Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Ties That.......Strangle?

Relationships.  They're what give the turning of this planet meaning.  So much more than sunshine and water; humanity's soul has taken thousands of years of mornings and afternoons and breath-taking moments--and made them matter.  As we birth and raise and laugh, as we weep and bury and mourn--we create.  Music, poetry, paintings......roses that bloom in the dead of winter.  We have altered the world, built and destroyed civilizations.....and tangled within it all, we have loved. 

Sometimes it's romance that shakes the soul; it burns with an igneous passion composed of shared breath and melded flesh.  Sometimes it's the wonder of new life and a protectiveness that would fight to the death against any odds.  Sometimes it's friendship so deep--founded on experiences be them of pain or joy--that bind two hearts together.  Regardless, it's the life that is shared, that shines in the darkness.

But share....carefully.

I have traveled.  I have loved and married; divorced and learned, and loved more deeply the second time.  True friends have been few and treasured, but neighbors and acquaintances have flowed through my life in a river of color bringing laughter and frustration depending on the day.  In one thing I have been draw distinction.  Intimacy makes one vulnerable.  Knowing who has your back and who doesn't is vital.

With the invention of Facebook, we have taken the cherished noun "friend" and morphed it into a verb.  An action.  Something done with strangers.  Now I completely understand that this fabulous land of "like" has a million uses.  Publicity, causes, networking, real estate and recipe clubs.  But I wonder as we are changing the very meaning of that word....will it be replaced?  Or will we just forever alter what a "friend" is?

I found myself before the bright screen of my laptop late one night.....contemplating my "friends."  I scrolled through the list...ticking off in my mind, "college, high school, neighbor...."  And my own distortion, my own...corruption, reared its loathsome head into view.  For the very plastic nature of fb had absorbed me.  Why indeed is it merely a shiny promenade of new pictures and proud announcements?  Why does it feel so shallow and flimsy.....because it's not made for true friends.  It was created for strangers.  And most of us are about 176 degrees from real on it. 

We friend co-workers and fourteenth cousins and people we went to third grade with--curiosity gripping us in its wiry talons. "I wonder if they married?  Do their kids have red hair too?  Did he get fat?"  And once on this slippery slope we careen down an avalanche that leaves us buried beneath a mountain of "friends."  You awake upon a stage.  Do you know your cue?  Don't mess up your lines...

I did the unthinkable.  I "unfriended" 48 people.  Do you know, not a single one contacted me as to why....except one.  My sister.

WHAT??  You unfriended family?!?  Is that legal?  (will there be umbilical whiplash from your parents??)  But as I told my sister in a letter the next day, "We may be sisters, but we are not friends." 

I am done.  I am over.  I am rejecting connections by obligation.  Yes--obligation.  The actions taken to avoid offense.  The checks cashed on guilt or shame or duty.  Contracts with conditions and penalties if not fulfilled. Obligation. 

With this new year I have been....examining.  My heart, my sense of worth.  I have asked difficult questions.  Why do I maintain contact?  What do we offer each other?  Does good....kindness....something healthy come from our relationship?  Dear Lord, do we even communicate on a regular basis or is it just me putting my day, my heart-aches, my triumphs, my tears out there....and them watching? Critiquing? 

Am I strong enough?  Can I withstand obligation?  Can I face neighbors and family?  Can I say that their relationship with me is one of unrequited vulnerability?  I want more authenticity....I want a return on my investment. 

No family is perfect.  History is difficult to overcome and childhood can be cruel.  However, I've decided that I want today--which is all we really have--to matter.  No waste.  No counterfeits or masquerades.  No pretending to agree when I don't or that we are something we are not. 

Family is family, and co-workers are co-workers and dammit, friends are friends!  Blessings to you if you can overlap some of those, my mother is absolutely one of my closest friends.  But in this world of cheap imitation everything....friendship needs preservation.

It is a gift of choice.  Not obligation.


Mary: said...

Since I remarried and came to live in Spain I have been evaluating the worth of facebook. It's a connect with my kids and yet, just as you say, those 280 some "friends," are just not, or not reallys. What is the drive to pour myself out there in journal-like regular fashion?
I like creating albums and maybe that's what I should limit myself to doing, especially as I see valuable reading, writing, and connecting in other ways go by the wayside. Psychologically, I think I hope that some acceptance will filter through from those who condemned me and my choices, yet, does it really matter? Time to move on!
Thanks for this once again great post. Thanks for exposing me here. Thanks for your courage to unfriend. Amen!

Wow, that was awkward said...

