Upon passing my first blogiversary over the weekend and reading this post about the disconnectedness despite the advances in modern communications technology my mind once again turned to my own struggles with feeling the separation that comes with time, distance, circumstance, and personal evolution even though I am more reachable than I have ever been.
There’s a great bit by Ellen Degeneres that I saw when I was spending some time in Texas in March where she describes how terrible call waiting is to the ego. She explains how
It’s turned into a mini people’s choice awards. Hasn’t it? And you find out right away who wins or loses.: You’re having a pleasant conversation with what you think is a good friend. You hear the click. They tell you to hold on. You’re confident they’re going to come back to you. And then they come back and they say, “I’ve got to take this other call.” And you know what that means what they just said to the other person? “Let me get rid of this other call.”
Our attention spans have gotten so short. With instant communication, anything other than high speed or digital is too slow or the quality is deemed too low for proper consumption. Priorities are ordered by what seems more immediate and high pressure even though perhaps the more important items are those that offer less or no stress and can be taken at a lighter pace.
Don’t get me wrong, I work in communications where I am always designing and maintaining websites so they stay relevant and up to date. With the videos we produce, we try to make the most of our allotted time to get the most out of those few short minutes – not necessarily with the amount of information but with the quality of the content in the story to be told. I have a blog, a website, I’m wireless in my apartment, I shoot pictures digitally so I can see them now and share them more easily, I have an iPod so I can store things and listen to my music any time, and I have the ability to be in touch in one form or another virtually 24 hours a day. It’s the world we live in and I am a part of it. I’m not arguing one way or another about the benefits or detriments of mass communication and technology. Rather, I have found that I can easily get pulled into the high-stress and I just need to turn things off and be still. I’ll turn off my phone and go for a hike or just sit with a candle or incense burning or watch an old movie set in “simpler” times.
Over this past year, a lot has changed for me: I have moved to a more remote city from work, I’ve disassociated myself with certain traditions and affiliations, I have grown into a more honest version of myself. Also in this past year, though, I’ve tried to focus more on the relationships in my life that really matter. I’ve not always felt like the bonds of friendship have been as strong as I had hoped. After all, as the saying goes, it is the least committed person that has the most control and I have not been the least committed in most. Though there’s something to be said for persistence, there are some things that can’t be forced.
So I do what I can to be a good friend, not so much an exercise in the Golden Rule, but to do my part in ensuring a positive and healthy relationship. I’m not perfect and I certainly fall short but I try to make the effort. Even with family and friendships I know aren’t going away anytime soon I let them know how much I care and what they mean to me. Whether it’s a thoughtful card or something more ongoing I try to be the person I want to be.
I have a few friends from college who travel to a greater or lesser degree and we always send each other postcards from wherever we happen to be. More and more my only mail is junk or bills and it’s a special treat when I open up the box and find a small card from some distant place from a friend that says, in their own way, “I was thinking of you today.” It’s something so simple, so old fashioned to physically write a message and take it to a post office when it’s so easy to type off a quick two sentence email that goes to everyone in your address book that says “wish you were here” and attach a picture.
Maybe the meaning comes in the time it takes to pick out just the right card, to compose the fitting words for the one person on the other end. Maybe it’s the material card that you can hold in your hands. I know I take an extra minute or two to make sure I have found something that fits the particular personality of the recipient. I actually just got a postcard from a friend who apologized that the vendors in the country she was in weren’t selling any postcards of a higher quality. As simple as it is, something like a postcard can be quite personal. Each time one arrives I am renewed. No matter what the day’s been like or what is coming up next on my list of things to do I can stop, take a minute to escape and remember that someone out there felt that I was important enough to them to take the time to do this. The thought really does count.
Whenever I find myself feeling alone and like I’m somehow missing out on something because I don’t have a lot of friends living nearby I look up at the wall where the dozens of postcards are posted that I’ve gotten over the years from the people who are so far away yet so dear and have made the effort to stay connected to me when it would’ve been easier to let go and move on.
So, as another year begins I hope this form of communication will be a way for me to connect in some small way as a supplement to, not a replacement for, whatever relationships may exist in my life.
Thank you all for reading!