To linger: a verb meaning to lose oneself and all track of time in the pleasant company of others (the EM Dictionary of Lost Words).
It was at a sidewalk café in Paris, in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, that I had the epiphany: I had forgotten how to practice the fine art of lingering (if I ever knew how). I marveled as I watched friends sit over glasses of wine and cups of coffee chatting away as if they hadn’t anything more important to do. What I’ve come to realize is— they didn’t. They valued nothing more than the person in their company. Perhaps our European counterparts understand something we Americans have forgotten: Friendships rarely die of catastrophic events. They die of neglect.
Texting, phone chats, and an email exchange had, over the years, become my de-facto standard for keeping in touch. But keeping in touch is not the same as investing in or honoring a relationship. It is the belly laughs, the sharing of heartbreaking secrets and the exchange of thought-provoking ideas that deepens existing friendships and lays the foundation for new ones when lingering face-to-face. I’ve found since my return from Paris, and my dedication to the art, that a weekly two-hour coffee or lunch has not robbed me of one moment of productivity. Yes, I am busy like everyone else but the investment I’ve made in time spent with friends and the undivided attention they afford me has been returned to us in a mutual currency that is as invaluable as it is intangible. A currency that is not spent but is banked. A currency that compounds when we’re together.
“Friendship is not about what someone can do for you, it’s who and what the two of you become in each other’s presence.” - Dr. Ronald Sharp
If you find your friendships are fading; if you find they’ve become superficial. If your friendships feel more transactional than mutual, consider the European approach: invite them out for coffee and just linger.