I was recently conversing with a friend about her active social calendar. G was having a difficult time fitting in all the things she felt she needed to fit in to appease all the people who had invited her to to fit herself into their social plans. She was fretting that with the festive season coming it would only get worse. How could she possibly get to every dinner, every party, every charity event and every casual cocktail hour and still maintain her sanity? There just aren’t enough hours in the day!
I suggested she take a deep breath and tell me which events she was really looking forward to. Which events tickled her fancy? Excited her about potential participation.
She named two. Of the twelve occasions in her datebook she named only two.
So I, in my great and unmatched wisdom (sorry) said “Okay then, just go to those two.”
I thought it was pretty simple.
“But how can I ignore those other people and their parties?” she howled, arms flailing. “They expect me to be there!”
“Tell them you regretfully can’t make it,” I answered.
“But I actually CAN make it,” she countered. “I just don’t wanna. I’ll have to lie and make up an excuse. Pretend I’m sick or something.”
Well see, here’s the thing, G. No you don’t.
Allow me to repeat that. NO. YOU. DON’T.
You are not morally obligated to accept every invitation you receive nor are you ethically obligated to go to every charity event and you are certainly not socially obligated to attend ANY function that will in no way enhance your life. I mean seriously, isn’t that the point of social functions? To enhance your life with revelry or deepened friendship or clever conversation or even excellent cuisine? Why go anywhere when you know you will be either bored silly, uncomfortable or watching the clock. For whatever reason.
Okay I will concede there are certain occasions when you just go, irrespective of your personal feelings. Family weddings. Milestone birthdays. Retirement parties. Once-in-a-lifetime events that demand celebration. I’m talking more about those everyday shindigs. The ones that compete for your energy, your stamina and your presence.
As I get older I find that my, how shall I say, willingness to dress up and go out anywhere has diminished greatly. I still enjoy dolling up at times and I certainly relish a good dinner party with great friends or just some casual cocktails that lead to stimulating repartee. I’m just not ALWAYS up for large, impersonal social events.
I have therefore been trying to teach myself to say no. As in no thank you. As in no I can’t make it and I don’t need to provide you with a reason. Just no. No IS a full sentence.
It’s not easy, this I know. My pal A is in the awkward position of choosing between a family event that is NOT a milestone and a weekend with good friends that she KNOWS she will savor. Her guilt gene tells her family must prevail! Her social gene says I want that time with my pals.
You know what I say? Life is too short to waste social energy on guilt. I’m not even sure if there is such a thing as social energy but I’m going to run with the concept that such a thing does in fact exist. We all have family energy, we have work energy, we have hobby energy and we have friend energy. But yes, we also have social energy. And as we mature I believe its supply diminishes. I actually have a “no two nights in a row” rule now which I fervently try to implement. It basically means if I am socializing on Friday then I am home with my beloved on Saturday. And Thursday.
It never used to be that way. I could just go, go, go like the Energizer Bunny.
Not anymore. I prefer not to.
That’s correct. I prefer my dull, boring, unthrilling, fully contented cut-off-jeaned, un-made-up life.
At least every second night.
So the next time you get invited to something that holds no interest, or competes with something that does, or is just not your jam or you just don’t wanna … don’t. No matter how much someone else wants you to.
Remember these words – Life is too short to waste social energy on guilt.
Invest your social energy in joy. In pursuits that revive you. In celebrations that speak to your soul. There will be more than enough “have-tos” in your life. Allow your social calendar to be brimming with “want-tos.” You are your own cruise director.
It’s Halloween night and I’m about to hand out a bunch of candy. This is exactly what I want to do tonight. Nothing more, nothing less.
Tomorrow night I will welcome some good friends for drinks. And no, that’s not two nights in a row. I mean it IS. But there is no guilt in either of these endeavours. Only pleasure.
Staying at home with no makeup and cut-off jeans is just a bonus.