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OK, I did it...

You know, this may be a statement so blindingly obvious as to inch perilously close to redundancy and Academy award-winning understatement, but...

LJ is one strange place.

I mean, seriously.

I remember when I first came here. I didn't know any of the "rules", I knew very few people at all--I just came here and posted. What I was doing, what I was thinking about, what I was interested in, what was relevant to me--you know, all that dumb, self-involved shit. But it was fun, and I began to get the hang of it.

I friended people. They friended me. The relationships developed and then either went screaming into the night of gruesome and sometimes violent unfriending, or simmered down into a nice, friendly, warm, happy place. And it was all good--life rolled right along, and LJ rolled with it.

But along the way, I picked up the rules. And on top of it, I made up a few of my own, in order to maintain my own sanity and sense of balance between real life and bandwidth.

One of the rules I devised for myself was that I was going to refuse to be an enabler to people whose only purpose for being here was to fatten up their friends lists--especially those on whose friend's lists I would never appear. You know, those folks whose "friends" list consist of, perhaps, their real friends and their "friend of" list was an enormous collection of "fans", that vast chasm between the number of "friends" and the number of "friend of"'s being the quintessential egoboo. Equally heinous were the friends lists on which I would appear and but remain totally anonymous--one more plump and juicy warm body swelling the ranks of the human cyphers whose main value was in their name which was only one of the many who helped add up to an incredible number.

This rule, perhaps, is one indication of just how out of balance my approach to LJ has been, actually. Because being on a "friends" list, in many cases, is really and truly an indication of friendship--a cyber relationship that bears most of the hallmarks of what a friendship is all about. But at the same time, a lot of times that word "friend" is just so much burbleage and delusion--one finds that out quickly enough. And that delusion, that protectiveness of my real status among those with whom I conversed in the cyber, was what threw me out of balance, because I really and truly CARED what people thought, how they reacted to me, whether or not I had gained their approval...And a lot of that caring wound up manifesting in obsessions like how many comments I was getting, or who friended me or unfriended me and why (the really grim ones being those who unfriended me for no apparent reason that I could see, indicating that I was "an asshat in general", as one person so eloquently put it).

But the thing is--I share a slice of me with you, and you share slices of you with me, and it is really only on the very rarest of occasions that we begin to approach a real knowledge of each other. And sometimes those rare occasions blow up like a nuclear device when we find out that this person with whom we have been exchanging pleasant interweb banter and who we thought we knew is a person who wouldn't walk across the street to piss on us if we were on fire--and vice versa.

And for some reason, even though those relationships are as nebulous and false as any we could ever know in real life, the ending of them can be just as painful as any we have ever experienced. We find ourselves experiencing disappointment, or hurt, or anger--we find ourselves investing real, honest-to-life emotions in people we don't know from Adam, and never did, wrecking our Zen and losing sleep and weeping copiously into our keyboards over the loss of our esteem in their eyes.

Which is insane--not to put too fine a point on it.

So the thing is--what are the criteria for adding or not adding a new person to the list? Are these people really our "friends", or are they people with whom we feel comfortable enough to have reading what we have to say, and in whom we have an interest as well, without crossing the margin between acquaintance into friendship?

And why did I consider it so evil and whorish to add someone just because I like what they have to say? Why do we feel sheepishly and embarrassedly like some fawning groupie when we add someone who we really enjoy reading, who we find interesting and amusing, and who hasn't the faintest clue as to who we are, and never will, because we're not a "friend", or even a "friend of", but just a "fan"? If we felt that way in real life, we would never enjoy watching a movie or television program we really liked, or read a book by an author who we just adore and who doesn't know we're alive (sometimes because they no longer are). Granted, I think that our society places too much importance on celebrity, and values it far too highly. But at the same time, cutting ourselves off entirely is just as out of balance as throwing ourselves headlong into the cult worship of fame.

If we don't allow ourselves the luxury of enjoying people with whom we will never have a real relationship, then we cut off innumerable avenues of pure pleasure--and that seems like a profoundly dumb thing to do, especially in a world where pure, uncomplicated enjoyment of another human being is an increasingly rare thing. And the really sad thing is that we would never allow ourselves the feeling of connection, because that connection could never be reciprocated. And it's fine to cherish our reciprocal connections--they are not to be handled lightly. But the cool thing is that being connected to a person, an idea, a mind that will never connect back is still a connection, and still gives us an opportunity to learn and to enjoy them utterly, so long as what we value is who they are to us, without really wanting to be more than who we are--or could be--to them.

