The Friendship Connection

I can’t start a post about friendship without first acknowledging some of the wonderful friends who have made a difference in my life. They have fed me emotionally, spiritually, and yes, even physically. In some ways they take better care of me then I take care of myself and if you are ever in the position to have friends who are like mine then I hope you consider yourself very lucky, because I know that I am. I’m not going to lie, however, because it took me a long time to find my tribe. Once I did, it took me even longer to realize that friendship is something that you work at- it is an ever-evolving, changing thing.

I used to think that I could be an island and that I never needed anything or any help from anyone. That attitude earned me a lot of really great acquaintances but not many close friends. I guess I was just so worried about feeling vulnerable and insecure I could never really open myself up to anyone. It wasn’t until later on in my life that I realized that true, meaningful connections take work. They require you to not only open yourself up emotionally, but you have to be willing to put in the physical amount of time and effort.

In this day and age, making time for others is not easy! (It’s a struggle even to find time for ourselves.) Consider this, though: study results published in the Scientific American found that having friends can increase our survival rate by up to 50%. This study found that friendships can actually strengthen marriages and this article suggests that friendships can improve our health, lessening the risk of chronic disease and depression (especially among the elderly).

Not that you really need convincing, of course- we all to spend more time with our friends. Especially as social media continues to replace real-life interactions, it’s important to make the effort to get that (real) face time in so that we avoid becoming even more socially isolated. You know what that means- everybody put down your phones, or at the very least, try and make your online interactions meaningful. For example, instead of just liking a post, comment by sharing a memory, answering a question, or starting a conversation. And if you are brave enough to put away your phone, why not do something during and leave it in your purse the next time you grab coffee with a friend so you can actually look at each other.

If we try to build these small connections into our everyday lives, every day we’re making bigger strides to maintain the friendships we’ve worked so hard to build and keep. Even something as small as an out-of-the-blue message can mean a lot. So go ahead- brighten someone’s day today! I dare you to!

In this day and age we place so many demands ourselves that sometimes even going about our day-to-day lives is exhausting. As a person who likes to keep busy, I find myself struggling to stay balanced. You can follow my journey here, or click here or here to find more ways to streamline your life to keep it simple.

What are some of the ways that you stay balanced? Give us your advice below, or email your strategies to keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

Random Acts of Kindness

kbb_heart_in_the_sand

Living on your own can be rough. I learned this the hard way when I first moved into the apartment where I live now. Fresh out of a relationship, I had my own place for the first time, without any roommates or boyfriends. On one hand, it was liberating. On the other hand, it was a ton of work.

The difference between living by yourself and living with other people is that if you leave the dishes in the sink overnight, they’re still waiting for you when you wake up in the morning. There’s no one to blame for not taking out the garbage, and if you forget to go grocery shopping that’s just too bad- because there’s no one else to mooch off of, or someone to split a pizza with.

The stress of having to juggle all of these different tasks alone, combined with having to work a few part-time jobs to make ends meet, really started to get to me around Christmas time, when I somehow got roped into hosting some family for the holiday.

Ok, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that was happy to take on this task. I guess in some ways I felt like hosting during the holidays would prove to everyone and myself that I was holding it together. Yeah, right.

Cut to late in the evening, the night before Christmas: the place was a mess, the presents weren’t wrapped, and I was elbow-deep in some last-minute baking when I realized that I my load of laundry had been sitting in the dryer pretty much the whole day. It had been another nasty surprise in a series of unexpected tasks that had been popping up the whole day;  having clean sheets was the last thing on my mind. But my morning had got off to a miserable start when my dog decided to regurgitate the entire contents of her stomach on my bed, and everything had gone downhill from there.

Breathless and covered in flour, I ran downstairs to the laundry room hoping that no one had left an angry message for hogging the machines, or worse, that someone hadn’t thrown my clean things onto the floor in a fit of irritation.

But when I arrived there were my sheets, folded neatly and waiting quietly for me on the counter. The sight of it made me burst into tears.

I asked virtually everyone I knew around the building if they had folded my laundry, or even if they knew who had done it. No one claimed to be my laundry fairy, and no one had seen anyone come in or out of the laundry room that afternoon or evening.

Obviously my benefactor wanted to remain mysterious, so I did the only thing I could do, in true B fashion: I left a colorful, homemade thank-you note, letting whoever it was know how much that small gesture had meant to me.

kbb_laundry_fairy

I’ve still never figured out who that person was, and perhaps I never will. My neighbors have probably forgotten all about it but every year, around this time of year, I think about that random act of kindness that saved my sanity. It reminds me that there is goodness around, even when all else seems to be dark. It reminds me that people are capable of looking out for each other, without feeling the need to be acknowledged or owed. It reminds me that kindness exists for kindness’ sake, and that one random act has a way of growing and expanding until its effect becomes more meaningful that the deed itself.

