So it's not that we're addressing matters of great consequence.
One afternoon S and I were sitting on the sunny patio at Pinewood Social, watching the Cumberland River roll by and metal crushers claw up piles of scrap, when I got a text from (It really doesn't matter who). I'm certain the message was terribly important, maybe even urgent. S looked on with that one-eyebrow-raised-wtf look that she sometimes affects. Her look was brief, nearly undetectable, but I caught it over the rim of my glasses and I felt a little like an ass.
I thought at the time I was just being a little thoughtless, a little dismissive of our time together. I thought at the time this is what we (people, everyone of us) do. I thought at the time this is normal. And - to a degree, sadly - it is normal.
But my friend S is not normal. She is exceptional.
I've sussed out one of the things that causes time with S to be so comfortable - for me. She almost never even acknowledges she owns a phone. If she's with you, she is there, present.
This presence, the total in-the-moment way S approaches the hour of cocktails, is off putting if you're not used to actual conversation. Her way of being there with another person is - I'm guessing - too intimate for a lot of people - people who are used to FaceBook friendships and Twitter followers and "social" interactions - where social bears no relationship to actual sociability, but those never ending online interactions on "social" media.
S moved away a few months ago. I miss afternoon cocktails with her. I miss our long talks. I miss that one-eyebrow-raised-wtf look, not so much judgment as an unconscious reaction.
Kim - my wife, best friend, and partner - and I forged our friendship on long flights in small planes, where iPhones and social media do not work. Our relationship came of age pre FaceBook, pre Twitter, pre Instagram. We have a de facto foundation of long talks about small things.
The thing about long talks on small planes is: they take time. The thing about afternoon cocktails with the phone turned off is: they take time.
The thing about most things that bring me joy is: they take time.
2016 taught me that really good things take time. So, for the upcoming year, I'm gonna try to cut down the multi-tasking and focus on things that are good and take time. Cocktail anyone?
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