So I did it. Today I added someone for whom I care not one fiddler's fart on an emotional level, but whose style I like and whose writing I enjoy and who amuses me, even when I don't in the slightest agree with him. And the cool thing is that those differences in worldview don't break my heart into a million pieces--they just spur me into thinking about things differently, or set my brains on fire with new things to think about, or make me shake my head and laugh.

The anonymity and the lack of emotional investment is what enriches the time I spend reading him, rather than being the thing that makes me feel somehow bereft and isolated.

And he, generous soul that he is, WANTS me to use him this way.

So I broke my own rule, and added someone to whom I could only be classified as "a fan". And I find myself feeling pretty good about it, actually, because now I'll get to keep up with the weird brain-twists of this other humanoid with whom I share what is ultimately a very small planet, and I'll let myself enjoy it.

And you know, now that he's on my friend's list, I can look at my friend's list for what it is--a group of people with whom I have varied, layered relationships, from my husband to those with whom I feel an almost bone-deep kinship to those who are just cool people I like to read.

And you know what?

Looking at you this way makes me feel like that list is more valid, and more a reflection of who you all are to me. Looking at you this way somehow makes you more real to me, because it more clearly defines the parameters of my individual relationships with you, and puts them in a more realistic perspective. You are not merely a clot of humanity which comprises a meaningless and homogeneous list, but a group of individuals with whom I interact in varying ways and on varying levels, and who are valued as such.

I'm going to like reading this new person.

And if he's smart, and serendipity serves us both well, he'll come to like reading me as well!

But if not--I have gained what I wanted and lost nothing, which is exactly how he can feel about it as well.

Can you get much more reciprocal than that?


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 4th, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC)
I hate posting "Me, too!" responses, but, honestly, that's why I have a couple of people in my friends list. I don't respond to every post by every person on my F-list - most of the time I have nothing worth committing to a response - either the post was completely over my head, or it wasn't the sort of post that needs somebody else to say something (which, on that note, I don't think you need responses to this one, but I wanted to respond in some fashion because it's a very thought-provoking post and I didn't want to "seem" like I gave it or you the brush-off).

Boy, I hope that made sense, because I still haven't had my first coffee, yet. Note to self: don't LJ before coffee.

Jul. 4th, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC)
I think that, if we're honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there are some times when we want a little external validation. And that's OK, I think, so long as it doesn't become the driving force behind what we write.

I write pretty much what I want to write, and sometimes it gets applause and sometimes it gets flames and sometimes it gets nothing. And all of it is OK, because I think I've been around long enough to know what's going to get what response, and I think about that before I hit the "submit" button...

How much drama can I handle right at the moment, you know?

But the thing is, I think I'm beginning to put this thing into a better perspective, and the value to that is that it's beginning to help me put people into a better perspective--who they are, what they want from me, what I want from them, how much I'm going to let those things influence what I write here.

You know, you can't please everyone--but you can always please you. And that's what this is all about for me.

I like it when people feel good about what I write here, and respond positively. But at the same time, I have to look at myself in the mirror everyday, you know? So ultimately what gets posted and what doesn't has to do with that face looking back at me, and no other.

I don't comment on everything I read either--for exactly the same reasons you state here. So my expectation is that my friends respond to me in the same way--I don't expect responses anymore, because I know that ultimately, it's no reflection on what people are thinking.

The only exception to that being is that I know if I write something incredibly inflammatory, it's like taking roll call! ;-)

No, seriously...it isn't that bad.

But really, I notice that, overall, there isn't much that people can respond to in a happy post--and I'd rather be happy than get a million comments, I can tell you that!
Jul. 4th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
This would be why I have different filters... freindship comes in different strengths, and people get shuffled around depending on where they fit.

I don't filter my own posts, too much drama lies that way. But some people I just have on my list because they are fun to read. Including one or two genuine celebraties, such a Diane Duane [and authoress who I met and shared several long and very silly conversations one convetion.] and Tom Smith, a filker of some repute, as well as few of my fav web-artists and comic writers.

