Meet my friends: not in real life

Greetings! Welcome to all my new followers and those who have numbers in their gravatars. I’m never sure if that indicates the year you were born, if you are the 28th Jennifer to sign up for WordPress, or if you are just a lawn-mowing robot. Not that it much matters: we’re all friends now.

This weekend my husband and I went for a run. We came across a few other runners  – actually a group – that I knew and recognized. We’d belonged to the same run club, ran a few workouts together, and were friends on Facebook.  They were on a training run for their first marathon.  It has taken a lot of their time and dedication, it’s more expensive than they thought it would be, and they are amazed that they can still keep going and doing the distances. I know all of this because we are friends on Facebook.

As we approached them I mentioned their names to my husband. I said this within earshot, but not directly at them. “Hey, that’s Paul and Steve,” I said.  As they got closer I got excited for them: they had run for about 1.5 hours by then and anything to distract you is motivating.

“Great job guys. You look awesome. Keep it up.” I said.

They looked at me, nodding. “Hello.” They had no idea who I was.

Same with the second pair of guys.

Finally there was a girl who I’ve talked to more often. I said her name, we exchanged “good job” encouragement, and did the high-five-you’re-a-runner as we passed each other.  She knew who I was.

They are probably best friends since they were...

I never knew your eyes were so blue in person. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently when I added someone to my FB friends, I was prompted to answer whether I knew the person in real life. (What’s real life? I thought to myself). I decided that since FB is trying to creep up and get all sorts of information these days I’d just vote-split my answer and lie. Take that, Statistics! But it got me thinking — I have a lot of friends on Facebook I’ve never met in real life, aka: in person. I don’t think this matters — we have exchanges based on what we feel comfortable posting, or what we feel like sharing. We want to know more about each other and be “in the loop” with each other. I was dumped on Facebook so I know what it’s like to also be shut out of someone’s life.

But then I also need to realize that if I do see these people in person, they won’t know who I am.

English: Lost connections

“Hello? I’m calling from tower 3C. Are you the girl with the red hair and glasses or the girl who always rides a bike?” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a funny idea that Facebook could essentially connect a world of people, but if you put them in a room together they would be strangers to one another. Sure, they could talk about what they’d posted or funny videos or good restaurants and blog ideas, but it’s a different way of relating when you do so in person.  I remember my brother once saying that he spoke to a vendor at least one a week on the phone and they had long animated talks. More and more of their personalities started to blend in to the conversation once business was done. Then when the client came to town and they went out for dinner, it was like a bad first date. He said they just stared at each other awkwardly and weren’t sure what to talk about.

You blend differently in person. There is nothing wrong with that.

Lately I’ve had a flurry of new subscribers. I’d like to thank you all for coming along on my journey, but I want to know more about you. Tell me something about yourself in the comments. You don’t have to be afraid, we’ll probably never meet in person.

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Follow me on Facebook. Pretty please?

One hour

I wake up for a lazy Saturday: coffee, a leisure run, breakfast.

The phone rings early.

“Hello? It’s Ted. You know, Ted? Your dad? I’m in town. I got here last night. I thought maybe we could meet today. You could bring the kids here. I’m busy til about 10:30 and then I have a break and then I am back, but there is a break in between….” I can’t even get in an answer of acknowledgment. The words are coming rapid-fire. It’s like they are punching out on a typewriter, scanning across my brain, and I’m supposed to simultaneously digest and comprehend. Also, I generally see my dad once a year and this is out of season.

I try to answer. “One of the kids is away this weekend. I’d only be coming with one kid.” I feel like I am yelling. He is already explaining times and where I should bring the kids. I don’t bother explaining again that one of my kids is away. There are more complex details. It’s like an overseas phone call when you used to have to pre-pay. You talk fast so that you don’t get cut off mid-thought.

I don’t want to go for a visit. I do it so my kids can see their grandfather. It’s about creating a neutral opportunity for my kids to have a relationship with him and not tainting that with my own opinions.

