Being introspective by nature, every so often I become aware I'm in a period of self-examination. I question why I'm doing what I'm doing and what I hope to gain or achieve with it. For example, I've been doing a lot of food preservation this summer. Why? Do I really think it's going to be a difficult winter or is it just a fad to fill the hours emptied of people by the Covid-19 pandemic? Am I doing the work because I want to or because someone influenced me to do it? Or is it a bit of both with a dash of "I enjoy it" tossed into the mix?
Lately, my thoughts have also been dwelling on the nature of friendship. I know a lot of people. Social media has extended everyone's circle but those closest to me are still those I've had a flesh, blood, and bone relationship with since my youth. There is time and distance between some of us now, but we can pick up the conversation like that space never exists. My writer friend in Alabama is a prime example of that. Just thinking about her makes me want to charge up the phone and call her. We haven't chatted for far too long, and sometimes an email isn't enough. I want to hear her laughter.
What troubles me these days is the nature of the social media relationship with mental health and the effect it has on friendships. I see social media in its many forms as a valuable tool. As a writer, it helps me promote my books and gives me insight into what people with vastly different perspectives think. (Yes, that gets scary.) The Internet has brought a group of friends to me, people I never would have gotten to know otherwise. I value my modern-day pen pals.
But being in a time of introspection, I wonder if a few of them have become toxic. My life seems to have diverged from theirs. I like to think of myself as mature, but sometimes those ill-advised jabs tossed at me hurt and the sting doesn't lessen. I'm suddenly callused about what I now view as their insignificant concerns. To be truthful, I'm not one to forget a slur even after being tendered an apology. I can forgive because I understand the imperfections of human nature, jealousy being a prime candidate to toss nasty barbs at someone you call "friend."
Have I grown through having these Internet friendships? Perhaps. Would I have grown in the same manner without them? Perhaps. I still mourn the loss of my friend author Chris Grover, with whom I had daily email conversations. Would I have made different decisions and followed different paths without my Internet friends? I think that's unlikely. My feet are firmly planted on a path I laid out for myself decades ago and one I've never wavered from wanting.
So why am I frequently troubled by the nature of some of these long-standing "friendships?" Perhaps it's because some of those barbs show a surprising lack of tolerance with my choice to delve deeper into the heritage of my country lifestyle.
And perhaps it's all me. Maybe I have grown and they feel left behind, outstripped. That, too, is simply life. There is no going back, at least not for me.
The Lady of The Hideaway