I have a dear friend whom I’ve known for years. We now live several hundred miles apart and don’t see each other all that often, but we make it a habit to talk on the phone at regular intervals.
A few weeks ago it occurred to me that we hadn’t talked in quite a long time, so I called her at home. Of course, I got her voicemail, “Hello, please leave me your name and number and the reason for your call, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
Two days later she called me from her car, “Hi, it’s me. I’m so sorry I haven’t called in such a long time. Things here are just insane! I’ve been working so hard it’s unbelievable. I worked all weekend on a project, and when I’m not working, I have to take the kids to birthday parties and playdates. I haven’t had a minute to call. I’m so overwhelmed, I just don’t know what to do.”
I honestly couldn’t think of a response that wouldn’t be tinged with sarcasm. My friend hasn’t called me in over a month and she takes the first ten minutes of a conversation to tell me that she’s been too busy to talk to me. This rhetoric is not unusual. The culture we live in seems to find it necessary to go over in detail everything they do every minute of every day. There appears to be a need to fill every moment with some task in order to feel valuable. Stopping to make a phone call to a friend or spending time with family and friends becomes a chore to be squeezed into a massive to-do list.
Is everyone like this? Of course not! However it has definitely become a way of life for many. After teaching stress management for over 30 years, I have become a witness to how many individuals declare they are overwhelmed and fatigued. The irony is that getting together with people you care about helps to reduce stress and helps us to feel more energetic. (Unless of course, they are energy vampires.)
Years ago, we all lived in communities that were close knit, which is still present in some neighborhoods in big cities. Residing in suburbia creates a more solitary existence. Cars are necessary, and it often feels like the Twilight Zone. Having someone stop by for a cup of coffee seems to be a thing of the past that will soon become an exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum.
Face-to-face communication is an important and necessary ingredient to our health according to Dan Buettner author of “The Blue Zones.” Not through texts, emails or phone, but in person. Perhaps it’s time to spend less time “binge watching” and spend more time “binge looking” at the people in your life.
— Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360. Visit her website at stressed.com.