Baby stepping towards change and going to a tweet-up

If you have been reading this thought dump of mine better known as a blog for any length of time, you know that in many ways the past several years have been about me finding myself and making peace with the world as it is. Fighting life and fighting reality is hard, or at least it is for me. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to adjust my lens rather than to expect that I can change others. I can’t change others, hell, I barely can change myself.

One of my constant struggles has been around the growing sense of isolation that I have living in Maine. I am a weird hybrid, I am both an introvert and an extrovert, and I straddle the line well. Too much time alone with my thoughts is a bad thing because once I go inside; I go too deep and can get sucked into the swirling vortex of my thoughts where my ego becomes the queen. It’s really a messy place. I need time with people on a fairly regular basis but too much time with others is also messy as I find myself absorbing too much of other people’s energy and if that energy is off in anyway, to be honest it fucks me up. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect anyone to be upbeat all the time; I just need to be mindful of what’s around me.

That said, when you live in a place where the number of people you can actually call up and suggest getting together with wouldn’t even fill up one hand, you know you have a problem. Hell, I am sure the people I know are tired of me asking do they want to get together. I know my needs and I know other people have their needs and when they don’t match up, change is needed.

However at a certain age going out and initiating new friendships is about as appealing as a root canal. To start with, new friendships involve opening up and being vulnerable and while I am really digging Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability, application is still harder than theory.

The past few weeks have been scary but also exhilarating as I have found myself taking baby steps to connect with people I have only known as acquaintances. The end result has been glimmers of hope that maybe I can make a home here and eventually build a tribe of my own as I am convinced the older I become I need a tribe, a village, a crew…people I can count on in good times and bad.

Last night though was a big step for me in breaking out of my shell; I have been a user of Twitter for the past 3-4 years. In that time I have met a handful of locals from Twitter but I have never been bold enough to venture to a monthly tweet up. Tweet-ups for those not in the know are gatherings for folks who have met on Twitter. Here in Southern Maine, we have a thriving Twitter community though most twitter users tend to live in the big city and not out in the sticks like me. For months now I have toyed with the idea of going to a tweet-up but never actually taken the step. I won’t go into the reasons why I had never gone but the real reason was fear, fear of feeling uncomfortable, after all what if all these seemingly decent folks turned out to be creepy or what if they thought I was creepy? What the hell would I say?

I am happy to say that last night after much back and forth I actually left the house and headed into the city for the tweet-up and had a blast. Thankfully there were faces there that I already knew and I had a chance to meet quite a few people I didn’t know. I made it back home a little after 10pm which is late on a school night especially after a few Cosmos and while I did wake up a bit tired this morning, it was a good tired. I think there is already talk of a few of us ladies of twitter going out dancing…yikes; I haven’t done that since Chicago.

It’s easy to talk about making changes in our lives but for some reason, actually making them is harder…so very hard. I suspect creating the life I want will take some time and I will even have setbacks (was momentarily bummed that an acquaintance I wanted to hang out with didn’t return my text, but that’s life) but one of the lessons I am learning in my journey called living is that sometimes getting the life we want means baby stepping towards that change. The village won’t just knock on my door, so I am going out and creating my village, one person at a time.

Do we really know each other?

Until recently my refusal to see online life as part of “real” life was quite annoying to one of my dearest friends, she would often ask why I separate out the two. Like many I often thought well how can you really know “these” people? I mean can you really know someone that you have never sat down and broke bread with, or shared a hug of comfort with? Of course life being life, whenever I make such statements life generally comes back to bite me in the ass

Fast forward to this past year or so and I thought I knew people I called friends, friends meaning we know each other in the flesh, have known each other for years. Yet it took losing a so-called friend of 30 years to realize we don’t always know each other. Oh we may know details of each other’s lives, we may have shared experiences, a past and a present but in many cases we only know what we choose to share with one another. In other words there is plenty of gray area. In ending my friendship with my childhood friend, a woman I considered my sister who had logged so many hours with my family as a child, teen and young adult that to this day my father still considers her a daughter. I realized we didn’t know each other at all, turns out there was plenty she had hidden away, choosing to never share, things so fundamental that not sharing bordered on insanity. Add in losing a few people to suicide in the past decade, people know one ever in a million years would have imagined taking their lives, I realized that at least for me maybe I needed to reconsider how I define knowing people

It turns out that for me opening myself up on my blog and to lesser extent in other online venues like twitter has opened the door to new relationships taking form. Oh, some of these connections are fleeting and transient and others are like a young tree forming roots in that only time will tell if they stand the test of time and endure. The thing is in reflecting on connections that I once thought solid and even the work I have been doing this year in my own marriage, the question constantly comes up for me around do we really know anyone? Shit, my process of growth this year has had me mining the depths of my own being and realizing that at this stage of my life there are truths about my own self, that only now as I start the dance to middle aged, am I comfortable taking out and putting on the table

Truths that frankly have been a lot easier to share with people I don’t know very well or at all in real life. Last night while flitting away time on twitter (my virtual water cooler of sorts) I posed the question of how do other twitter users view the people they interact with on twitter. For some it was strictly as strangers or acquaintances but for others it seemed a seemingly nameless space actually served as the forming ground for actual relationships and friendships. Two people I know in real life have formed very real romantic connections thanks to twitter, I am taking people who have been to my house, broke bread with and vice versa now being in serious live in relationships with others they met through twitter.

