There is this facebook photo which is good fodder for amusement. The picture has a statement which says “there should be a relationship status for I don’t even know what’s going on”. The first time I saw this after my friend had tagged me I was thoroughly amused. To be honest it is a bitter-sweet kind of amusement because I totally identify with it. I’ve been in a similar situation before. Why bring this up? Well it’s because I remember a time when I was seeing this guy and after we stopped seeing each + many more months after, he said he didn’t want to say we were seeing each other because I hadn’t officially agreed to date him though he had asked already (God bless him because not everyone asks these days, they expect you will do the math). This is how it ended though, we met up, had a meal together and when he was walking me to the matatu/bus (I forget) he asked me “Is it ok, if we see other people”? It was kind of shocking because the date we had the week before was exciting and there was so much hope for the future especially on his part. I also thought” hey, I’m afraid to get my feet in but this looks hopeful I can do this”. It was the proverbial “ready, steady, go before you leap through the air to the other side. Except in my case I didn’t know the other side was planning to move before I leapt. How things go from we’re engaged to be engaged to let’s see other people in one week is testament to clearly “I didn’t know what was going on”. Fast forward to happier times and I remember one of the cool things about that period of time when he was pursuing me was the exchange of emails between us.
It’s common knowledge that personal letters by post are in their death bed and it is a terrible shame. I however have had the rare treat of receiving letters in the mail from someone in the last two years but that’s a story for a book another day. You would think that email would naturally replace the letter but has it really? We are so caught up in this instant results web (pun intended) that the idea of waiting a few days to receive a reply is exasperating to say the least. The sad thing is, apparently the more we use all this smart devices the more dumb we are becoming. Are we going to stop using these devices? I can hear a resounding, “Of course not”! And that is perfectly fine. The advent of smart phones cannot be said to have completely diminished the human’s mental capacity. I mean the people who come up with these things are still creative right? Now as for the consumers I cannot really say but I trust that wherever we are we are creating in some way or other.
I know I seem to have lost the plot as far as email is concerned but let me try to get it back. What I am advocating for is bring email into the relating process especially for those of you who are creative. Like I said when I was having the thing with the guy (since I didn’t know what was going on might as well be ambiguous), I loved the emails. At the time I was doing French class during the university holidays and internet access wasn’t that much of a breeze. I couldn’t afford to go to the cyber every day, therefore those days when I did go and there was an email from said guy oh the excitement! My temperature would literally rise up a notch and the contents of those emails could not have passed for steamy (I promise). What would get me even more excited was the process of replying. For me writing back was a challenge to be interesting, witty and even a little coy. It was so much fun. I think it was a bit of a treat for the reader too. I could go on and on about it but that would kill the mystery of finding out for yourself. There is nothing quite like putting your thoughts into words and going the extra mile and putting feelings into words is amazing. Now add witticisms, intelligent jokes and charm and it is a recipe for grinning from ear to ear. Who doesn’t want to grin from ear to ear at the office sometime during the day? It is the tea masala on an otherwise dull cup of chai. Like I said I don’t expect people to go back to mail by post but I think email meets us half way between modernity and the golden age of the love letter. The thing to do with email is to add a brief waiting period in between emails. If you receive a romantic email at lunch time please do not feel the pressure to get the reply in by end of day. Leave it until the next day or two but at the same time don’t wait light years. Of course for two people in the same time zone it’s kind of silly to write about things you can easily talk about when you meet physically. So I suggest keep it interesting, bring out your most charming self and enjoy. If unfortunately things don’t work between you and your significant other, you will have a keep-sake in your inbox to put a smile on your face on a day you want to take a trip down nostalgia lane. If things do get really bad, you can hit the delete button. So hey, woo by email and feel free to share any e-woo stories.
There this guy who goes to my church, he sometimes disappears for weeks on end and obviously we don’t get to see him. When he shows up for church people always say hello and say “you’ve been so lost”! I noticed that he sort of used to take offence at this and he would retort “you’ve been lost too”! After observing these social interactions for a bit I realized if we could put what annoyed him in a sentence it would read “if you care so much about my being lost, why have you not done a thing about it?” Let’s think about it, when something is lost the natural (common sense) thing to do is to find it. I mean does it make sense that you misplace your keys and you sit around until they turn up and then you say “hey you’ve been lost”. Yet that is what we do with people we like and/or love. Last I checked a friend or relative is worth more than a bunch of keys yet we will seek the latter out with more gusto when lost.
I have to say it also bothers me when someone tells me I have been lost and they haven’t made an attempt to find me. Some days it bothers me more and I coined a phrase to describe such people. On other days it doesn’t bother me so much because I dismiss the comment (in my head) by calling the phrase “you’ve been lost” a conversational cliché, but that is a topic for another day. The phrase I coined is: relationally laziness. I came to the conclusion that some people are just relationally lazy.
I hadn’t heard the phrase being used before but when I started to use it (in my head) I knew it must exist. Then I recently googled it and found an article about it and it described the phrase just as I thought it should be used. Relationally lazy people are people who barely ever (I’m really restraining myself from using never) initiate contact. They don’t ever call but they are so glad to hear your voice when you do and they wonder why you haven’t talked in such a long while. They don’t ever text (even in this day of 1 bob texts) yet they are sure glad to receive. They forever talk about having dates but would never suggest a time and place until (you guessed it) you do. I don’t know about you but is this annoying or is this annoying. Human beings are wired to give and to receive. In social interaction it is no different; give and take is supposed to be the norm rather than the exception. If someone takes time to call you, text you, visit you, meet up with you etc it means they like you (no surprises there). What do they expect in return? They expect you to initiate any number of the above to show that you like them back. The question is: do you like them back? If you do then busyness is no excuse.
I recently read an article written by a woman dying of cancer and she talk about counting her real friends on one hand. She said she would like to understand the rest who claim to be her friend yet they don’t call, or email or text or drop by to say hello; because in reality they don’t know how to deal with the fact that their friend is dying and they don’t know what to say to her so they try to hide their discomfort by feigning busyness. She said she did not understand them. She went on to say she runs into some of them and they tell her they are praying for her. Then she wondered what their God, who is so compassionate, would say to their not making time for her. She went on to say her real friends call her, text her, show up at her door and they talk about the weather, their children, work and all the things they used to talk about when she didn’t have cancer. This really got to me so I wrote to her and said God wouldn’t take busyness as a good excuse for doing nothing to keep a friendship going. God would want her friends (any friend) to call, text, email, go for coffee, pay a visit and talk about nothing, and everything and to laugh and cry and sit smiling saying nothing over a hot cup of tea or coffee. The sad thing is if you are too lazy to reach out to your friends when they are good and healthy you risk your friend dismissing you as not a true friend when he/she is dying.
I know most people have these relationally lazy people in their lives and you wonder what to do with them. Do you keep trying, cut them loose and concentrate on your active friendships or commission a fly-by sign in ginormous letters saying “I would feel better if I knew you cared for me as much as I do you! Call me sometime?” That’s a tough question. From personal experience I have learnt that relational laziness is infectious. It will get to a point and you will burn out and you will even stop reaching out to your active friends. At that point you start to become relationally lazy too. I would encourage us all to fight it. Think about it, Jesus who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped is continually seeking out sinners despite the number of times the door is slammed in his face. If you consider a friendship worth saving you need to continually seek this person out. If you find you are tired go ahead and let out an exasperated sigh, take a break for a month or two and reach out to the person once again. If you realize that you fit the relationally lazy description-get a clue!