Posts Tagged ‘ connections ’

Relationships

I spent a delightful Friday afternoon recently with my cousin, in her living room. She had her bottle of white, I had my bottle of red, and the coffee table was spread with snacks/finger food/munchies. We covered quite a bit of ground in those seven hours.

One thing I learned was that my cousin was pretty well expressively forbidden to attend her sister’s son’s wedding. My cousin has two sisters, and over the years, the one who gets voted off the island changes; but I had no idea it could be so malicious as to coaching a barely-thirty to invite some people to his wedding, and find a few new ways to say “you’re not invited and you’re not welcome.” My cousin is still torn up about it, tears coming to her eyes. Me? Well, I was voted off the island years ago; my mourning has been done.

We also chatted about those superficial Facebook Friends; this was my topic to chew on with her. I was on Facebook for awhile, a couple of years, maybe. But, I found myself spending most of my time not reading, only hiding, what others had posted. Too much monologue, too much in the “here’s what I’m doing department” and not enough in the “what are you doing department.” I do spend quite a bit of time reading other blogs, but I am picky about subject matter. Just because it is a former high school classmate, I am still not interested in her/his dog/cat/goldfish. I might very well be the most widely travelled of that bunch; maybe that is why I don’t gravitate to those with blinders and rose-colored glasses. I finally deactivated my account and have never looked back.

What we talked about, my cousin and I, was relationships. Good, healthy, positive, affirming relationships, as well as negative, toxic relationships. She, like my wife, has a very high social need and thrives on people in her life; yet she found the time to spend practically a whole day chatting with jus’ li’l ol’ me. I can’t think of a better way to spend my precious time; and I can’t think of even a handful of people I would do that with. We didn’t solve anything of course; we weren’t there to problem solve, but to share. Whether she found the conversation helpful or not, only time will tell; this posting is what I discovered.

And what I discovered, talking aloud about people I have known over the years, is that I need to work harder with those relationships I do value.

There are those people I see frequently, and those I don’t see at all. Because I work nights, and my wife owns her own business, we don’t spend nearly enough time together. Well, not enough for me; but maybe enough for her (too much?). Because I was voted off the island and my little rubber dingy was torpedoed, I haven’t seen Daughter #1 in years and years. THAT relationship is tough to improve since trying to keep in touch with her is like, well like, what my cousin’s nephew did to her when he got married. Daughter #2 is coming back home; having learned one of life’s greatest and most painful lessons. Hopefully, she stays awhile, and we are able to move into from a pretty good to a very good relationship; anyway, she needs nurturing and we are stocking up on her comfort food. Everyone needs a home, a place where they can scratch whatever itches (thanks to Reverend Joe for that definition).

A guy I met at work years ago, who is one of the smartest people I have ever known, can think of nothing to do with his leisure time than drink beer and watch sports on tv. I’ve never developed a taste for beer, and I don’t even own a tv; but he and his wife visited me when I lived in Mongolia and Hungary – the only visitors I had. And, again while I was in Rome; though we had other visitors then. Point is, he’s put forth the effort – put his money where his mouth is: he has worked hard on our relationship. This Sunday, I am going over to his house to spend the afternoon drinking and watching football. He’ll drink a lot of beer, I’ll drink a lot of wine, and we’ll watch more hours of football than I’ve seen in years. We won’t talk like I did with my cousin; but we will spend time together, and that’s what we need for our relationship.

And I have two astonishingly faithful correspondents. I say “astonishing” because in this day and age of email and instant messaging – while “everyone” does it, no one else has been as constant. I haven’t seen either in years, yet we do write to each other. And, in both cases, if I showed up at their doorstep tomorrow, I am sure we’d have a great conversation, and not a little food and drink. In both cases, I have watched their kids grow up, and probably know things about their kids that would embarrass their kids (such is the nature of parents, I think). But, even though very far apart geographically, emotionally we are on the same page (which is not to say we have the same values). In fact, the one friend spent her summer holiday on the Canaries with her sixteen year old daughter and said I would be welcome to join them. It was nice to hear, even though we both knew I was impossible for me to do.