They're not freinds, but they are fun to read and share a bit of conversation with from time to time.
Jul. 4th, 2006 11:52 pm (UTC)
I post damn near everything public anymore--you're right, there's too much drama involved by NOT doing so (which, you realize, is the absolute pinnacle of insanity, yes? to get nailed for what you don't say rather than what you do?), but yes, I've developed a couple of reading filters that makes the friends list more manageable.

But I feel like this is huge for me, because it's odd for me to think about the fact that I've friended someone who isn't a friend.

I don't know why that freaks me out, but it does.
Jul. 5th, 2006 06:44 am (UTC)
It's because you see your freinds list as freinds... As Andreas said long ago, it's badly named.

Personally, I view it as my reading list, some of whom are family-of-choice, some close freinds, some are just friends and some I just know. That status changes a little deening on circumstances and familiarity.
Jul. 5th, 2006 09:06 am (UTC)
Yeah, the problem though, is that it never has been badly named for me before--it's only just been badly named for most other people. Up till now, if you were on my friend's list, I considered you a friend.

Which means I wasn't even speaking the same language as everyone else. I was actually taking that word seriously.

Silly me.

But even now, I don't think I'm ever going to be able to consider it a "reading list", without qualification. There are people on there who I still consider my friends, you being one of them. But at the same time, in my head and in my heart if not literally, I'll probably be doing what you do--sorting and filtering.

Whether you go with "friends list" on one end of the spectrum or "reading list" on the other (that still sets my teeth on edge), I think expectations are set up that aren't particularly healthy. One one end the expectation is that everyone there has an emotional attachment to you--on the other end, the expectation is that those people are there for your entertainment, and that seems pretty chilly ("Write something good, dammit, or your off the list!").

There's gotta be something in the middle where a certain balance can be found...

What I'm thinking is that I have to stop thinking of it as a list at all, but consider, instead, that it's a collection of individuals with whom I have varying degrees of connection.
Jul. 4th, 2006 05:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah... "me too." ;)

I'm a fan of one person on LJ, I can definitely say that. She's on so many peoples' friends list that she couldn't possibly friend them all herself, and that's okay. Because she's one of those kind of people that when one of her posts shows up on my friends' page, I'm like, "Ooh, she posted! What is she ranting about today?" And I thoroughly enjoy it.

I used to be the kind of person that needed that external validation from my posts because once upon a time I had SO MANY people reading me and commenting on every little thing. Over the years that's dwindled, and I felt it like a blow. Now, like you, I post to my LJ for the simple reason being that it is MINE, and I enjoy doing it; and if someone reads and comments - great! (And of course, I write some entries JUST to get a response from some people.) If they don't, that's okay too. I keep it in a similar perspective to my paper journal, which I would never let anyone read - I don't need validation for that journal, and I don't need validation from this one just because it's on the internet. It's mine mine mine and I need to be comfortable enough with myself and those who read me to be true to my own art.

As for friends... I never really thought about it as deeply as you have. Some people I've friended because I liked what they had to say; others it was because they were a friend of someone else, and I liked what they had to say; and some (not mentioning who) were in a feud with one of other my LJ friends and I liked what that person had to say! Oh, and a few I actually know personally. But I can honestly say that out of all of my LJ friends there are but a few that I would seriously consider traveling across the country to visit in order to foster a real-life friendship. THOSE are the ones that you didn't realize, when you friended them, that they would become quite as special as they have become. Those are the ones that make the LJ experience... worthwhile.
Jul. 4th, 2006 07:22 pm (UTC)
You answered this perfectly, I couldn't say it better myself. Belle is one of those I look forward to meeting someday.
Jul. 4th, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, YES. Absolutely.

I know I don't say it often, but you are someone who I look forward to reading here, very much, and who inspires me. You have a way about you that just feels restful and happy, and I appreciate it so much.

Thank you for being here.

And, YES, I think that meeting up would be wonderful...

