If you were waiting tables in Melbourne in the mid 90s, you may remember me. I would have been the tall, thin redhead at your restaurant, the first at the table waiting for her friends. I would have been at least 15 minutes early from years of training of being the daughter of a nurse and a soldier. Lateness was never an option and cancelling was exceptionally rude.
This was a time before iPhones, so there was no Facebooking or tweeting as I waited. There would be the odd texts received on my black and white Nokia flip phone from my friends who actually had mobiles…with no predictive text…we had to work at each of those letters. So there I would sit, processing the incoming ‘sorry I’m running late’ texts and playing ‘Snake‘ while I sipped a lemon lime and bitters and ate the bread which I hoped was for free.
Now, twenty years and twenty kilos later I’m almost always late. And that’s if I make it at all. Working full time with two kids and study makes organizing a social life tough.
And that’s why if I love you, I’ll probably cancel.
I know what you’re thinking – wouldn’t that actually mean I would try harder?
Of course I will. But when you try to juggle so many balls…life says that every now and then you will drop one. Sometimes this will occur accidentally, when you’ve forgotten exactly how many balls you have going. And sometimes you’ll drop a ball deliberately when it just gets too hard to keep them all in the air in continual movement.
Some people get offended when this happens. They believe they are the most important ball you are juggling. They won’t accept the fact you may need to just put them aside for a night because you are too tired to juggle at all anymore, or that the balls you are trying to juggle at the time may be few, but are simply so awkward and heavy you have to minimalise what you have in motion.
Nowadays I don’t have the time or energy to juggle any continually high maintenance balls. So I simply don’t make plans with those sort of people. I don’t have the time, energy or patience to take on another ball which doesn’t bring me joy.
So if I make plans with you and cancel-please remember that it’s because I love you. It means that you are a valued friend, because I know you won’t judge me and because you understand there is more to life than…well… just you.
Conversely, this also means that if you need to put me aside for a while, I’m ok with that too. The time we spend together is quality not quantity and I want to ensure when we see each other it’s during a time when you want to see me…the last thing I want is to be one of the many begrudging obligations you have in your life. Rather, I love that you’ve even thought of spending time with me in the first place when your life is so full already.
I’m still dear friends with most of my school friends from that table two decades ago. And today I’m often late and I often cancel. But I’m ok with that because we are all more relaxed and happier in our own skins. And that’s in part because when one of us cancels…we know the love is still there. And that’s true friendship.