This morning I woke from a dream involving technical difficulties in Skyping with friends far away. The melancholy of the dream combined with PMS led to me crying into my coffee grounds.
Remember that horrible homesickness the first night you spent away from home? That was me this morning. I wondered how I would survive two more months before I headed to Colorado to celebrate my 40th birthday with “my girls.” Then, as I swapped my third text with one of these friends, I remembered this wonderful invention called the telephone.
In a world full of email, texting and Facebook, I often forget you can actually talk to someone in real-time. In fact, my friend and I used to talk nearly every night on our respective drives home from work. Those frequent calls ended when I started having to pick up my daughter from school and I felt it would be rude of me to jabber away while she stared into space in the backseat. So my friend and I took our conversations online over instant messages sent throughout the day. It worked because we still saw each other a few times month.
When the geographic logistics of a relationship change, you have to adapt. In-person outings are no longer an option, but online-only communication doesn’t work for maintaining relationships.
What I remembered this morning is that when you can’t be in the same room with someone, having that person’s voice fill the room you’re in is definitely the next best thing.
An hour later, I was happy again. Despite the rain outside, the world felt sunny.
I must change ways of communicating because if you want to remain part of someone’s life, a text message doesn’t cut it. You need to know what that person had for dinner, how they rearranged their furniture, what the traffic was like on their drive home. It sounds a bit silly, but these mundane details are the glue that holds relationships together.
So I’m developing ways to keep that glue strong. Here are a few of my thoughts.
- Use technology where it counts. Last week, I gave a friend a virtual tour of my new townhouse. Tuesday, I’ll have my first book club event via Skype. I hope to soon set up a Skype date with the two friends I used to meet regularly for Indian food. Just because we’re in different states doesn’t mean we can’t sit on our balconies with a glass of wine and shoot the shit.
- Become friends with Alexander Graham Bell’s fabulous invention. It’s amazing how just hearing someone’s voice makes the distance fade away.
- Smile for the camera. If a picture’s worth 1,000 words, you can say a lot by using your viewfinder to share everything you experience. It may seem silly that I sent my friend photos of how I arranged my daughter’s closet or that she plans to send me photos of how she rearranged her kitchen to accommodate her wedding gifts, but if we were in the same state, we’d be showing each other these things and it wouldn’t seem silly at all.
Sharing the daily “unimportant” stuff makes it easier to keep the channels of communication open when it’s time to talk about the big stuff. I didn’t realize the importance of that when I moved away from family and friends the first time, and my relationships took the hit because of it.
I’m wise enough not to make the same mistake twice. You can always make new friends, but old friends are worth their weight in gold. You do what it takes to keep them—even if it means changing the way you’ve always done things.