Maybe when you get that Airstream rolling, yes? ;-)
Jul. 5th, 2006 11:54 pm (UTC)
Ahh, I'm touched. I did tell you that we are moving to the east coast in the next year. So we will be closer in proximity. I do look forward to your posts.
Jul. 4th, 2006 10:00 pm (UTC)
Uh...me three! *grin*

Just as in real life, friends and acquaintances come in varying degrees of closeness, and that's as it should be IMO. I am very aware that there is a real person behind each cyberID, they are all varied individuals so it must follow that the mature of our relationship would vary accordingly.
Some have arrived there as friends of friends (thanks Belle *smile*) while others are there because of a shared interest.
Nevertheless, each one of you adds to my life by the willingness to share a part of yours., and I appreciate it very much.
Jul. 4th, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC)
Margo, you've been around for so many important events in my life...and that's one of the things that make you important to me, but not nearly the whole of it.

I think that Michael touched you for a reason. I didn't know you very well back then, but I think that that little nudge was something that indicated to me that you needed to be paid a LOT of attention! That was a difficult time, and I felt enormously isolated, and so I was probably a little slow on the uptake at the time, but the passage of time has shown me what a dear and valuable friend you are to me, both online and in real life.

And you're welcome...I always get such a bang out of it to know that I've been able to be a catalyst, and that people have found other people that they can come to care for through both knowing me.

But then again, I'm the person who has always said that my idea of a facinating dinner party would be one where all of my old lovers would be invited, and where I would get to sit and watch them try to figure out what they all had in common!

People can be wonderful--and people I love even moreso.

Count yourself among those.
Jul. 5th, 2006 12:28 am (UTC)
*chuckle* wish I could be a fly on the wall at that dinner party.

As for the 'nudge' from Michael, no one was more surprised than I, or slower on the uptake. But I gotta' say, I was touched in more than one sense of the word that day and I am still finding new insights about all the synchronicities that I (actually, both Dave and I) experienced that weekend. You surely are a catalyst, though it is your hard-won clarity that inspires me, even when the paths we follow do not overlap.
I have a feeling (a hope really) that although our paths are not the same and we go our own ways, they will cross and parallel and intersect for the rest of our lives.

Jul. 5th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC)
The only way you'll ever lose me is to outgrow me.

I'm not going anywhere.

Absolute accord in worldview and/or belief system and/or thought process has never been a make or break when it comes to the people I care for and want to have around. In fact, the diversity of the people I've known in my life has been a blessing, and an opportunity for which I have always felt great gratitude.

One thing that a lot of online interactions lack is the idea that varying viewpoints--even intense disagreement--never has to become personal. EVER.

If people held it in their mind that this person with whom they disagree is someone who has come to be of value to them--for who they ARE--I think things would probably go much more smoothly in the world at large, and on the internet in particular.
Jul. 4th, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC)
I think, as I said to another friend downthread, that I have always felt enormous affection for everyone I have on my friends list--and that has gotten me into huge trouble before, as you very well know. It's caused me a good deal of unhappiness and heartbreak, because, really, if you're on my friends list, I've always considered it pretty serious stuff. I mean, it's my friends list, you know? I have never been able to see people out there as being any different from the people I know in real life. And I have really very few people in my real life, because I value my time enough not to waste it on what I always considered "superficial acquaintences". So if you're here, you're important, and, more often than not, become more important as time goes by.

You, in fact, I adored immediately, and I've only come to love you more as I've seen you grow and change, and as I've listened to the things you think about. You are far more important to me than you might think--which makes me very vulnerable, and which means you could break my heart at any given time, and I'd be hurt.

This is something that I'd like to try to balance out with online relationships that aren't nearly as significant as I have always considered them to be. I feel the need for some perspective where that's concerned, because I don't like being blown out of the water for days when I discover that someone hates my guts all of a sudden.

In that ability to balance, you are far more advanced than I am, and I have learned a lot from you in that respect.

It's not that I want my time here to turn into a fluffy, meaningless pastime. But I do think it's important for me not to be as intensely connected to everyone I come to know here as I have always been.
Jul. 5th, 2006 02:07 am (UTC)
I DO know about the troubles from your past (well, one in particular); and watching you handle that situation made me want to know you NO MATTER WHAT. I saw your pain but I saw your maturity too. And I knew that I had to be a part of what you were offering the world.

I'm not trying to sound self-deprecating here, but I find it unbelievable that someone like you "adored" me from the first and that you've learned anything at all from me. Even though I sometimes feel old, I know that I'm just a baby in so many of the journeys of life... and I look up to YOU. I know it sounds all weird and shtuff, being as how we've never met or even talked on the phone, but in some ways I view you as a mother-figure because I try to draw on your wisdom so much. But more than that you have become a dear friend, and when I talk about you to some of my friends (and yes, I do talk about you) I don't refer to you as "this woman I know online," but as "my friend in Pennsylvania."

