friend zones update: how it's going

last week i got a request from an author (hi, mia!) to share some updates about how my friend-zoning has been going.

first of all, it still shocks me when people read my writing. i know that i put it out into the world so people can see it, but it still floors me when people say things like “i really appreciated what you said about [topic]” or “wow! i’d never thought about ___ like that before.” anyway!

my friend zones! how has this practice been working? let’s see…

it has been really helpful for me! like… really helpful. the primary help is having a very solid boundary around zone 1 and a looser, but still strong boundary around zone 2. zones 3 and 4 are loosey goosey for sure, and zone 5 is as it has always been, everyone else.

as far as the focus on my zone 1 folks is concerned, this structure is magical. it allows me to really feel good about making time and space to connect with folks who i know deeply and who know me deeply. after knowing someone for years and years, a one hour conversation is worth like 50 hours of one-off conversations. they can be so healing and rejuvenating and they often help me remember i am loved, i love, and remind me what matters. (of course, that’s not to say those things don’t happen with new folks in my life, but it is usually different. that said, there are the occasional run-ins where i find someone who i click with and it feels like our souls have been traveling the universe together for millennia. but those are rare, for sure).

the most helpful part of the framework is clarity about for whom i am willing to rearrange my schedule (zone 1) and whom i am not. this has granted me a huge amount of clarity in decision-making for social and community hangouts. and the message i get to communicate is clear: “there are more people in the world than i have time for (and if you think about it, that is also true for you). i love all people and i cannot make time for all people. my choice to focus on deepening my existing relationships doesn’t mean i love you any less, but it does mean i will not shift my focus to every new person who comes into my life and seems interesting.”

(sidenote: i really love how adrienne maree brown talks about this in her life. i forget which episode of her podcast with her sister, how to survive the end of the world, where she discusses this in but what i took away from her words was this: “many other people experiencing a small amount of disappointment is the tradeoff for me making time and space for me to do my best work. the alternative, which i refuse, is to spend untold amounts of time and energy and stress and anxiety trying to respond personally to everyone’s requests. when you have thousands of people reading your work, that is impossible. so i choose to create space for me to do my best work and that means disappointing people but that feels worth it given that the alternative means i don’t get to do the work that is probably the reason people even thought to reach to me!”)

ironically, this clear boundary gives many people excitement. seeing such a clear boundary from me gives them relief and permission to hold and create similar boundaries in their lives. brene brown talks about this, especially as it relates to compassion.

but sometimes i put this message out and two bad things happen: (1) people feel like i am rejecting them at the level of their identity or don’t care about them and (2) people feel like because i’m not willing to meet with them in the way they had imagined that i never want to connect with them. neither of these is true, but they happen fairly often. i’m still working on figuring out the words or processes or structures to hold my boundary while not creating these negative side effects.

i’m still working on solutions to this and a few of them, in various states of implementation look like this:

one thing i’m noticing that i need to shift is my relationship to “coffee meetings.” as stated in the book essentialism, the trouble with success is that it brings attention to you in a way that is almost always directly counter to your future success. the author, greg mckeown, says that in order to continue doing the best work, at each new level of success, you have to build new systems for maintaining the processes that allow you to do good work.

and so one of the tweaks i need to make is how i handle coffee meetings. i basically think i either need to stop having them or i need to develop some system when scheduling them doesn’t take any of my thinking or energy. i say that because it’s actually pretty draining to have to craft a custom no every time (i want to let people know i love that they reached out and that if i said yes to all the people who reached out, i would literally not do anything else nor would i do good work).

things i’m working on that solution space are (a) crafting a canned “no, but here’s how we can connect…” message and (b) developing a seasonal “coffee” meetings calendar. the seasonal meetings calendar is inspired by a story or myth i heard recently. if you know where the following ideas come from, please let me know! there’s a spiritual community that is notoriously secretive. the outer wall of the community opens once a year. inside that wall there is another wall. the door to that next inner wall opens once every ten years. the next wall’s door opens once every 100 years and the final door opens once every 1,000 years. the moral of that structure for me is that that’s the appropriate level of “no” to be said in order to only move the best work forward. it aligns precisely with the prophetic no.

myth or reality, i think that’s the level of rigor i need to hold with my no. otherwise, i actually won’t make or have the time and space needed to birth the creative work that is mine to birth (like post-patriarchy time travel retreats, for example).

this is a long way of saying that i think i want to make a schedule that allows for coffee meetings but they will be seasonally based, in person, and require lunch or a walk in the park. that way i get to (as my friend and current supervisor, angus maguire always says) stack function. we get to connect and i get to be outside in the sun.

i’m also trying to make everything in my life align with the seasons so this makes sense for that reason, too.

finally, there are two gaps in the structure that i haven’t yet figured out how to reconcile (and maybe i never will because i’m not trying to build a perfect totally comprehensive system). the first i mentioned clearly in the friend zone piece about mentors and mentees. they don’t really fit in the zones and that feels good to me. the second is “community.” being a part of a community of people (including several communities of practice, both local and virtual) asks things of me just as i ask things of those communities. that means that sometimes i choose to shift something in my life because of a clear sense of gravitas or pull towards a collective.

in both of these areas, the way i make the decisions is more intuitive than systematic but for now, it works and feels right. that may change over time, but i also hope to be living rurality for part of every year starting sometime in the next six years so maybe that’ll change on the way to that new life structure… (more on that later :P).

omg this was so much! i’m late for getting ready for my day! peace, yall! enjoy, mia.

ps - there may be typos or serious mistakes in this piece. i’ll edit it later (or never) but definitely not before i finish my fucking book draft. #ugh.

words / writing / post-processing
1264w / 36min / 7min