Thursday, February 15, 2007

Letting go

I was/am a Navy brat. So every three or four years we moved. The first couple of moves i was too young to care, but after that it became more difficult. When i was seven, we moved from San Diego to Virginia.

For the entire five years we lived in Virginia, i blamed all my problems on the move. People in Virginia weren't friendly. There were gnats and crickets in the summer and cold and ice in the winter. How could anyone live in this place and be happy? I longed for California. I spent summers there with my cousins and it was so great.

I was disabused of that notion when i was 12 and moved from Virginia to Seattle. I started to blame all my problems on Seattle. And then i went "But wait! All my problems are because of Virginia."

Sometimes someone will ask me if i think that moving around like we did was a good thing or a bad thing. The answer is yes.

I think it taught me how hard it is to move somewhere where you know absolutely no one. How utterly lonely it is to start the first day of school alone, (especially in the 8th grade, that sucked.)

Whatever, whine whine. The lasting effect i think it had on me is that it's easy for me to let people go when they or i move away. I already know the cycle of letter writing and phone calls and how those will diminish over time and the memory of that person and what they once were to me fades. So i skip those steps and give up right away.

I am not proud of this. I think it's a defect.

I wish i still knew someone that i went to high school, or even college with. I guess you could count the Mister because i met him in college. He and i have moved together 3 or 4 times too. San Jose, Seattle, Colorado, back to Seattle.

We do have one friend that we still know and love from when we were in San Jose.

Hmmm, i just had another thought (stand back, i might explode).... Most of the people that i have made friends with in a new place were friendships of convenience. So maybe i just didn't like most of them enough to make the long distance part work.

And what does that say about me?


Special K ~Toni said...

As an Air Force wife, as well as a former child who went to 11 schools, I completely understand what you are talking about! I wouldn't say it was just a friendship of convenience, rather we grow and change, and have different things going on in our lives. That's how I deal with it. I seem to make 1 or 2 really good friends where ever I live, but after being apart a few years, yes, we stop keeping in touch.

Anonymous said...

Well Meno, I totally relate. I changed schools every year because my parents were divorced and I just basically ping-ponged whenever the whim would strike me or if things got too heated. The most I spent in one school is two consecutive years. All in all I think I benefited from the experience. I can adjust to about any situation and am never intimidated upon meeting someone new. But... I always burn my bridges. I met a fantastic woman in class this year. When we finished last week, she told me : you are one of the best things I got out of this training. Let's keep in touch. I mean it. I am not going to be burning this bridge.

Mother of Invention said...

It is hard for me to relate but I understand that yours is a totally learned response and a good way to cope with what situation you were in. Heck, my parents still live in the house we moved to when I was in Gr. 3,in 1960! I went to the same area schools since Kindergarten and still have my best friend from Gr. 3! My experience is a little narrow. I don't mind meeting new people but it is hard to keep up with anyone who doesn't live near you as an adult.

Lynn said...

It says that you're good at protecting yourself and that you're human.

Joan said...

I can relate. When I was in 11th grade, we moved a significant distance away from my friends. As the world's shyest teen, the experience was traumatizing and I've never been able to form deep-lasting friendships on my own since then. The friends we have now I inherited when I married my husband who has maintained friendships with people from high school, college and beyond. He's always said his friends are mine but, in some way, I've felt cheated for not having my own.

Anonymous said...

My father was in the army from the time I was born until I was 11 years old. We moved every two years during that time. Being younger, I actually loved moving. The opportunity for NEW was a favorite thrill for me. To this day, I am a restless citizen. I wish I could pick up and move when the urge struck. As it is, I have to settle for rearranging furniture and painting walls new colors.

I can imagine it would have been much harder as a teenager, but I was lucky that we settled before then.

Like you, I also let go of people and things easily. As an adult, I've never been able to make strong, intimate friendships. I know hundreds of people, and I have plenty of "associates", but only one close friend (and even that friendship has faded over time) so I feel that void too.

Thank goodness for the internet, or I'd never have anyone to confide in!

Anonymous said...

I haven't moved around a whole lot, really - I'm not sure I've EVER lived more than 70 miles from where I was born - but I think I understand the friendship question.

I am a freak of nature when it comes to friendships. I'm devoted and fierce in them - I judge the value of my life by the people who share in it. Most of that comes from growing up in an abusive household, though, so I recognize it as a pathology. Yours is likely the same, though borne of different circumstances. You were never given the opportunity to form lasting bonds, and so you just pattern your friending from that experience.

Either way is okay, really - it's whatever works for the individual. I don't think it reflects negatively on you, though - anymore than I think my friending reflects positively on me. There are a few friends I SHOULD let go of - or at least allow more distance from - but I keep going back to my old patterns, too...