No matter what happens with LJ or any other Internet community - or if the Internet were to be suddenly obliterated tomorrow - I will always want you in my life.
Jul. 5th, 2006 09:16 am (UTC)

Whether you believe it or not, it's true. And I have to tell you that my immediate affection for you scared the bejabbers out of me, initially, because of the incident that brought me into your awareness. I mean, you had literally been warned to stay away--that I was a dangerous person and that if you had a lick of sense, you'd leave me alone and save yourself. Which did nothing for my conviction at the time that I was, indeed, a toxic person and a murderer. So I wondered what in the hell you were thinking--why in the world would you want to be here? Were you a spy? Were you an emotional daredevil? Were you someone who wanted to hang out and just watch the trainwreck?

I didn't want to believe any of those things.

But you stayed, and your interactions have been genuine and honest, as I had always hoped they would be. And so my trust--and therefore my affection--has grown even from that time.

And yeah, I do learn from you. I can do that because you have a lot to offer in the way of wisdom and experience, whether you know it or not. You offer a viewpoint that is, in some ways, very close to my own, but that is uniquely your own. And it keeps growing!

Very cool to watch. VERY cool.

And I don't think that it's an impossible situation to find that friends look up to each other--in fact, I think that's the optimum, because that means that friends can not just care about each other, but respect each other as well.

Which is just the way I like it.
Jul. 5th, 2006 12:19 pm (UTC)
*hugs and love and stuff*
I love you, Belle.
Jul. 5th, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC)
Re: *hugs and love and stuff*
I love you, too, Sugar.

Really really.
Jul. 4th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
Very subtly profound.

Friendship is an issue I've struggled with all my life.

Most of my friends over the years have proven to be false.

I think I've expected too much of friendship and so feel overly sensitive about friends' antics when they act out by merely being who they really are, which often turned out to be oblivious to who I am.

I think that's the real reason I thought they weren't true friends, because they spent so much time being themselves that they disconsidered how I felt (about them).

Very selfish of me, I know.

In the movie "Jackknife," Robert De Niro's character visits a friend with whom he served in Vietnam. The friend, Ed Harris, doesn't want De Niro around because the memories are too painful. His friend's sister says to De Niro, "He's not you friend, Joseph." De Niro replies, "No. But I'm HIS friend."

My true friends should be, I decided a few years ago, the ones I'M loyal too, regardless of how they felt about and acted toward me.

Your post suggests a less demanding kind of friendship. I like it.

Jul. 4th, 2006 10:49 pm (UTC)
I have to tell you this...

Out of all the people I read here, you are one of the most precious to me.

There are a lot of people here that I read, and can goof with, and who I talk to almost every day, and who I care for very deeply because they are familiar and I feel I know them pretty well. You are more elusive--and I know that I can count on you to be silent unless you have something of value to say. Which means that you are not as easy to know, perhaps, but well worth the effort of waiting and shutting up long enough to hear you.

Silence between friends is not an altogether bad thing, I've found. Invariably, it's a sign that I feel particularly close to someone when I can be silent with them, and when the silence is easy and peaceful and indicative of something deeper than chatter.

I like to chatter...you've probably noticed that! ;-) But at the same time, I always find myself thinking, "YAY!" when I see that you've posted something. And it doesn't always have to be some deep, philosophical thing to make me feel that way--it can be about your garden, or your neighbors, or your family.

I just like it. All of it.

And I find myself missing you when I haven't heard from you in awhile.

Just so you know...! ;-)

I understand what you mean about being disappointed and disillusioned by friends who turn out to be false and superficial--I know that feeling better than I ever wanted to know it. And I think that in a lot of ways, I'm socially naieve, because I expect people to do and say and be who they are--because that's what friends do. I suppose that's a carryover from spending so much of my childhood alone--I don't think I ever learned the rules of social engagement with any enormous skill. I am who I am--and it's really me, no matter how contradictory or odd I might appear to be. And my expectation has always been that other people would be in my life in the same way--and, even more importantly, be in my life because they could appreciate and feel affection for me being that way with them. My expectation is that they are real, and want me to be real--perhaps because I can't see why anyone in the world would resort to a false face, especially in the attempt to impress me.