I go for a visit: me and one kid. It’s what I expect. Sometimes I silently cringe when he says things that are inappropriate or demeaning. He does this unknowingly but I spent most of my youth trying to explain this to him. He will change when he is willing to change; often I don’t think he sees a need. I also don’t need this in my life.

I watch my son’s reaction to all of this. Most of it he doesn’t understand. He looks at me quizzically and then gets bored and plays games on my phone. How much of a connection can you make in one hour? We talk about nothing. It doesn’t have to be deep and emotional conversation, but it’s a conversation that leaves me with nothing. It used to leave me feeling sad – as though I had expectations of a resolution that never came. Now, I use up my hour and head home with thoughts of the day ahead.

It’s strange how we spend so much time with a person and then can drift completely apart. Sometimes we outgrow a person and although we are linked genetically and hereditarily, our thoughts — the people we are — could be from two different places. We inhabit different cultures, we are from different tribes.

I’m learning that there is much less sadness now. But it’s not just deadness in its place. It’s just an acceptance that our connection is in the past, not the present. Even then it was shaky at best. I visit to show my kids who their grandfather is, not for my sake. My Self in this has outgrown the emotional battles, the self-esteem issues, the anger, and frustration. My Self has moved on, leaving sadness alone and drifting behind me. A wisp of smoke that remembers and then dissipates.

A drop of Helen

Helen has walked by the same M&M candy on the floor four times now. It is brown; at first she thought it was a rabbit turd. There are no rabbits in the house but her first reaction was not logical. Lately she has not thought about much in a rational way. A drop of something brown, small, and hard is not what you’d expect to see on your floor.

She hasn’t picked it up. It hasn’t moved. The birthday party from where it dropped was over 5 days ago. No one has swept, vacuumed, or stooped in those 5 days to deal with this. It is not so much of a problem: no one will wipe out stepping on it. The most it will be is a mess. In its sweet, hard-shelled state it is completely innocuous. It is more like a lamp shade than a puddle of water in that way.

Helen doesn’t know what to do with the brown M&M. She doesn’t want anything to change and moving the little drop may release a chaos, like the fluttering of butterfly wings.

Helen and John have been talking about moving for months now. John is mostly talking, Helen has tried to listen. It’s easier when she doesn’t have to be a part of some things.

John wants to move out. His life with Helen is not what he was expecting or hoped for. She remind him that he has to take responsibility for his own actions. She fusses and scolds and now John has taken her advice and is moving out.

Helen met John through a mutual friend. They were both new to the city and wanted more involvement in out community. They wanted to meet their neighbours. They both toured local artists’ shows, showed up for the opening of the community gardens plot, and were part of the neighbourhood’s organizing committee. Neither of them showed up for any of the meetings so they didn’t meet this way. Helen’s friend Allison had a community garden plot. John had never seen rosemary grown so big and asked her about it. Allison liked his interest, so she thought he might be interested in Helen as well. Allison thought both her rosemary and Helen were blossoming.

Their first date was at a coffee shop to see a local band play. John was in his element, but Helen found the music loud. She didn’t notice this at the time; she focused on John and assessed her reactions. Mostly she fiddled with her sweater, pulling the sleeves over her wrists and then pushing them back. She wore her favorite sweater as though it was an oracle that could predict their future. By the end of the evening Helen felt confident in her sweater and decided she liked John’s attention.

Two years later, two surprise birthday parties later, John has changed his mind. He wants to grow and move out of these tight circles. Helen is not sure if he means their relationship or the small apartment they rent but it has been a long time since she had a strong opinion about anything. She decides he means both and leaves it at that.

Helen finds John’s newspaper tucked under the cushion of the coach. He has circled several rental ads for larger apartments. He makes more money than Helen does. She knows he is not looking for them both.

She wonder how she could be so stupid, naive, disconnected. She trusts John, but then forgot to pay attention to herself. She laments that she forgot to say what she wanted.

Helen doesn’t know what she’ll do. This is a big change and not one she will absorb lightly. Looking back, it could be said that this was bound to happen. Or that it was months in the making. But nothing was really finalized and nothing really did change. For now, she’ll leave the M&M where it is.