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ALL BY MYSELF
My friend Sheryl recently wrote about having no one to do things with; that her family has other interests and most of the time they don't coincide with hers.

I often feel the same way. I know that people think I have a perfect life and a perfect family, but the truth is, I have a good life and a family that, while we love one another and enjoy each other's company most of the time, have very different needs and hobbies and passions. I have a couple of good friends here that share some my interests and thankfully I am able to get together with them fairly often, but it's never really enough. We don't live near each other; one has three kids and we all work and have many other obligations.
My husband is fantastic but he doesn't share my interests, and to be fair, I don't share his either. We manage, regardless, out of a shared value set and respect for each other's time and a profound commitment to each other and our family, but there isn't really anything we do together in the way that I see other couples sharing. He bikes, I walk. He relaxes with television; I choose books. Even our taste is movies is miles apart. It's weird how you can build a life together, despite these differences.

Both my children are growing up and starting to pull away, Karin most dramatically. I can still get Martin to do things with me, but I can see the divide widening. It's a strange, saddening feeling and makes me sympathize even more with my own mother, whose children are all very far away from her physically.

When I was in junior high, my best friend and I wrote reams of stories about our adult lives and how they would be. We imagined that we'd always be together. That we always be able to spend time together; our days together, laughing and doing the same things that we did when we were 13 and 14, despite falling in love or having boyfriends, or marrying. Silly, really, considering we were all children of military families and knew the drill. Deep down, we knew the chances of us living anywhere near each other when we reached retirement age was a daydream. And it's come to pass, as well. My oldest friend is in Oregon. The others? Kansas, Florida, Massachusetts, California, basically the four corners of the map.

My best girlfriend from high school is in Virginia. My best girlfriend from college is in Michigan. My best friends from Chicago are still there. Even some of the friends that I have been closest to here in Sweden have moved away. And there's no guarantee that the ones I still have here will be here forever, either. People move, it's a fact. Things change. The dream of having people to share things with, to do things with...well, having children doesn't solve that. Even having a husband doesn't necessarily bridge the gap, no matter how much you have in common and how much you love one another.

Don't get me wrong; I'm a social creature. I belong to an organization that regularly allows me to meet and make friends that share my interests. I keep my time filled. But sometimes I think how nice it would be to go antiquing with my mom whenever I want. To play cribbage with my sister, whenever I want. To live spontaneously with friends nearby who are happy to say yes when I ask them to go with me somewhere or do something with me that I know my family will groan about if I ask them.

I'm thinking about this more and more as the years pass and friends become more important. Even now, as I write this, I'm by myself in the house. I don't mind, exactly, but, still, there it is. Karin is in Malmö with friends watching a soccer game. Martin is in Lund watching a movie with a friend. Anders is in Germany on a work trip. I could fill my time in a myriad of ways. And yet, here I am, online, talking to a bunch of voices in the wilderness, even more scattered and distant globally than one would have thought possible. I don't even know who will read this, much less respond, and yet, it's the sharing that's important. It's the knowledge that my voice, too, is one in the wilderness.

It's nice to know that, even though I'm by myself, I'm not alone.
 contemplative
mood: contemplative


Comments

Hmm... I am working up to celebrating 25 married years of un-shared interests too! It seems almost disloyal to spell it out like that, but the facts are the facts! 50 this year, and 3 of my 4 children are now finished secondary school & into university... If it were not for the "little" one I might be tempted to go volunteering overseas for a year or 10 to see if I can (re?)discover what makes me an individual! However, I'm rather attached to my beloved, as I'm sure you are to yours. It's quite a time of life, though! You are definitely not alone!

So I gather! Nice to know :)

Nice post, I like it a lot.

Why thank you!

(Anonymous)

"The apple doesn't fall very far from the tree". You have described my life also -except I didn't have the internet and "voices in the wilderness"...my voice went into the "ethers" where I knew only God was listening. But it's not just you and me, it's every mother whose children are growing up and leaving the nest. So you are not alone, you're surrounded by millions who are in the same place, or have been, or will be..... If that's any consolation! Hugs and Love, Lizardmom

I miss you, mom

You are definitely not on your own. I think every mum feels this when as you say "my children are growing up and starting to pull away". It is especially hard when you've been a very involved parent as you have been. At one time you were their whole world, you did everything together and now it seems as though they neither need or want you. If it is any consolation, they DO come back, but they need to spread their wings and they can do so knowing that you will always be there for them. And while you actively encourage your kids to become independent, the experience of letting go can be painful and cause you to take a bit of a stock take on your life and relationships.