I'm glad you didn't cut me from the FB. I have a handful of friends on there that I have never met in person. But after reading their blogs for so long and seeing their comments on my own blog, I feel like we have a true bond that is just another version of friendship. I think its cool.

Shrinky said...

Ah, bonny lass, you write so beautifully, it is always a pleasure to stop by in here. Yes, you have been brave, and absolutely for the right reasons, as I wholeheartedly "get" exactly why you choose to prune the dead wood that has accumulated in your life. Our time is precious, and our energy finite, it's right to not to squander it unwisely.

I DID join FB, for all of two days - but it scared the crap out of me (shrug), so many "friends" I barely remembered, if I even knew, clamouring for attention - that I truly didn't "get", I found it mildly threatening and intrusive. No, I am perfectly happy to be out of there.

Fi said...

Found you via the blog hop.

Thoughtful post. I've moved around quite a lot in the UK due to my husband's work and the result has been that I now live away from my closest friends. FB gives us a way to stay in touch with each other's lives even when financial constraints stop us from physically visiting. I do get what you're saying about acquaintances whom we 'friend' on FB though. Maybe FB should give us a different classification.

Mel Heth said...

I struggle with this. I've gone on defriending sprees (and also had my feelings hurt after being cut from people's lists), but I'm never truly able to whittle it down to the core people who matter. This could be more about my own fear of disappearing than it is about severing ties with them.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful post. Something I too have been struggling with lately. But I think I'm ok.

Marie said...

I really enjoyed your post and there is so much to value in it. I don't use FB for the purposes of "friends" so much as for networking for my blog -- my friends I like to talk to by email or an actual written letter -- I can be so old fashioned :-)

Visiting via the Friendship Friday hop :)

Anonymous said...

Wow. Powerful post. Friendship is something that needs constant work and must be earned.

Thanks for following me, I am returning the follow. I look forward to more visits.

Out on the prairie said...

I don't friend on FB much. When I first started a few came out of the woodwork, only to have me on a list.I never heard from them again, perhaps I would if I unfriend them. Sounds mean, because at one time we carried some form of relationship.

Chantel said...

Mary--I can so relate to the quest for acceptance. However, I've really experienced freedom in moving on--there is such joy in being with the people that want you, all of you, the truth of you...completely, right now. :)

Brett--I totally agree with you! I have developed close friends through this screen too, the main thing that makes that friendship real is the interaction. That investment of our minds in each other....that, is just as real as who I had breakfast with yesterday.

Shrinky--I laughed out loud at your 2 day freak fest with fb! xox

Fi--Lovely to meet you and I like your idea! I wonder if there is a way to separate this scrambled omlette...

Mel--Thanks! You know, the last thought in your comment has stuck with me...haunted me a bit. You make me think.

Baba--Thank you and I think this is such an individual thing--I know people with 1300 friends and they love it. I'd feel like I was drowning! lol

Marie--I dig your old fashioned! Fb is a great tool for networking, I think it just gets messy when people confuse why they're using it. Wonderful to meet you!

Anon--I wish I knew your name! lol But thank you, and yes-anything good takes work!

Prairie--That is exactly what I did; once the "curiosity" wears off, if there's no real on-going relationship, there's no point. At the same time, there are several people that I am now WAAAY closer to than I was when we lived next door in 4th grade! It's all about the investment TODAY, not the memories, right?

krystimarie said...

I really love you blog and am a new fan.
Can You please follow me back? (:

Melissa Rheinlander said...

Great post!! Really makes you think!! I agree that friendship is a gift of choice!!

~April~ said...

Came by on the Weekend Warrior Blog Hop :-)
Following GFC

Rumpydog said...

Greetings from a fellow weekend warrior! Nice to meet you!

momto8 said...

I think your last sentences captures it is a gift of choice....we can't control everything, we can only control our reactions
I am your newer follower..pls follow back if you can.

SJB AKA SUE J-B. said...

Following you via Tuesday Friend and Follow!

Anonymous said...

I can somewhat relate to this blog post. I unfriended my only sister. My reasoning was, I had tried several times to contact her in regards to my being diagnosed with Cancer. When she face booked me, telling me she was too busy with school and work to call me, that I needed to tell her what I wanted via fb. I told her and unfriended her. What puzzles me here, is it seems to me that your sister was unaware of why she was being "unfriended." Out of the 48 people that you cut loose, she seemed to be the only one that cared about what you had done. Maybe her view of your relationship is not as you saw it. So, unfriending your sister(possibly only) has it's concequences. I'd imagine, your relationship is no longer and for what? Over a fb friend/unfriend? Even though my sister, in my mind, doesn't care enough to want to know if I'm living, dying, in pain, how my children are....I still think about her and love her. If fb is/was a way for the little contact we had...I'd give almost anything to get it back. I'm wondering how you feel?

