Saturday, April 7, 2007

Drifting apart...

Every time I've moved, I've meant to stay in touch with the people I leave behind. Yet over the years they slip through my fingers. Sometimes I realize I have to let go. Life has moved on, distance seems insurmountable, and interests have changed. I've even found "you can't go home again" to be at least partly true. A person returning to a place they've lived before is likely to end up with a new set of friends within a few years, only retaining a few of the "originals."

I've moved a lot in my life, which might be why I feel confident of the above senario. Until I was 41 I had never lived in the same house for longer than 4 years, and most of them no more than 2 or 3 years. And even though my closets stayed cleaner, each move was wrenching in its own way. After a while you know. Even as you tell yourself and others that you'll "keep in touch" you know. For most of the people involved, without the bonds of common encounters, there will be a gradual lessening of contact until it is a card at Christmas and a recap of each other's year.

Thankfully there will be a few who hang on. A few who have such a shared history that it is impossible to leave them behind. But these people are fewer than one might think. For most people there needs to be a "meeting place," a point of connection, a regular area of contact. That place can't depend on the actions of one or the other person. It usually needs to be something set from outside. A church service, a book club, a forum, a workplace.

If the place is not there, then we are like Yeats's falcon:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

In our culture, the center has collapsed. We are isolated units driving miles to find an artificial community for our children in sports and activites. In exhaustion we seek to maintain connections that once came naturally with community, neighborhood, and family. Our support base is not secure, our networks are incomplete, our center hasn't held. We have sped off in ever widening circles, sometimes through no fault of our own, and we cannot hear our companions anymore.

The internet has contributed to finding wider community and support on one hand, while at the same time making the connections all the more fragile. It's like every time someone turns off their computer they have moved away again. It's easier than ever to leave, to drift away, to shut down, to disconnect.

I'm loyal by nature and can't easily say good-bye. But times they are a'changing, and I fear more slow good-byes are in my future. More changes, more wondering why it takes Herculean effort to establish a history with others and then keep it going.


Dancingirl365 said...

I could have written this. Wish I had. I very much identify with your thoughts.

my15minutes said...

Great post here Carrie. I know I'm one of those internet friends whose been scarce lately, and I feel that slipping feeling sometimes. I keep up religiously with blogs though, like I do with Christmas letters...not wanting distance to impede friendship, though it often has a bearing. I'm sorry it feels like a Herculean effort for you. :(

I like your poetic quote. Somehow I've missed reading that poem....I need to look up the whole thing.

Hugs to you.

carrie said...

(((hugs))) Thanks for understanding, Dancingirl.

carrie said...

Beth- the poem is The Second Coming It's a very powerful, somewhat confusing poem. I'd love to hear any thoughts you ahve nafter you read it.

I know you've been busy, and Lent is a time of reflection and I understand that. I'm glad you keep up with my blog. :-)

SusansPlace said...

I understand. I am seeing the same truth in my life and coming more and more to accept that most friendships are seasonal.


carrie said...


You may be right, but it's hard for me to accept friendship as transient. It doesn't seem natural. But, I admit my own life would point to the transient nature of many relationships.


SusansPlace said...

Carrie, I think it's possible to have a few friends that endure through the seasons of life...maybe even childhood friends that we have forever. I just think that those relationships are few and far between.

I've been learning a lot about life by looking at the "seasons" and seeing them as good. Everything in it's season, including friendships. ;-)


Rachel said...

Why it feels like a Herculean effort for me is that there seems to be a tide pulling the other direction, against long-term relationships, and the tide's name is "no committment necessary". Relationships built on proximity and shared interest and self-interest roll on out with that tide. The rare relationships in which there is a committment to keep on keeping on are the only ones which successfully buck that tide.


carrie said...

Rachel- I think the thing that has touched me lately is the deep-seated need most of us have for these committed relationships. We want people who know our history, who don't need backstories when you need advice. That needed alone makes me want to try even harder to be committed to my friends and family.

I have a friend who has known me for 21+ years, even though there were a few when we "lost our way" and didn't remain in contact due to hurt feelings. But, bless her heart, she made the first move and we reconnected a few years ago. Recently she has been grieving over the choices one of her dd's is making and came to me for prayer and advice. What she said struck me as important. She said, "You know C- and I don't have to try to explain her to you. You love her, and I know what I say won't affect how you love her. You're the only one I can talk to about this."

I shouldn't be the only one she can talk to. We need more people in our lives who know us, our families, our jobs; people who don't need backstories when we need help. People who love us (and ours) in a way that won't change with circumstances.

I want my life to be more about a commitment to people than convenience or even my own change of interests. I don't want to "outgrow" my friends.

Rachel said...

"You know C- and I don't have to try to explain her to you. You love her, and I know what I say won't affect how you love her."

That's a powerful statement, and a testimony to the kind of friend you are to her. There've been many times in my life when "what I say" or what I've done or what the other person has said or done has driven a wedge and destroyed friendships, or at least let them die. But there are some others who don't even need backstory--their committment is so deep that even time and distance and lack of backstory haven't destroyed the bond. We can be periodically totally out of the loop of each other's lives due to distance or laziness or whatever but that doesn't seem to kill the caring or love.

