Having parked the noisy, messy clamour of those too-many paragraphs (talk about clutter in a small temporary space!) in my Drafts file, I wrote that Monday-two-weeks-ago post as a quick "Hello" to you, summarising what I was trying to organise behind the scenes, and postulating that I'd probably need to divide my processing into three separate posts.
Well. Turns out, as I should have remembered, that you are all very clever readers with considerable life experience between you, and you collectively responded along the lines of "Of course you're feeling a variety of mixed emotions. You've left behind one way of life and are trying to imagine the next with faith, but you're in a temporary space right now and that's going to make for some sadness along with the hope and joy and excitement. So happy you had the time away to be nurtured and to get some perspective. Take your time settling back in, and maybe don't expect too much of yourself." I'm simplifying, of course, in my paraphrase, making a composite comment out of a wonderful array of individual responses.
Reading those comments, I saw that you already got what I was working to articulate. It's not that complicated. And I've got company. I can feel my horizon expanding far out of the confines of this small apartment, beyond the quiet fears that the move may have closed me in, away from my old identities as a working academic, as an islander, both of which I've let go in the last year.
So I'm gladly relinquishing any need to belabour the worries or the melancholy anymore (for now, that is -- should they get too insistent again, you'll probably have to suffer a whinge or two). We already know, writer and readers, that those are part of the landscape. Instead, now, I can shift to a happier focus . . . friendships. Moving means not only leaving many behind, geographically at least, but it also means the corollary, making new ones. Sad, but also exciting-with-a-touch-of-intimidating. It's been a few decades since I've had to make friends "from scratch" in a completely new geography, and I won't quite have to do that in Vancouver, since I already have a family network and some, hmmm, latent or dormant friendships I hope to develop.
But there's no question that I'm going to have to get out there and work some social skills, do some version of meet-and-greet, not quite speed-dating or blind-dating, but definitely, for my personality, some draining of the social energy bank. A significant reason for leaving our island home now rather than in a few years was to get started on building the all-important network of friendships I hope will sustain me through my remaining decades. So this is no time to be shy, and my Social Introvert self needs to channel the Social in that label. My Ottawa-Montreal week gave me ample opportunities to practice, and even though the friends I visited there won't be part of my Vancouver life, meeting them freshened my perspective on friendship in general, but also, specifically, on making and maintaining friends at a certain age in a digital world.
I already mentioned that we visited Ottawa friends while we were there, a younger couple we've known for about twenty years, one of those friendships we've been able to sustain through visits every few years, and more recently, through Facebook. Facebook was also instrumental in another visit I made last week in Ottawa. Through it, we've reconnected with a couple we knew over 30 years ago when we both lived in a small coastal town in northern BC. Reacquainted through FB, but living across a big country from each other, we met for dinner last fall -- in Paris! And when M saw, also via Facebook, that we would be in Ottawa, she "messaged" me, and invited me to lunch at her home.
She also generously picked me up at our downtown hotel, and we spent the twenty minutes' drive catching up, chatting happily away -- not until we had cleared the freeway off-ramp, manoeuvring obviously toward a suburban subdivision, turning past a mall and onto a pleasant, leafy street lined with single-family homes, not until then did M turn to me and say, "Oh, and I've invited some neighbours to join us for lunch." And chuckling at her ploy, assessing my response (honestly, I think I hid it well, but there was a moment of "oh dear!" followed quickly by an "It will be fine" followed by "might even be fun"!), she added, "I don't cook for one!" and then outright chortled, and I couldn't help but join in.
And honestly, it was the loveliest two hours! I don't know M. particularly well -- over 30 years ago, for about a year we had a monthly "dinner club" with two other couples, and M. and I also belonged to a women's group that met monthly. I'm not sure that we ever visited together, just the two of us, nor even just she and her husband with me and mine. But the foundation of basic liking each other and of having known each other for so long (I met her vivacious, warm, hilarious mother on several occasions; I remember her kids as babies and toddlers and earnest Grade One students) and then the shared dinner in Paris last year placed her in a special category of friends. So now, to get to see another facet of her, entertaining neighbours beautifully and easily in her back garden, was a real treat, and it added significantly to my appreciation of her.
Not surprisingly, in retrospect, I liked her neighbours very much, and I enjoyed the lively, open, intelligent and thoughtful conversation beyond what I might have imagined. I am unlikely to meet these women again (although one owns beachfront properties in her native Spanish town, and I'd love to rent one sometime), but I could easily envision being good friends with any or all of them. Three spoke two or more languages, two were writers, all were excellent listeners and great story-tellers. . . And all four women sitting around the table with me encouraged my stories and listened to me attentively as well. I was admitted into their friendship for those two hours, and I've been thinking on and off, ever since, about how good that felt, about the peculiar rich mix it was of old and new -- not only in that my friendship with M is old, while that with her neighbours is new and probably a one-off, but also in the way the new situation -- finding myself at a table with a group of women I barely know, and yet talking quite unreservedly about surprisingly personal issues -- recalled the old occasions of getting together at various tables with other mothers when my kids were young.
I'm also struck by the way old and new mix it up in the way the afternoon came together -- that is, M. and I met so many years ago by a confluence of intersecting relationships, and our meetings must always have been arranged by phone, or by deciding in person on our next get-together and then writing it down in day-planners or trusting to memory. We probably exchanged Christmas cards for a time, and I know I heard how she was doing via letters from a mutual friend. I called her once, ten or fifteen years ago, when I was in Ottawa, and had a long-ish chat. And then the friendship languished... Until the new technology of social media -- Facebook, in this case -- brought us together again. New school. But that gathering around her back-garden table was purely Old School, and I loved it for that. No one hauled out a phone for a selfie, not a single second of our happy lunch was shared on Facebook, all that warmth and laughter and trust stayed right in those two hours, in that charming backyard garden. . .
So over the next several weeks, in another two or three posts, I hope to write a bit about Friendships in Transitional Times, and while I'm thinking primarily about my own transition geographically, away from one set of friends and (hopefully!) towards another, I'm also thinking about transitional times within friendships (sometimes more intense, sometimes very tenuous, sometimes background, sometimes an everyday presence), and I'm thinking about the transitional times of our life as women of a certain age -- or men, should there be any male readers here, which I would love to hope -- of any of us moving through retirement or making a career move that shifts friendships or moving from single life to married and discovering ways that changes friendships. And, as I've suggested above, I'd also like to fold in some consideration of the Transitional times we are in right now in terms of the technologies that mediate and support friendships.
Much room for contemplation and discussion, then, and I'm not sure how well I'll be able to steer this ship, but I won't mind at all if you shift the wheel a degree or two with your comments. Perhaps we could begin by my asking you if you've had long-time friends resurface in your lives recently, particularly if that was expedited by Facebook or other social media. Even if not, I'm very interested to see how the relationship sparks were re-ignited. Also interested in the role that new friends are playing in your lives these days, although perhaps we'll talk more about that in future posts. Another possible angle is that concerning those people you meet and connect with for a few hours, and you just know you would be good friends if you lived closer, but instead just enjoy the time together for what it is. Your turn, then, grab the mic, jump in . . .
Before I close, let me just say that I know some of you take longer than others to think about a post and the ensuing conversation here and by the time you're ready to comment, you feel as if the rest of us have moved on. Please know that I will always see your comments, even if they're added weeks later, and I'll do my best to respond. And, of course, as the blogger in charge here, as someone who puts considerable effort into writing these posts, it's always gratifying to know that whatever I've written or whatever conversation I've stirred up has kept you thinking. . .