Chantel said...

Anon--I think she was curious...but I'm not sure "cared" is an appropriate word. I am the middle child of three girls--classic case, really. The eldest and youngest are great pals, and growing up quite secluded on a ranch in the rockies, their fave game was tormenting me. Now, honestly this is all in the past on my part...and yet at Thanksgiving 2011, the games were still on. *sigh* I despise games in adults. Hidden pokes, snide remarks, getting up and leaving the room when you walk in...damn jr. high stuff. She and I haven't spoken on the phone in over 20 years. We don't communicate at all except a card at Christmas and perhaps a birthday. (you know those ones, with just a named signed? not even a scribbled note?) I know we may cross paths as we have once a year at my parents.....but friends? Not even remotely. Not if you define friendship as someone who is interested in you, interacts with you, disagrees and laughs and cares and invests. I'm not mad--I'm not one to carry grudges; but I am also becoming aware that I only have a certain number of holidays left...I want to spend them with people who....well, LIKE me?! lol And as I use fb to really interact on a daily basis with those I feel close to...sharing things that are hard as well as happy, I'm kinda done with letting those who DON'T like me, watch me from a some kind of play they've got tickets to because we once shared a bedroom. Dear Lord, can I blather on or what? I hope this makes sense. And truly? It doesn't necessarily define the future. Kid you not, if she called me up one day and said all things were in the past and she sincerely wanted a friendship with me and wanted to get to know me and was willing to put in the effort and time to create a relationship....well damn, I've wanted a real sister my whole life.

And on your side, I am so sorry that your sister missed out on knowing you. Just remember that blood doesn't necessarily give anyone the right to make you feel like crap. Unimportant. Ever. Especially if it's gone on for years. Blood doesn't entitle anyone to inside information, influence, or preference...blood is simply God's way of giving us a greater chance at immense intimacy. Some choose it, some don't.

Anonymous said...

I did the same thing. I went through my friends list and unfriended all the friends, family etc that never could be there for me. I figure if you don't care when I am facing homelessness or when my children are hungry, well then why would I want you to have anything to do with my life?

It felt really good.

Being hard up, facing the possibility of homelessness, it breaks you down and reveals the truth. These people only matter when I need to feel special or important but in reality they were not a high priority for me either. I guess I not only learned who my friends were but also who I truly had a connection with. The list was very short but it was true to who I was, my core beliefs and reminded me how great a friend I can be.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I love your comment above and I agree completely.

Stephanie said...

Oh dear, Chantel.. Without wanting to intrude too much into your personal life I wonder what took you to break ties with your sister. I am sure it was a difficult but right decision for you.

On the "friend"issue.. In German, we have the great term of "Bekannter", which is translated to acquaintance (sounds horrible in my ears). We actually use that word a lot, but hardly ever heard it in English; people much rather speak of "friends" than of "acquaintances". Laziness? I don't know. But I believe among all those "friends" we have in our lives we almost need adjective nowadays to describe our real friends (my good/dear/best friend Mary), which again is quite cumbersome. So we just stick with having tons of "friends" and when it really counts we might have none..

Chantel said...

Stephanie--the long stories we all have to share, eh? I don't know if you read through the comments, but truly--sometimes the definition of "sisterhood" is not the same in the real world as it is in the movies. While we lived in the same home and ate the same food, there was never actual "friendship" between us. It was nothing terrible, please understand....but there were no shared confidences, no hugs or tears or long talks, we were just very....seperate. Hense, why the pretense now, in the fb world, of "friendship?" Frankly, I now am very aware of trying to inspire friendship between my boys...I don't think my parents really thought that way, they didn't have close relationships with their siblings. I only hope my fumblings and prayers knit my children closer together...hearts love as they choose, I'm just trying to hold them close enough to give true friendship a chance.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I don't think it would be possible for me to agree with you more on this. Facebook has belittled what it really means to be a friend. I've realized that the majority of the people I consider my closest friends do not have a facebook, or if they do have one, they rarely use it. I like to think this is because they're like me and they prefer to experience friendship the old-fashioned way. :o)

You know, before I decided to completely delete my FB, I unfriended about 500 people. Do you know only about 5 of them tried to re-add me? I was miffed at first, but then realized the remaining 495 probably cared about me as much as I cared about them. ;o)