I'm like you in wanting this:

I want my life to be more about a commitment to people than convenience or even my own change of interests. I don't want to "outgrow" my friends.

and I've seen recently that I've got a strain of "commitment phobia" that holds me back--too much of a "well, I'll just see how it works out" in my friend relationships, too much needing it to be good for me before I work very hard to make it good for somebody else. Your post has brought up some things I need to ponder.


Ampersand said...

Carrie, I really understand this post. Growing up, moving around so much, I learned to let relationships go easily.

In my adult years, I hurt too many people with my casual attitude.

Now, I really work to stay connected to my few, precious friends (IRL and online). I'm kinda like gum on the proverbial shoe :).

When I sense that someone does not share the same commitment or desire, I will back off. But, until then, I kinda just try and lay it all out there.

Ampersand said...

p.s. I did not mean to make it sound like staying connected is easy. It's definitely not!

carrie said...

Thanks for sharing, Apmersand. I didn't think you were saying it was easy! Moving has made it challenging, but we've lived in the same house for 11 years now and have still made few real connections. I have friends, and Will has friends, but we have few other "couple" friends. And then there are the five kids. Without close family or neighborhood connections, it's tough to keep up with everyone's separate social schedules!

Sentient Marrow said...

I can relate to what you say here. I think, well actually know, that being a homeschooler has separated me from the natural community created when you live in the same neighborhood and your kids attend the same school. We live on the main road outside of a development and I hardly know a soul who lives in there or next to me. Luckily, my kids are outgoing and as they get old enough to venture into the neighborhood alone, they are making friends. This is particularly true for two younger middles who just started going into the neighborhood this week. Unbelievable, the kids back there have asked them to play. I wonder how long the acceptance will be extended. Will it end when they reach 12-13 and suddenly they wonder why my kids aren't in the same school as them? Who knows? I moved around a lot, almost every year until I turned 12 and therefore, it made it easy for me to leave relationships behind without really feeling the "loss". I continued to do this even without moving until I reached 9th grade. Even then, I basically ditched my friends again when I went to college. I don't know. I don't have a ton of irl friends. Acquaintances, yes, friends, no. No longer homeschooling has distanced me from most of the people I used to be acquainted with or was becoming better friends with. And, as you well know, our online world is changing. So, I don't know what the future holds but I do know that it is nice that I don't have to explain myself to many of my online friends because they already know at least some of my history. So, I am trying to figure out how to maintain connections despite the tide because I don't think I am willing to invest the amount of time I did in the past to get to know new people.

Susanne B. said...

I could have written this, too, but not nearly as well. I kinda wrote about the same idea on my blog.

I have four friends that go back more than 20 years (Vera is one), but I don't have many close friends who are more recent. I've been at the same church for almost 14 years, but my friends have tended to move on, and every 4-5 years I have to make new ones. I think I'm closer to my online friends than I am to my real life ones sometimes....

carrie said...

Sentient- I can identify with what you said. Homeschooling has been isolating, even if I don't want to admit it at times. I hope the kids can keep their new friends in the neighborhood. We've prayed for years for friends for our boys, and the past two years we finally see them developing friends at Youth Group.

Online friends are very important to me, too. And I understand the dilemma about how much time to invest where. Glad to have you part of my journey, though!

carrie said...

I have more history with many of my online friends than I do with irl friends, too. Like you, I ahve a few that go way back, but with the turnover rate around here, people just don't stay put long enough to ge to know them. Or, as we've found, they already ahve their group and it can be hard to break in, even at church or in homeschooling groups.

All this is why I feel like it can be an exhausting effort!

julieunplugged said...

Two cents here (great series of comments).

For me, I like being connected to people from different periods of my life. The one problem is that not all of them have traveled with me through the changes in my life. So while I am so glad to be connected to my high school friends again, they know me "as I was" more than "as I am." But they are the only ones who know me as I was so it matters to me to keep up with them anyway.

My missionary community has become one of the groups with whom we've lost touch except for one family. That family has been a huge part of our lives with ebbs and flows. They are one family that knows us in three important locations of our lives - Morocco, Ca. and Oh. So we cling to them.... but they don't know the me that emerged online. My dear friend hasn't been an online person so my journey has been largely invisible to her which creates its own challenges.

Then there's my online community life that has created the deepest intellectual and identity related bonds... yet they don't know my family except as I disclose them, they don't know my habits, intonations, personal quirks, my way of dealing with daily life. They see what I will them to see and little else.

I love that I have met so many of you in person, but I still find myself connected more to how you type and write than I do to who you are in person. I have found (surprisingly) that my online relationships depend on being online largely. That surprises me too.

And lastly, my immediate homeschool/grad school communities just aren't communities. They are people who now know my Ohio history and my family. They don't necessarily know me (esp. not the online me - which tends to shock anyone from my in person world when they stumble upon it).

I'm sort of to the point of recognizing that only Jon will ever be person who really knows all the facets of me and everyone else will be the kaleidescope of my life. I try to keep up with the various ones (imperfectly) to keep alive the aspects of myself that I might lose without them.