I’m socially puzzled. But in a good way.
I don’t know how to make the point without telling stories. I don’t know how to tell those stories, without people seeing themselves in them. More people than I realize, read my blog. This isn’t about any individuals. It’s about the phenomenon.
Here’s what’s sparking this:
I’m at the Ranch, hosting a group of whom I know some members well; some in the barest sense of slightly, and there are a few that I’d never met. One whom I’d met once—last winter, at a large group gathering—was really excited to see me. I mentioned that I’d never been where she lives. It’s famously gorgeous. She offered to put me up there, take me hiking. I said yes and thank you. She said something about everyone wanting to make sure that I’m okay.
She lives hours from me. We’re not part of each other’s virtual or face communities—we’re Facebook friends, but we never interact there. Literally, the only actual connection we’d ever had was eight months ago. I’m sure I was friendly then; I was hosting. She clearly is. But we didn’t follow up, other than probably me tagging probably her on Facebook. (I have a ridiculous number of virtual friends.)
It happens all the time. I have all these relationships that I don’t even know I have. People care about me, pray for me, love me from a distance. We often become actual friends, when one of us finally says something. What’s mystifying, is how little it takes to create it.
One of the people closest to me now, responded to a one-line e-mail with a love-beam that I could take a bath in. I realized I needed to tell her that there were no words for what seeing her had done for me. She felt the same. We’d been in each other’s peripheral vision for years; the relationship took off from us actually saying “thank you” and “I love you.”
Someone whose existence is one of my touchstones, wrote back and never forgot me after I messaged her last winter on Facebook. When I wrote her again after I was diagnosed in June, I was still in her awareness. She goes out of her way now to show me that I matter to her. She understands cancer; she caught my eye because we'd both had it. I thought she was brave; the wild thing is that I told her. And she responded. (A picture of her wearing a headscarf, baptizing a baby, is a prayer icon for me.)
I just went for a walk, to try to figure it out. I only got halfway there. I thought that I was confused about the power I have. I apparently really make an impression on people. But no, it isn’t that. Whatever I do has an effect that I’m happy with. I feel loved just for being. I don't need to work on that.
What’s mystifying isn’t the huge number of people who carry me and only by chance (if ever) let me know it. It’s that I do the exact same thing to them.
How is it possible, to love so many people and never say so? I don’t know. But I do it too. I send out prayer calls all the time, and I just trust that the people who respond to me mean it, and those who don’t, love me also. I wouldn’t write to them if we didn't have a history of caring. I paste my updates here, because I know how many people read this, and you look because I mean something to you. But I’ve gotten the same kind of mass e-mails from others, and not answered them. Before and after I learned what my community's visibility means to me.
There’s part of an answer in this: I’ve made a huge impression on one of my diocesan higher-ups, through the illness in particular. And she on me, because she’s a force of nature. I told her what I appreciate in her, in an e-mail this morning asking a vocational question. I think I was only free enough to say so, because I’ve been so sick. Really, why not? How often do any of us get to hear, “You rock because of X!” Some of the walls I was raised with, or put up to survive middle school and had never taken down, have dropped.
Is it an introvert thing? Nah, because I’m not so strongly over there anymore. My I and E are equal when I take the formal Meyers-Briggs; I need both quiet and community time.
I think it’s just oblivion. Not having enough attention—too busy looking or being elsewhere—to respond. I wonder if being here will help me make a lasting change in my own behavior. Or if I’ll forget, as I get well, if cancer fades into memory.
I don’t know. My community has meant so much. I really want to be part of it, myself. And the only way to do that is out loud. God hears silent prayer; I don’t, unless you tell me. I know I’m held up by so many hands, seen and unseen—but the ones I can hold are those who make themselves visible.
I remember people from church asking what they could do for me. I think I happened to be feeling particularly alone. I told them, “Tell me when you’re thinking about me.”
That’s still my best answer. But will I tell you, when I’m thinking of you?
Thursday, October 07, 2010
I’m socially puzzled. But in a good way.