The friendship dilemma is one that resonates with me as well. I think being an expat can exaccerbate that feeling of isolation and I know I have to work much harder at maintaining friendships than I did back home where everything seemed natural and didn't need so much arranging as it does here. Still, we do find a niche eventually.

I felt this even when my kids were small, actually, though not as acutely.

I often complain (to myself, since there's no one else to hear it) about the lack of friends to do things with. The only people I see who have no shortage of friends around and things to do are my sisters who live in Brooklyn and San Francisco and so sheer numbers work in their favor. I've gotten used to going to concerts by myself, though I'd rather have a friend along, but I draw the line at movies. I'll just wait for the dvd/Netflix.

I miss the spontaneity factor the most though. When we all were younger an unencumbered by family responsibilities, you could expect people to just take you up on a whim or drop by. Now everything requires planning because everyone has stuff, appointments, kids to be ferried about, etc.

Do you mean because they live in big cities? Because all those places are pretty far away from each other, so it's not like they can spontaneously hang out with any other siblings.

I wait for DVDs too, but I find I don't even want to watch things if there is no one to watch them with. I'd rather read in that case.

Two of my sisters live in San Francisco so they do get to hang out with each other as often as they like. But also just the big city part means they have more friends nearby.
When I also lived in Brooklyn I would drop by my sister's house whenever I felt like it and I'm sure I was over there at least once every other week. Now she is a three hour drive away and we don't see each other often just because of the usual shortage of time. She does have lots of friends that all live close enough that she can always find someone willing to go do things with pretty spontaneously. I am jealous of that.

(Anonymous)
From Megsie

This whole post resonates with me as well. Jeff and I have different interests and rarely do much together. The kids are all so busy. I also miss the years when friends were around all the time and the agenda was whatever we felt like. I haven't moved from where I grew up, and most of the friends I had in High School are still around, same with college, but our lives have gone in their own directions, and we have kept in touch, but have not stayed close. I tend to be closest to those people I see the most...so right now it is my colleagues and other hockey parents. In a crisis, I still call my best friend from High School. But, alas, I hardly ever see her in person even though she only lives about a half hour away. I get lonely too. But, I am sure glad you are here! :)

Re: From Megsie

I think we're fools, as adults, to just accept the sliding away of friendships due to prioritizing everything else... I think we'll regret it more and more. I'm glad you are one of my voices in the wilderness!

Edited at 2015-05-19 06:37 pm (UTC)

Your writing continues to impress!

I hear you on the separation from friends and family. I talk to my Iowa sister every weekend (mostly), and she often talks about how someday she wants to be living where I am, so that we can hang out and gab whenever we want. My mom is only an hour away, but it's so hard to coordinate our schedules that we have to rely on our regular Saturday morning phone call to get caught up on family news.

Trying to keep the web of connections intact takes a lot of work, and some give more effort than others. I wish we had teleporters.

I wish we did, too. I've been wishing that for a VERY long time!

(Anonymous)

(From Russell)

I think when you live overseas you tend to become closer to other expats, probably because you have in common the fact that you're each living outside your home country, and the fact that you're usually there because of your sense of adventure.

My closest friends (and you guys are of course included in that short list) are all overseas, unfortunately. So I often complain about not having many friends close by, but I think it's actually just that the friends I have the most in common with are out roaming the world or living overseas... and being expats somewhere else!

I love the fact that they have the same adventurous spirit, but I'm forced to change my thinking about my "close" friends, to realize that closeness doesn't have to be geographical. I have to get used to thinking of my closest family of friends as being on multiple continents, and only being able to communicate with them via electronic means -- at least we have that.

I have dreams of one day getting all my closest friends together and living in the same city somewhere. Or at least on the same continent. It could happen. :-)

Yeah, in your dreams. I dream about that too. :) I think you've hit the nail on the head about having to redefine "close" friends :)

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