For the past, oh, six or seven years I've spent most of my "socializing" time on the computer building a community with a couple dozen other women, mostly on one forum. I know I've mentioned that before, and even blogged a bit about friendships, online and otherwise. I'm about to do it again....blog about friendship, that is. So if you're sick of the topic, skip this entry and pray I have a brainwave in the next day or two and post something you find more interesting. Otherwise, read along while I try to figure out how relationships work.
While I've been building a virtual community, I've had surprisingly limited sustained contact with "real" people. I have two friends I see and talk to regularly, and then a small group of friends I chat with at church or when dropping one or another child off at an activity. There are several women/couples I enjoy and have sometimes said I'd like to know better, but I rarely follow though. Quite frankly, I haven't really wanted to make the time investment. Having a couple (with children) over for dinner means not just the dinner, but all the cleaning and straightening that goes with it (and in my house that's a daunting task at times). Our house is a moderate size and rather full. There isn't a great place to have people visit, especially since our family room pretty much is taken over by computers and a TV that is there more for Xbox than actual viewing.
But the physical inconvenience is only part of it (although a big one for me right now....but that's a different blog). The big commitment is the emotional one. Getting involved in someones life takes time and energy. Time is a premium with me and energy is even more precious. I find that with kids, homeschololing, teaching, being a friend/spouse, running a home, and dealing with pre-menopausal issues, I am simply tired a lot of the time these days. But part of it is not the physical tiredness, it's the tiredness that goes with being around people all the time. People and clutter. I feel like my senses never get a rest. There is always sound and sights and people and demands, or not even demands, just desires...children's desires to be with me, to talk to me, ask me questions, seek my input, share a funny story, or have me kiss away a bad day. I wouldn't trade it, don't get me wrong. I don't want sympathy because I have a house full of people I love. Far from it. It's just that I realize that I don't have much left for the rest of the world. And for a life-long extrovert, this is a new experience.
Perhaps this is why I've loved the online community so much. My extroverted need for people and expression is at least partially fulfilled, and yet I can fit it into my time, at least most of the time! Yes, there have been challenges, sadness, loss, conflict and more. No relationship, irl or online, is without the challenges that make the relationship worthwhile. But online relationships, at least for me, have been somewhat easier than the face-to-face ones. Why? I'm not real sure.
Yesterday I spend a nice day with a friend going through her room of homeschooling material helping her sort, cull, and organize. I didn't convince her to get rid of much, but at least it's more organized and she knows what she's got on her shelves. We had time to talk about a lot of things, and friendships were one of them. Her experiences have reminded me why I haven't felt the energy to pursue more irl friends. It can be daunting.
I want uncomplicated friends. Uncomplicated in that they are secure in who they are and who I am. I don't want people to be possessive of me or my time. I don't want friends to get hurt because I chose to vacation with this family or go to lunch with that friend. I don't want to be a friend like that, either. I want to be kind to people , and not worry about who is talking to whom, or if I'm getting enough attention from anyone in particular. I've made a lot of mistakes as a friend. In fact, this lady I was with yesterday and I have a long, and not always happy, past. But we've grown and learned from mistakes, and probably that's why we ended up talking about it all yesterday. We don't have any pretenses with each other any more. We've pretty much seen the worse and we've forgiven and moved on. Some days I'm so glad to be 50+ and not 25!!
I feel like I'm re-entering the local "friend" scene after years of self-imposed hermit-hood. I'm already wondering of it's worth it. The renewed contact comes with having children who are more involved socially and can't really be avoided. However, few people around here know me as well as my online community of friends. As I navigate the local minefields of relationship, I am ever more grateful for the very real bond I have with so many here in cyberspace.