*At a time, that is. Leisure is hard to come by, even for things as important as catching up with the nearest-and-dearest. Increasingly, free time seems to come in little fragments, scattered throughout the day.
The author of Overwhelmed, Brigid Schulte, said after talking to a time use researcher, “What he considered leisure I considered just bits and scraps of in-between time.” Fragments. Scraps. It’s what we’ve got.
Right now I work full time, I’m taking a lit class, I blog here, and I’m planning a wedding. I get to choose between leisure time, a clean house, sleeping, or fulfilling my responsibilities. But, my friends are important to me. I want to know how they’re doing, I want to support them, and I need those moments of connection.
I have ten minutes to call someone on my way to church. I can go for a walk with a friend, but only if we swing by the library on the way back. My relaxing bedtime reading is for a class assignment. Twice this week I’ve gone out to eat at the grocery store deli, so we could grab a few staples and still make it home at a reasonable hour.
There are ways to multitask, to get a few more minutes here and there. A Skype session while folding laundry, or going grocery-shopping with a local friend. Letting a local friend use the washer/dryer, if they live in an apartment without their own. Working on separate projects at a coffee shop or someone’s kitchen table, mostly silent, but at least able to enjoy the ambiance together. You can even do that co-working over Skype.
Efficiency isn’t fulfilling, but it’s better than nothing.
I don’t know the solution. Carving out proper quality time is ideal, and of course we can/should/must do that. I’ve stopped watching television and started reading recaps instead; I want to spend that 30 minutes on something more important to me. Something more nourishing.
And yet. Some days five minutes are all we’ve got, so here are a few ways to use them.
Text just to say you’re thinking of them. “Saw on FB that you have that meeting today. Rooting for you!” Or, “You looked awesome yesterday!”
Ask for advice instead of googling it. “Is it mischievous or mischievious?” “Do you use oatmeal or breadcrumbs in your meatloaf?” “I have writer’s block. Ideas?”
Send a photo of something that made you think of them. Artwork, a comic, a small child wearing a tutu at the dentist.
Email a link you think they’d like. Call later to ask what they thought.
Agree to show up 5 minutes early for that thing you both have to be at anyway, and enjoy a long hug.
With some people, a quick call. “Hey, I have literally 3.5 minutes, but I wanted to hear your voice. Tell me about your day! … That sounds so cool. Got to run!” You can call in line at the bank drive-thru or while walking the dog. It doesn’t have to be deep and lingering to matter.
Good old-fashioned postcards: two minutes to scrawl a note (or 5 seconds to doodle your initials in a heart) + 34¢ in postage, drop it in the mailbox on the way out the door. It feels special.
Ask for prayers, even about ordinary things. I’m drowning in laundry. I have a huge project due yesterday. I’m waiting to hear back about <scary/important thing>. I have guests coming and I feel unprepared. Real life is messy sometimes. It helps knowing someone will light a candle for you.
But also…it’s okay to give yourself permission to nourish your friendships. It’s okay to leave the dishes undone sometimes, to linger over coffee and run late to ______, to choose sleep deprivation so you can linger on Skype. Yes, it’s not ideal. Yes, there will be a price to pay. Sometimes it’s worth it.