I'm a lucky girl. I have wonderful friends from each era of my life--from my hometown, college, and law school, and from the four different areas of the country where I've lived since earning my last degree. The problem is that most of them are so damn far away.
Even though I don't see my friends often, we are still close. We can pick up our relationship right where we last left off and, if I ever need anything, each friend would be there to offer it. But it's not the same as it was. Similar, yet different.
I once lamented to a former roommate that we very rarely see each other, never speak on the phone, and, because she is not on social media, interact very little. She promised that our friendship remained as strong as ever and that, when our kids are grown, we will share girls' spa weekends and resume our active friendship in earnest.
Whether those spa weekends ever happen, I agree with her point: we're still dear friends, even if we're no longer deciding whose turn it is to do the dishes. But while I'm all for fewer dishes, I miss the intimacy of them. Sharing the mundane day-to-day stuff with friends who live nearby is different than catching up occasionally with those scattered far and wide. Too many of my most important people are too far away for the intimacy of the mundane.
No one epitomizes the difference created by proximity like my friend Jen. She and I met in college, lost touch for a few years, then reconnected when I moved to Chicago. She was my lifeline, sharing her Chicago friends and incorporating me into her life there. We had our first babies four months apart. We both quit working to stay home with those babies, and we both had husbands who worked long hours to permit us to do so. For a couple years, she and I raised those babies (plus one more of hers) together.
Then she moved away. And then we moved away. It stinks.
Nine years ago, Jen lived four blocks away. She may have learned I was pregnant with my second child before my husband did (it was close). Now that we live 800 miles away from each other, my iPhone thinks she's the fourth most likely "Jennifer" that I want to contact. Sad, but true.
There's a little hope for this and other long-distance friendships--the Internet. I love that I can email, text, or instant message a friend nothing more than, "I heard a song today that made me think of you. Miss you."
Thanks to social media, I feel more attached to friends who are active there and share some of the mundane details I crave. I feel more connected when I know what DIY project Karen is doing or where Brittany's Elf on the Shelf is today (if only to mock her enthusiasm). I like that I can offer an extra set of eyes on Cristin's grad school admissions essay, and I chuckle when photos prove that Beth has become a dance mom. These details that don't warrant mention in the annual holiday newsletter are the ones that show me who they are today.
But social media gives with one hand and takes away with the other. It helps me feel connected to friends who use it, but its ubiquity makes it harder to stay in touch with those who don't. I'm so accustomed to firing off an email, text, or status update that letters and phone calls are nearly obsolete. I miss out on too many people's everyday, and it makes me miss them more.
The obvious solution is for everyone to become active on Facebook and Instagram, but I doubt I'll persuade the holdouts. If you're such a holdout, please send me an email, call me, or at least write something on your holiday card. I really, truly want to know your joys and frustrations, your accomplishments and struggles. Goodness knows that I subject even strangers to mine.
I appreciate that some prefer privacy and anonymity, and I know that it's hard to find the time to call or write. But we all need to make the effort.
If I miss my friends, they probably miss me too. Some may even be interested to know that I started making holiday treats yesterday, that I don't know what to do about that empty spot in the family room now that the kids have outgrown the little craft table, and that I don't know what to get anyone for Christmas.
I'm going to post this, then check Instagram to see how Jen's family's new tree house is coming along. I'll see what Karen was painting last night and what nonsense Brittany and her Elf are up to. Then maybe--just maybe--I'll pick up the phone.
In case I don't, I'd love for you to share in the comments here or on Facebook one mundane fact or photo showing what you're doing today. I'm going to stare at that spot in the family room, make cookies, and schedule an appointment to get my car serviced.