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Hello dear readers,

A writer friend and I met for dinner the other night. We both have insane schedules, so it takes some long-term planning for us to get together. During our conversation, the subject of a mutual colleague came up. This person was a casual acquaintance of mine, but a close friend of my friend’s.

“I don’t even bother calling or asking about her anymore,” my friend said. “What’s the point? She always cancels plans, and I know I’m way busier than she is.”

Welcome to the typical Winnipeg brush-off. Is your hometown like this as well? People who claim they’re your friends, but who are either “too busy” to make plans, or even worse–always cancel them.

I know all about busy schedules. I have several hours of kickboxing training every week, a novel I’m rewriting, a full-time day job that has its hectic moments, a blog, and a part-time job as a freelance writer. Not to mention maintaining a home, taking care of pets, and making sure I call my mother and spend time with my boyfriend and friends.

Yes, I said friends. No matter how busy one gets, there has to be time for them, too. I may not have time to make new friends right now, but I’m not going to neglect the established ones. (At least, I’m trying really hard not to.)

Has “I’m too busy” become a euphemism for “You’re not a priority” or “I’m not interested in spending time with you”? It certainly seems that way. When I first moved to this city, it was extremely difficult to make plans with people. Everyone was friendly, but there are few newcomers to the province, so most residents have lived here forever. They had families, college friends, high school friends–even elementary school friends. I grew accustomed to being the one who always had to make the effort, with the downside being that I wondered if any of my friends actually liked me. Were they hanging out with me because they wanted to, or just because I asked them? If they enjoyed my company, why didn’t they ever phone me or suggest a get-together?

Thankfully, as time passed and I settled into my new home, I found friends who were willing to make the effort. I’m still a planner, but if someone doesn’t meet me halfway, I’ll give up sooner rather than later. I don’t have time for the habitual cancellers or the “I’m sooo busy” folks.

I’m just too busy.

I once had a friend who made a habit of overbooking herself. Even though she had her own business, which should have meant flexibility, she filled every spare moment with team sports, Pilate’s, networking engagements, committees, etc. Every year she promised that she’d make more time for her friends, but it never happened. To see this person more than once a year constituted a major miracle, and when you did see her, her cell phone was glued to her ear. She often talked about how her remaining friends were so “understanding” about her crazy schedule, and that she couldn’t have friends who weren’t. I had no problem being understanding. I’m busy, too. But when I realized she was suddenly very accessible whenever she needed something, I decided to take myself off her “to-do” list.

How about you, dear readers? Do you ever use busyness as an excuse to blow someone off? Are you frustrated with how difficult it is to make time for friends, or get your friends to make time for you? Have you ended a friendship because of it? Rant away!

(And before everyone jumps on me, I’m not talking about those who cancel plans for legitimate reasons. Everyone gets sick sometimes or suddenly has to go out of town–it happens.)

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  1. Jill Ellis-Worthington

    Great points Holli – now that I’m more ‘in-charge’ of my work schedule, I do try to fit lunches in with friends, acquaintences, former colleagues and people I’d like to know better. It’s one of the perks of being downsized, for sure :-)!! But if it takes more than three tries to book with someone, I stop trying. If they want it to work, they’ll get in touch with me at that point and if not, that says something, right?

  2. kungfusinger

    I had a boyfriend like that once. I didn’t marry him.

    As far as friends go, for most of them I have a “three strikes” rule.

    If I call three times and they don’t return my call; or I book three get together’s and they don’t show to at least one; then I don’t merit them as worthy of my effort anymore.

    I only have one friend that is worth the effort despite his constant neglect. This was my very best friend in high school. I have given up on him several times, but when the chips are on the floor he always comes through. He was there for me when my first marriage fell apart. He bent over backwards when my mother in law died a week before his wedding. (He did everything possible to make me feel that family comes first and he could live without me as a groomsmaid.) He is a true friend, despite frequently being “too busy”.

  3. Lisa

    I have noticed the same thing. Everyone is busy these days. It’s a fact of life. But I don’t use it as an excuse. It is REALLY tough to get together with some people… And it never used to be that way…or at least I don’t remember it being like that. I don’t have any tried and true rules for it though. I think it’s different for every “friend” I have.

    I recently had lunch with someone with whom I went to high school. (She moved to Winnipeg 13 years ago and at that time we would see each other a few times a year. She moved out of the city to one of the bedroom communities and then it suddenly became more difficult to get together…so we let it slide.) When we finally got together for lunch we realized it had been two years since we had physically seen each other. The sad thing is that she works 4 blocks from me… Luckily it’s the kind of friendship where you pick up right where you left off with no awkward pauses wondering what to talk about next. When we parted we did vow to not let it go another two years. The thing is that we have very little in common aside from our past. She doesn’t participate in any of the activities that I do and her circle of friends is completely different than mine. So it’s understandable that we don’t see each other more often.

    The people I currently see the most are the ones who share my interests. And I rarely blow someone off due to “busyness”. I will make the time and effort (sometimes we have to schedule a few weeks in advance) to get together with someone, even if it means skipping something like a scheduled run or workout – which I can throw in anywhere.

    But I have been blown off, and it does get annoying to the point where I stop trying.

  4. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comments, everyone.

    @ Jill – that’s exactly how I feel. Everyone’s busy and there are schedules to work around, but if it’s too much of an effort, it’s not worth it.

    @ kungfusinger – sometimes the “too busy” friends can be worth it if they are there for you when it counts, as you say. You really have to judge it on a friend-by-friend basis. I used to feel the same way about the woman I described in my post, because she always made it to the important events. But when we were up for jobs at the same organization, she was always calling me, wanting to know who I’d met with and what the outcome was. It drove me crazy, since she didn’t have the time to answer a one line email before that. She also had time to borrow things, but not enough time to return them in a timely fashion.

    @ Lisa – “I recently had lunch with someone from high school” – that’s so Winnipeg of you! 🙂 Drifting apart happens. It’s nice when both parties can accept it and/or acknowledge it.

  5. Kim

    My life has been interesting the last few years and I will be honest. I do tend to prioritize people who can relate to some degree. I also tend to prioritize those with the same interests.

    When I was married, my only close friends were a series of 3 from high school. Of the three, there is really only one that I talk to on a regular basis now. When my marriage was falling apart I was careful about who I spilled a lot of details to and one of the three I definately assessed as being too judgemental, another too “chatty and gossipy” and perhaps a little too self absorbed, and so there is only one that I talk to with any real depth anymore and I really don’t have a ton in common with any of the three. But I know that any of these three would be there if I asked them to be. And if some trauma happened in their lives I would be there too. There is just a huge amount of history there.

    The other factor is that I have fallen into that trap of only keeping in touch with people on Facebook. If you aren’t on facebook, I’m not likely to call you up voluntarily and fill you in because by the time I do that, everything is old news in my mind.

  6. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comment, Kim. I’m sure many people can relate to it.


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