I mean...why?

Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. And I also know that people are not static creatures, and sometimes people really do grow apart, and lose the commonality that drew them together to begin with.

And that's OK. Very often, it's just what time does, and it's one of the things that I'm learning here in regards to levels and layers of friendship.

I also know that there have been times when people have been enormously disappointed with me. But, hell, there have been times when I have been enormously disappointed with me, so how can I fault them for that?

But those who have stayed--those who have kept walking with me--are the ones who have been able to see past that disappointment and know in their hearts that who I am--who I really am-- is of value to them, as difficult as I can often be. And I've learned, too, that there are just people in my life who need to be in my life, and who I have come to accept in spite of their foibles, their imperfections, their disappointments.

There are people out there who have given up on me--and there are people out there on whom I've given up.

But those who stay, and who I in return hold close?

How incredibly precious they are, for reasons that are as myriad and as unique and as beautiful as they are.

Jul. 4th, 2006 10:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, and one other point...

I like to be understood. I think that there is something in all of us that likes to have ourselves understood, and that feels frustrated when we are not. But I'm learning that there are levels of understanding, and ways of knowing, that make up for the times when we can't seem to get through.

I don't know you nearly as well as I would like to. And that's OK, because that means that each time I learn something new about you, I feel myself learn it, and I value it. It's like being able to sit quietly and watch a flower open up, so slowly its movement can barely be seen, but in that unfolding lie treasures.

I'd also like to think that it guarantees that you can be around for a long time to come, and never be taken for granted, or become commonplace to me.

That's not altogether a bad thing, I don't think.
Jul. 6th, 2006 01:31 am (UTC)
"I like to be understood. I think that there is something in all of us that likes to have ourselves understood, and that feels frustrated when we are not. But I'm learning that there are levels of understanding, and ways of knowing, that make up for the times when we can't seem to get through."

I learned to write, long before I had any formal study of the subject, because I never felt that I was understood, that most (conversational) understanding was an illusion. (I now know that this is not so true, that much understanding is intuitive and, although we may not literally understand what someone is really saying, most often we glean the underlying feelings; but I didn't understand this early on in my life.)

Writing became for me a way to express what I really meant, when I (often only later) felt that people didn't "get" it. So I wrote it out, mostly for my own benefit. Conversation is so difficult at this level because people don't allow you the time to communicate complex thoughts before they interrupt you with their own thought-agenda; and complex thought is what I always seem to want to communicate. (Small talk, at its best, bores me; and the most prosaic forms of it tend to repulse me.)

But I've found that many people don't understand my written words any better than my spoken ones, and not only because I may have lacked a certain precision when I wrote them; people use their own filters to select the text they will attend to.

So I've decided that writing can be as misinterpretable as speech, and I conclude that the feeling and not the concepts are what's important in human relations. Still, I love ideas and continue to write and hope that people understand what I'm really trying to say.

"I don't know you nearly as well as I would like to."

You've pretty much zeroed in on the essence of my personality in your previous response. You may think you don't know me very well, but you seem to have intuited me quite accurately, and I very much appreciate it and the words you use to express it. It's exactly what I'm writing about above. Communication is not nearly so important as communion. If I am elusive (which I know I am), it's merely a disguise, ya know?

Jul. 6th, 2006 02:26 am (UTC)
Sometimes I ponder the value of words at all. And this is coming from someone who comes from words, and who has studied them for a lifetime.

I have known people who use words not to open a door but to build a wall. Fascinating and frustrating phemomenon that is, and probably one of the reasons you have a problem with small talk--because it's small talk that is often the armour of choice in the battle to communicate. Words are just as likely to conceal as they are to reveal, in spite of how we feel about that. So there are times when I trust words less than what I feel ticking away in the back of my instinct. It's a little more difficult to do in this medium, but there have been times when I have felt it. Like some bat homing in on a sound that we can't hear so that it can know what it can't see.

Trusting ourselves to take a step into what is nebulous is sometimes the only way to get to knowing. It may not be all there is, but there are times when it's the chink in the wall.

Just as it is the silence between the notes that makes at least half the music, sometimes it's the feeling between the words that reveals the most.