I think about my laundry fairy when I smile at a stranger on the street. I am reminded of him or her when I see someone helping a neighbor dig their car out of the snow. All the moments where I don’t have the right change, when someone lets me cut in line, or stops me in the supermarket to compliment me on my outfit; these are the times when I think of the laundry fairy and the kindness that she spread, and the kindness that was spread in turn because of her actions.

Hopefully one day you’ll get an opportunity to encounter your very own laundry fairy, or to be someone else’s laundry fairy in turn. I think no matter what faith we believe in, or what holiday we celebrate, the one thing we have in common is the ability- and the responsibility- to show kindness and compassion towards our fellow human beings, not just during this season, but all the year throughout.

After all, that’s what being a laundry fairy is really about.

KBwB-BFlower-50

My Dirty Christmas Trick

KBB_christmas_giftsHave you ever noticed that just before Christmas people seem to do more? You’re scrambling to finish projects at the office, you’re making plans to visit families and friends and meanwhile at your place, you’re cooking and decorating and shoveling your driveway all the while thinking, whenever am I going to find the time to do my holiday shopping?

I feel exhausted just writing about it so I’m going to have to share my dirty little Christmas secret:

I don’t do most of my holiday shopping during the holidays.

“Shut the front door!” you’re thinking. “You can’t possibly be one of those incredibly anal-retentive people that shop for Christmas during the rest of the year!” But I’m here to tell you that I totally am.

Don’t get me wrong; I love to shop during the holidays. But in reality, shopping just at Christmas time isn’t always feasible. Shopping year-round can make you less rushed and more organized once the holiday season hits. It also gives me a better idea of how much money I’m spending. It also allows me to keep track of the all the gifts I’m buying so I can be more careful with my money, which comes in handy when I get a little too happy after hitting up the eggnog.

As the holidays approach, there is a way to stay organized when it comes to your Christmas shopping and it involves just one simple thing.

Make a list!

Planning your shopping trip ahead of time is a lot easier than you might think, and it may spare you the hysterical feeling that sets in when you see how crowded the stores are. Here’s how I go about doing it.

Make It Enjoyable.

Sit down and get yourself into a Christmas mood! Pour yourself a glass of wine, put on some carols, or be a giant nerd like me and use red and green pens. Whatever. But you need to set aside approximately half an hour of time and it shouldn’t be right before you go out shopping. It also shouldn’t be on Christmas Eve.

Channel Your Inner Santa.

Make a list of people to whom you usually give gifts. There’s no feeling guilty- there is no hard and fast rule for deciding who goes on your list. Maybe you and your bestie have a rule never to buy each other anything, or you’re just really sick and tired of buying Great Uncle Sam a necktie every year. Either way, this decision is totally yours and it’s up to you to be realistic about how many (or how few) people you buy gifts for. Christmas is not just about gift giving.

Check Your Wallet.

Think about the gifts you bought last year. Jot down a number next to each person’s name. Remember, you’re not putting a price tag on your friendship with someone- this exercise is more about getting an idea of how much you’re going to be spending. I have found doing this step earlier in the year incredibly helpful as it gives me an idea of how much I have to save for Christmas and makes me think about starting to scout for good deals on certain items.

Be a Super Sleuth.

Go down your list, and start jotting down gift ideas next to each person’s name. Think about the hobbies, needs, or wants of each of the people you’re buying gifts for. Get creative. Don’t rule out things like gift cards, magazine subscriptions or charitable contributions where appropriate.

It may also be helpful to consider the needs of the person to whom you are giving a gift. If a friend has moved it may be a good idea to ask a few carefully worded questions to find out what they might need for their house. A well-traveled uncle may appreciate a new set of luggage tags, or a new address book complete with up-to-date addresses of family members. Try to remember events throughout the year- like that time when your mother lost her leather-driving gloves, or that movie your brother thought was awesome.

Search for online stores for people’s wishlists, or ask partners or siblings for suggestions. Sometimes when you’re particularly clueless, it helps to do a little detective work in order to find a gift that’s truly meaningful.

Ready, Set…Shop!

Now you’re all set to start your Christmas shopping. Just make sure you tuck your list in your wallet or Filofax when you go, or send it in an email to yourself to keep track of it on your phone. Make notes as you about where you spotted certain items so you comparison shop, or jot down other ideas as you find inspiration in the stores.

And don’t worry about getting every item on your list- after all, there’s always next year!

Looking for more solutions to keep you organized over the holidays? I’ve got some more here. Or comment below and share with us your secret on how to stay sane during this busy time of year!

KBwB-Flower-50