An online buddy I have known over a decade and I were talking back and forth about twitter connections and she posed some great food for thought, that maybe venues like Twitter allow us to approach relationships and connecting from a backwards perspective. After all we can share tidbits about ourselves, some deep, some not before we have done the other lengthier pieces of connecting. As I went drifted towards sleep last night I found myself wondering is it so bad to approach things from a backwards perspective? Often in the dating advice world, women are often instructed to abstain from sexual relations with a potential partner until you know that the potential partner is willing to connect and commit on a deeper level. Well I will just say that I never followed that advice and 16 years later the man and I are still here. I most certainly didn’t think he was a cheap trick for giving up the goods very early in the dating process! Hell, there are times at least in the dating world, knowing what ya working with sexually early on is a good thing, versus some arcane rules of dating that say no sex until some arbitrary date. I think again this is where social media allows us to make targeted connections.

The older you get it’s pretty well known that it is harder to make friends, when we moved to Maine years ago we were already at the age where most folks are not trying to expand their pool of friends. The two people in Maine closest to me, I met thanks to a now defunct parenting board, both these connections are precious to me. Yet in my day to day life here while I know many people, very few of those connections are deep. Oh we may go to the same church, have kids at the same school, even take the same yoga class, but I don’t know them and they don’t know me. We know of each other. Yet I have spent times tweeting and talking with people online who probably have a better idea of who I really am then people who see me daily. Granted even then there are limits to what they know because I only choose to share so much of myself, which goes back to the question, do we really know anyone? How can we? Does time logged in over a certain amount of time really equate knowing someone? If so how? Just random questions floating around in my mind as I type this and try to delay working.

Pulling the plug

I have written before about my ongoing battle with spending too much time online. Due to the nature of my professional work, its hard to completely not be online since email is a far more efficient means of communicating and heaven forbid the week I stop checking email could be the week I miss an important message.

However as my daily routine has gone from checking in with a few discussion boards, checking email and reading the paper to checking my Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, blogs (as well as writing this one) and a few more online haunts I find myself going STOP! Seriously, I find myself wasting hours just being online and lately I am wondering what is the value to any of it.

Yeah, Facebook has put me in touch with old buddies from my previous life but at the same time I find myself thinking maybe they were in the past for a reason? I have well over a hundred “friends” on Facebook but aside from family members (only 3 I believe) how many of these folks are truly friends? There are probably about 20 or so that I communicate with outside of Facebook so that leaves as awful lot of folks that aren’t really friends but more like acquaintances if that. Once upon a time, it would have seemed strange to share photos of family and details about ones life with a mere acquaintance but now thanks to Facebook, we and that includes myself have started sharing all sorts of details about ourselves with folks we really don’t know. I don’t know about you but the more I think about that, it seems well…strange.

Why do we and again I include myself feel the need to share with folks the most mundane shit in our lives? Part of it I know is that I have a shortage of real life buddies in part because of my move here to Maine seven years ago. The other part is that many of my real life friends and I include myself have moved from a time where we talked on the phone to just talking online. I don’t know but it bugs me and I am thinking its time for a change.

I was recently looking at my friends list and thinking how many of these folks could I call if I were in a jam? Um…..I really don’t know. The fact that I can’t really answer that question has made me think that maybe I have reached a time where its time to seriously think about downsizing my online life.

Its no wonder that folks speak of Facebook as having addictive qualities, after all its so easy to get sucked into thinking you are having real relationships with your “friends” but are you? The answer is in many cases no, you are exchanging information but these “friends” are not friends in most instances.

I am reminded of the year of my mother’s illness and later death, this was 5 years ago before we became Facebook, Twittering fools. I was involved in a few discussion boards but at the end of the day, when I was breaking down and losing it, it was my real life friends I called. Now I only had two folks I really leaned on aside from the Spousal Unit during that time and both friends were back in the Midwest but I could call them at midnight as I did one night and talk, cry and scream on the phone for three hours and you know what? They were there for me. My oldest friend I have known since the 4th grade and when my Mom died, she made the 6 hour drive from her house in Minnesota with a newborn to be at my Mom’s memorial service.

I remember thinking she wouldn’t make it, yet I turned around in the church and saw her coming in with her Mom, husband and newborn baby girl. Let me tell you her presence got me through what was truly the worse day of my life. Later the next day she stayed on to come and take me out for breakfast before hitting the road, she left her breastfed baby for 3 hours to hang with me, to sit in a coffee shop while I chain smoked and lost it.

Can I say that now that I have been a breastfeeding Mama, that what she did for me in the name of friendship was huge…that woman is my sister just as if we had been born of the same mama. When I think of this, while it was a shitty time in my life I am reminded of what friendship is all about.

Casual comments and virtual hugs while sweet don’t make a relationship and to think so speaks of how fractured we have become as a society.

In light of thinking on this issue, I have decided the time has come to start pulling some plugs. I like blogging, I like being able to just write without thinking deeply about it. It can be cathartic, so blogging stays. However many of the discussion boards, gotta go…how many times can one discuss parenting? Facebook is nice but I think daily status updates are well, just not needed, same for Twitter.

The plan is to get my online time down to one hour a day, I don’t even want to tell you how much time I spend online at the moment. I will just say that I could read more books if I got off the fucking computer. I also want to enjoy more time outside alone or with the family and right now that is not happening, so time to pull some plugs.

That said, should you swing by here and see that my posting is a little more sporadic, it just means I am out enjoying the world.