I did send out a dozen Christmas cards last year; first year in ages that I sent out so many. (No, I never heard from Daughter #1.) They were very nice cards, very much keeping the Christ in Christmas. I had to laugh, though: the card to my Hungarian friend arrived before Christmas, the card to my Norwegian friend arrived in February. I didn’t need to include the traditional “this is everything that happened this year” Christmas letter, because the people I sent cards to get more than annual updates from me; and they reciprocate.

I hope my true, authentic friends are happy I am in their lives. Dunno what they get from me; but it’s apparently working. I do know I am the better for having them in my life. And, I think that’s what friends are for.

Temple Grandin – Connection

She seemed to relate to – understand, feel comfortable with – cows better than people; and I am sure that seems strange to most “normal folk”. She didn’t seem to have a close, personal relationship with anyone; and this seems to be a characteristic of autistics. But, I’m not so sure it isn’t also a characteristic of this modern technological age.

This technology that is said to bring people closer together. Really? Walk into a restaurant and observe how many people are on their “device” (I guess “cell phone” is already passé?). Maybe it’s the ability to be physically close to someone at the table, and “electronically close” to someone who isn’t? Is this the much touted closeness? Close to everybody, so close to nobody. What kind of connection is that? A distant one, at best.

Some people I know seem to be happiest when they are merely around other people, like at a shopping mall, a bar, even at a church service (see my posting, “The Edmonds Group”). And the corollary is also true: these same people can’t stand to be by themselves. So, they absolutely love the toys that keep them “front and center” (now, that term is passé), or “in the face” (a little more current, eh?) of others. It is no longer a matter of having only six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon (“Taking Chance” is one of my most favorite movies); it is, rather, a matter of how many “Facebook Friends” you have, or how people you follow on Twitter.

Do I need to say that I wish my cell phone did only three things? One, make and receive phone calls (the call screening ability I absolutely love). Two, send and receive text messages. Three, serve as my alarm clock (I wish I could program more than six alarms). No graphics, no internet, no photos, no games. And, I probably use the “silence” switch more than anything else.

My wife no longer asks how a certain feature works on her iPhone because she is tired of hearing me say, “I don’t know and I don’t care. It’s your phone, you figure it out.” I think she has the local Apple Store on speed dial.

In other words, what does “connect” or “connection” mean, in this modern social context? What value are hundreds, if not thousands of names stored in some computer? Will any of them care when you no longer answer your phone? Will any of them even notice?

In “It’s a Wonderful Life” (those of you who know me, knew this was coming), James Stewart discovers at the very end of the movie that, for the most part, everyone in the town of Bedford Falls was willing to dig into their pockets for whatever they could give him. Now, THOSE are connections worth having (and in the days of wall-mounted, hand-crank telephones, too).

I am halfway through the Patrick O’Brian series on Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin – the second time. The first time I read the 21 volumes, I just enjoyed the story. This time, I am trying to understand what it is about Jack and Stephen that I find so attractive. Since I have served on slightly more modern naval vessels (and the USS Nimitz is slightly bigger than anything Jack was in), I know in my soul-of-souls that I am most grateful for the, shall we say, “amenities” of ships today. So, it’s not that I wish I had been born in 18th century England (or, the US). Socially, I would have been one of those we now call “cannon fodder”; which is not very attractive, either.

What I believe makes me want to read the roughly 6,000 pages (twice) is the friendship that they enjoyed. I cannot think of any other characters, anywhere in literature, who connected so well. I know I have certainly not connected with anyone so well. While the story is a historical novel, perhaps the friendship is also fiction? Of course. But, is it also possible?

Temple Grandin didn’t seem to care whether she connected with people or not (please note that everything I know about Dr Grandin I know from the HBO movie, and her website). Do others more in the “mainstream” of society actually connect any better, or are they merely fooling themselves by accumulating connections (oops, contacts).

Yep, human beings are social animals, but then, so are cows. Do we, as a species, actually form bonds any more significant than other mammals? (Ask your cat – not your dog. You know the joke about shutting your dog in a closet for three days, or shutting your wife in a closet for three days? Which one will be happy to see you?) The need for social interaction is in our DNA, but I don’t think we’re very good at it. More toys don’t seem to be helping us connect.