Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dropping By

Over the past couple of days, Iris and I have been inviting different friends to join us for Thanksgiving. For many, it wasn't clear that they could commit to a specific arrival time or specific length of time, so they felt obliged to decline. One friend had a bunch of errands to run on Thanksgiving day, another had to work for some portion of the day, and yet another had concerns about their child and whether or not she would be alright with a large group of people.

In each case, Iris and I made it clear that there was no need to commit to showing up. We just wanted them to know that they were welcome. If they could be there five minutes or five hours, that would be fine. In each case, the other person seemed to relax and say something on the order of, "Oh, just drop by? Sure, that sounds great! I'm not sure exactly when, but I'd love to."

Dropping By
As Iris and I talked this afternoon, we recognized that somehow people have lost the concept of "dropping by". Both of us grew up in environments where friends would simply stop by unannounced; they'd finish eating dinner one evening and say, "Hey, it's been a while since we've seen so-and-so. Let's take a ride over there and see how they're doing!"

As we talked, we realized that we're the only people we know who still "drop by". So we asked ourselves, "Why?"

Is it that we don't like the hit-or-miss aspects of spontaneously driving across town to visit friends who might or might not be available? Is it that we don't like surprise guests? Is it that we anticipate others not liking surprise guests? Is it that we are simply too busy?

Deliciously Casual
For all I know, this might be something unique to my experience, something that I completely fabricated for myself, but there's a certain delicious quality of casually dropping by that seem to escape more formally arranged get-togethers.

As a kid, my mom always told people, 'come-on-by, anytime!' (it was more like 'cummonbaaaaah, eeny taahm') and she really meant it. People would stop by when they were in neighborhood, people would stop by when they were feeling lonely, people would stop by just to share a cup of coffee.

Our house was always open, casual and full of people. People'd stop by for a few minutes in the afternoon and then leave after midnight, or sleep over an leave in the morning. My mom would ask if anyone were hungry and then flip into the kitchen and whip up a meal. If all we had in the house were liver and potatoes, before you knew it we were eating blender-made pate and vichyssoise The kitchen was always wide open to the rest of the house so that she could continue sharing in conversation as she cooked.

Also, with my mom, there was no such thing as incompatible groups of people. If we had guests from completely different contexts who had never met each other before, within a few minutes, she'd have planted a stake directly in the center of their common ground and they'd be off and running on a mutually stimulating conversation.

For me, these casual get-togethers and the very nature of the home that they inspired or that inspired them, are warm and rich memories.

Where's this All Going?
Whenever I start writing a blog article, I'm never quite sure where it will take me; I'm often not certain even as I get to the middle. I just write and see where it will go. It's a kind of "drop-by" approach to writing.

As I'm writing now, I'm realizing that dropping by can be a wonderful metaphor for life. If I want people in my life to drop by, I create a home that is casual, easy and welcoming, one that need not be prepared for guests, but is always in a state of relaxed readiness. I don't feel obliged to do anything or be anyone when friends pop in. It's just a easy, relaxed way to be.

If I want to enjoy dropping by to see others, then I go with my inspiration and see where it takes me not knowing whether or not friends will be home, not knowing if they'll have time, not knowing if I'll be away for one hour or ten; I just go. If one friend isn't home, I just go to the next, and next...

I know for myself, this simply feels good. When I contrast it to the stress that we often feel when preparing for formal (or perhaps simply planned) engagements, it feels really good.

Not only that, but for me, a really cool side-effect of the dropping by approach is the that quality of the experience can be much better than the well-planned, formal experience where we've tried to get everything "perfect".

As a metaphor, I can apply an easy, casual and open drop-by-preparedness to anything that comes into my life. No need to anticipate or fret. No obligation to do anything in particular when something new shows up unannounced. Just a nice way to be.

I can also apply dropping by metaphor to anything in my life I want to try or do: signing up for a course in painting or accounting, heading to the ski mountain, jumping on the train to the city.

What's Your Drop-By Quotient?
So, what about you? Are you someone who drops by to see friends or do you arrange everything ahead of time? Have you created a drop-by-friendly home or do you need time to prepare before people show up?

What about life in general? Have you created a drop-by-friendly existence? Would you prefer one?

What's dropped in lately?

1 comment:

  1. Choosing to be "Deliciously Casual" appeals to me, in that it seems for me to parallel choosing to be fearlessly present, loving, appreciating. bw


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