In case you’ve missed the incessant whining and bitching and ”woe is me my life is too perfect” around here lately, allow me to bring you up to speed: I’ve been having a shitty week or two. But I swear, that is NOT what THIS post is about.
No, really, I promise. Stick around, stay a while, I promise not to leave mascara stains on your shoulders today.
Instead, what I’ve been thinking about is how all of you – or at least, a ton of you – have responded to me over the last week. In fact, I’ve been thinking about how many of you have responded to my regular ups and downs and ins and outs of every day life over the last… mmm… year or so.
You’ve been amazing. Really. Absolutely extraordinary and unexpected. I have been truly moved at the depth of compassion and concern that complete strangers have been able to share with another, well, complete stranger. It boggles the mind – especially a habitually cynical and guarded mind such as mine.
And it has gotten me thinking… why is it we can experience a depth of relationship online that many of us miss in “real life”? It’s not that I don’t have real relationships offline – excellent relationships even. But this most recent turmoil in my marriage was something that I only described with my online, out of town friends. And while a precious few of those people are much, much more than mere “online friends” – I have never sat across a kitchen table from them.
As I was wading through a lot of this recent muck, I found myself thinking that the only place that I could go and feel safe was online. One of the few, and first, places that I felt like I could really unload all of my fears was on this blog. And so, naturally, my strongest sources of support came from many of you.
Why is that? How strange is that? Could it really be something as simple and as sad as the people in our “real life” not being able to understand us the same way? An inability to “get us” the same way strangers miles and worlds away can??
It occurs to me that maybe we don’t give the people in our lives the same chance to be spectacular that we give The Internet. Because ultimately, they hold the greatest power of Rejection.
When I told Amy about my recent bouts with self loathing, I did it via IM. And while I was worried about her reaction and feared her opinions of me would change, ultimately I had the safety of the monitor between us. I wouldn’t have to see the disappointment in her face. Hell, I wouldn’t even hear the judgement in her voice. I was able to open up and unload in an almost risk-free zone.
We don’t have that cushion in real life. We have to live with the consequences of disappointing those who have emotional investments in our happiness, or lack there of. Once we put ourselves out there with our offline friends and family, it is much more difficult to log off or x out or stop reading emails…
We are free to be who we “really” are, or at least, who we want to be, online – because it has all the attraction of a trial run. If you don’t like it we simply fade away, change screen names, and try again. Or, at least, we know on some level we have that option.
ANYWAY, my point is – I wonder how extraordinary the rest of the people in our lives could be if we could give them the same chance. I wonder if our high school friends would understand restlessness more than we realize. I wonder if our neighbors would be relieved to know about our secret fears and fantasies.
I wonder, if our next extraordinary response is closer than we think.
Edited to add: this wasn’t meant to be a slam to those of you who are my friends in “real life” and also read this blog. Especially Kristin, who is the one and only person in my “real life” who knows ALL of the sordid details of just about everything.