What's funny is that, reading what you said here, I was reminded of my ex husband. He was of the mindset that, if one spent a silent moment considering what one was going to say, he was convinced it was a lie. If you had to think about it, then it couldn't be true. So what you say here about taking the time to communicate complex thoughts and not being allowed that time...whew! And I would say that the ways we differed in our methods of communicating was what fundamentally undermined every other aspect of our relationship--because if you can't feel comfortable in your ability to have yourself heard, or in your ability to hear another, then what else could you possibly have?

So I have to admit that I do like words, well and thoughtfully crafted ones anyway, for all that--as untrustworthy as they may sometimes be. And for all I feel that intuition is a handy tool in getting to know what the words mean, that experience taught me that taking the time to use words as best you can and to make the effort to listen to what is really being said is probably one of the most loving things you can do. It takes time and effort--and so what better gift can we give someone we care for than to make sure that we have taken the time and made the effort to really reveal, and to really hear?

I may, as you say, intuit more about you than I give myself credit for, but I'm not going to let myself off the hook and stop listening as well, because, as you have let me know here, your words can be trusted to be revelatory rather than exclusive.

And when it comes right down to it, I'd much rather have you tell me than to make a faulty assumption on the basis of intuition, and risk a misunderstanding that could so easily be avoided.
Jul. 5th, 2006 01:44 pm (UTC)
I've sometimes wondered at (and often failed to understand) the depth and intensity of online connections of various sorts, even whilst directly experiencing them myself. I rationally reject the notion that anyone can have a complete relationship solely online (which is why pretty much everyone of my acquaintance here or on Beliefnet is on my list of those I want to meet in person, if I haven't already), even while observing anecdotal proof that my rejection is wrong.

I can only shrug and move on.

Anyway, I've continued to refuse to see my friends' lists as anything but a convenience. I try hard to deal with each person individually. I've only recently begun using my friends' listing page to browse entries, preferring to go to each person's LJ page directly to see what's up. I still think of it as more of a nuisance than a convenience, but I recognize its usefullness... I guess.

Bow wow. Old dog here, new tricks there. Film at 11. ;-D
Jul. 5th, 2006 09:06 pm (UTC)
I wondered when you were going to check in on this subject, M'Lord! ;-)

This is something that you and I have gone 'round and 'round about, and it's kind of amusing to think of me sliding more over to your way of thinking even as you slide closer to mine!

Meeting in the middle is a good thing, methinks.

In any case, I have been hearing your voice through this whole thought process, and yes, I agree--there are things that we can never know about each other unless we meet face to face, in the real world and in the context of a real life. But at the same time...do we even know everything then?

I think that in some respects, online friendships are valid, and can be as valid as those we have in real life. Goodness knows, we are capable of misunderstanding in any venue. But I think that sometimes those relationships can develop an intensity that at some point demands the face to face-- you are a case in point there, as well as is Paul, and, of course, Michael. But in those two cases, the feelings already had become intense--which is what drove the other two 3000 miles in an eastward direction, and drove me 500 miles north to know you. And I think that happened with all the people who I've come to know in real life whom I met online--it was the intensity that melted those miles.

Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But yes, absolutely, I think that meeting in person is a necessary step, and becomes, at some point, a given that it will happen.

But which comes first--the love or the need to know more?

I can't answer for you--I can only answer for me. But I've gotta tell you that all the people I've met in real life have come into my life because the foundation of great affection was already in place. Michael and Paul both walked into this house to a woman who loved them, and I had never clapped an eye on either one, but knew them, in a very real way, before I ever did.

But the truth I'm coming to realize is that that doesn't always happen. And the expectation that it will, or even that it can, or even should, is misguided at best and unfair at worst.

There are people that I know online who I once believed I loved very much. I know now that, for whatever the reason, my expectation of them and their friendship was way too high, and I do regret that, because the flipside of intense yes is intense NO, and that intensity would never have happened had I allowed myself more moderation, and a lot fewer people would have gotten hurt. But when you've had the positive reinforcement that I've had, and the opening of wonderful new experiences that I've been blessed to know as a result of allowing that intensity, it kind of makes you want to keep trying.

At the same time, the negative has taught me to be more discerning as to what my expectations should probably be.

In some ways, I think that's a shame--but reality is never as much fun as a storybook, is it?
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