I know this is nothing new, but I've been thinking about connections and the Internet and my choices. Being sick has something to do with it: I have nothing to do but force liquids and process thoughts. The thoughts are routine, as are the conclusions. I am learning nothing, creating nothing worth communicating. But, the urge to communicate, to write, and to share doesn't care about quality. That urge is about connection, and it will not be denied.
We are so disconnected, with our virtual lives. We can't sing together over Facebook, we can't hug. Emoticons don't sound like love or hurt or joy or righteous indignation. Clicking on an email envelope icon does not have that lovely crackly sound or give that feeling of anticipation. The email travels instantaneously over the airwaves, not through the air, through hands, through human agency. There is no planning, no effort in its transmission. It is usually about news, and it is usually created casually, impersonally. It is not savored over a cup of tea or saved in a bureau drawer.
Of course, no form of letter takes the place of personal connection. But something tactile is so much better than something electronic. I've re-learned since SC was incarcerated what a treat it is to open my mailbox and find a letter instead of bills. It's like a birthday present, like chocolate, like hearing a favorite song, like Carbon greeting me at the door. Like love. I do miss going out to the mailbox with the expectation that something wonderful is waiting for me. And I have started writing letters in order to give that pleasure to others. SC cannot get email, and E doesn't remember to, but I'm sending letters to others as well.
Don't get me wrong: I'm immensely grateful for the immediacy of the virtual connection. I don't feel so alone when I see a name on a post or a note in my inbox. This past week, when I have been so ill, the Internet has been my lifeline. I check for messages. I post photos and haiku complaints and receive pity and good wishes in return. I text V, asking for a grocery run, and she brings me home-made chicken soup as well. So, the virtual connection keeps me from total isolation and, in a lot of ways, the sound bite nature of it works better for my energy levels. My responses can be written quickly and I don't have to worry about my penmanship.
In fact, I wonder if I really do miss the physical connection? As I mentioned in a previous post, living with E taught me that I am indeed an introvert. I have fought all my life against the deep exhaustion I feel when the inertia of staying in pulls against the desire to be social. It's like trying to pick up a cat that doesn't want to be picked up. It's heavy with resistance, limbs and head hanging lifelessly, almost impossible to move. So, I have scheduled myself and made commitments to force the issue. The consequence seems to be that I regularly get sick and collapse. I didn't get this extended sickness the whole time I was with E. It might be because I wasn't working with the public then, but I think it's because I need stay home with my books and my music and my time wasters. A 40-hour traditional public-contact work week is anathema. How much of my physical response is caused by depression, I do not know. I don't feel depressed: I am aware of serenity and sometimes joy. The discontent seems to come more from the "shoulds" than my actual feelings. I "should" be active and productive and social and creative. I "should" get out and exercise. I know that I'll be glad I did. But I felt those "shoulds" up on the mountain, too. Was it because my activities had to be severely limited and rationed that they did not overwhelm me? Was it because my normal day was spent cooking and eating and doing crosswords? E at 99 was more active than I at 55.
There is the contradiction. I like being alone. But I miss my friends. I like zoning out with my knitting and my pictures and my books and (god help me) my Netflix reruns. But I miss the activities and connections. In fact, I recently received a text from S, who is visiting Portland with his Seattle girlfriend, and I peppered him with names of restaurants and theatre groups. It was so hard to decide which to fit into one short weekend. I was so excited for them! I was virtually with them, and it felt great, but....lonely.
I don't know why I don't just move back to Portland and my tribe, but somehow all my choices keep me here with the dry air and the circle of juniper-clad hills, with the huge bowl of sky upended over the sage-filled fields. Early in this week of illness, I walked out to get the mail, and a raven soared silently overhead, huge blue-black wings outspread, each feather distinct. (Did it follow me from the campus? What is it trying to tell me?)
There was nothing in the box.