Let’s not do lunch. (But it was nice chatting with you!)
By Liz Mosco
Let me pose two scenarios. The first one:
Last week on a run I kept pace with an older gentleman for a mile or two. I don’t see him often. A smile or nod is usually the extent of our communication. On this particular day, we talked more than we ever had about things like life, loss and love. At the end of this short, meaningful conversation we waved to each other and said: “See you around!”
Perfect. I smiled all the way home.
The second scenario:
Two weeks ago in the grocery store I ran into an old colleague. We caught up briefly about our jobs. I asked about her kids and her husband. She asked about my hiking adventures. It was nice to bump into her. At the end of this short, energizing conversation she said: “We should do lunch.”
No! I felt tense all the way home, with her unwanted phone number in my contact list.
Do we really have to take a quick, stimulating conversation and then drag it out through an entire lunch together? Is this the polite thing to do?
The gentleman in the first scenario is someone I genuinely look forward to seeing again. I won’t run the other way when I see him coming. We’ll chat when the time is right. The woman in the second scenario is now on my “hide from” list. I’ll dive behind a potato chip display when I see her. I’ll feel guilty because I have not followed up on her lunch invite. I’ll lie that that I have been “meaning to get in touch, but have been SO busy.” Why, oh why, did she have to invite me to effing lunch?
Admittedly, I’m also guilty. I, too, have been the giver of a “Let’s get coffee sometime” declaration. Yet before the words are out of my mouth I have seen the clouds drift into my companion’s eyes and my name added to her “to-do” list. I have made myself a chore. She will now pretend to be on the phone when she sees me coming.
But this isn’t really about lunch or coffee, is it? It is about moments.
We don’t watch a beautiful sunset and then try to make a date with it for next Tuesday at noon. We trust the universe will give us another beautiful sunset.
We don’t try to hold on to the sunset, because we can’t. So why do we try to hold on to beautiful conversations? Why, when it comes to each other, do we continually demand more?
In our modern era, more of everything seems to be better, including more connections (what a loathsome word) and more lunch and coffee dates. Hell, even when we truly desire to hang out with someone, our schedules are so packed we have to book out a month or more. Are we really enriched by all these lunch dates? Or could some of these folks be people we love to see periodically, but arbitrarily? Could we say “Great to see you. Look forward to seeing you again!” and really mean it, without making a date? For most people I encounter, I sincerely look forward to seeing them again; however, not over lunch or coffee on the second Wednesday of next month at 11AM. I look forward to a five-minute conversation in six months as we pump our gas, pick up a prescription, or wait for our name to be called at the optometrist’s office.
Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to schedule a lunch date if it stems from love and friendship instead of misguided social courtesy. Your gut knows the difference. Cliché as it always sounds, our lives are a series of moments. When we keep planning, plotting, scheduling and demanding these moments, we lose something. We lose the time to talk to a pleasant stranger, fellow yogi, bartender, neighbor or mailman. We lose enjoying a moment for what it is, without living ten steps ahead by adding more fuss to our congested lives.
When a moment is over, it is over. Whether a natural phenomenon or a nice chat, the moments end.
This is simply a reminder that you don’t have to commit to more in order to appreciate another human being’s presence for a moment in time. You can bask in the glow of all these lovely moments and not plan another in the future. Just enjoy them and be awake for more.
The next time you run into someone from whom you’ve been dodging invites, there is no need to hide. Step proudly forward and announce how much you love bumping into him. Because you do!
I’ll bet you a nickel that he’ll be relieved you didn’t mention lunch.
Liz Mosco, Ph.D. is a psychologist for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is adept at hiding in plain sight.