Anonymous said...

You developed a pattern in response to conditions. You could change, but beware you subconscious, which cleaves to patterns. You might make a conscious decision to change, but the subconscious part of you that clutches the old ways will resist you in every which way. Still, it's cool to keep friends from various stages, so attempting change might be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

One more thing: since EVERYONE in the blogosphere adores you, I pity all the fools you left behind, for they must have adored you too.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Navy brat too! I have a lot of the same characteristics as you and the rest of the commenters who've moved a lot too. I always wanted to be the one who moved because it was easier to make friends when you were new than to make friends in the same place when all your friends had moved away. I now live in my husband's home town and have lived in the same house for almost 17 years. Weird, although kind of nice. I do find that I am far more restless than other people I know. I'm always looking for something new and different to do and I get bored easily.


Andrea Frazer said...

Wow, does everyone who read your blog have moving stories? Not me. I'm born and raised in the same spot. Moving terrifies me, but it's something I aim to do. I'm so social in some ways, and so freakish in others. I like my little routines. I like knowing every neighbor. Lucky for me my personality is so fabulous, I never worry about pissing people off so it's okay that I will see them forever (okay, half kidding there.)

meno said...

toni, i'm glad it's not just me. The Mister is an AF brat, and he moved every 8 months until his dad retired when he was 12.

hi caro, i think i benefitted from it too, but i do dream sometimes of having people around, not family, with whom i have been friends all my life. I just wonder what that would be like. Keep in touch with your new friend!

MOI, Wow, i can barely imagine that. I think you are lucky.

lynn, hmmm, i hadn't thought of it that way. I am kind of reserved.

joan, 11th grade? That must have been horrible. All the friendships in high school are pretty much formed by then. That's sweet of your husband to say, but it's not the same.

greent, i think if i had moved MORE often as a child it might have been easier, but i really had time to get entrenched before we were off again. I have some friends, but they are not easy for me to find.

mrs.chili, i am pretty fierce about my friends too. But there are not many of them to be fierce about. I sometimes think it's because i am odd. Which is true, but it's also a learned behavior, like you say.

holly, i'll have to think about whether or not i even want to change this pattern. I don't have to move any more in my life unless i want to. And the last people that i loved who moved away i do keep in touch with. In fact we spent Christmas in DC with them. (As for the adoration, thank you. (i am choking on my natural response to argue with you) :) )

liz, it was easier when i was younger, but when the Mister and i moved to Colorado we had the hardest time finding people to be friends with. It felt almost like a cultural divide.

mamap, yes, they do, and so do you, just maybe not on this topic. If you ever do move, remember it is really really hard.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine moving, we have been here so long and there is so much stuff. Except I CAN imagine selling everything and moving to the west coast of Ireland. Or even into the mountains of North Carolina. But my best friends, they moved away years ago and I have never been able to make friends of the same level of closeness since. I've kept close to a couple of them but 1000 miles, well, that hurts.

I associated friendly-ly with the moms of my daughter's friends, but there was always something that kept me from getting tight. Either I do not want to make and lose that bond again or I have become lazy.

Anonymous said...

One of the advantages of moving around as a child, is it provides you a greater view of the world, and you are more likely to accept people are inherently different from place to place, rather than rejecting them because they are not like you.

We aren't always meant to engage in long term relationships with everyone we meet. Sometimes we only require their strength for a brief time. My childhood was stationary, and now at thirty-two, I live sixty miles from the town I grew up in (not by choice, just by circumstance). I graduated with 250 kids, but I have not stayed in touch with any of them (I could say the same about college)....It's not always about constant relocation, sometimes it is simply the people we are. I have a few close friends, and a lot of acquaintances (I'm loyal to both), and there are some that I've lost track of over the years. It takes two to maintain a friendship over time and distance. I like to think that I am still in the process of growing, sometimes I outgrow friends, but sometimes they outgrow me.

Anonymous said...

Meno, argue away. Don't let my admiration dissuade you. What I suggested was a sliver of what I once studied and taught: that all organisms want to live another day and the way we've configured our responses to the world has led us through so many days. So, on a subconscious level, we all sabatouge change, for why, the subconscious mind assumes, should we change when our good old ways have brought us all the way through our lives.

Or, as Walt Kelly wrote, "We has met the enemy and it is us."

How many people truly change? Few. Few. Most people commit slow suicide rather than change. Suicide by sugar. By fast food. By drama. By sloth. By the stress of purchasing more than they can afford. And so on.

Our conscious mind might want change, but the subconscious mind undercuts it. And the subconscious mind is cunning. And seductive. It's Hannibal Lecter in a blue dress.

So, argue. Our mutual affection can work like a well-made pot and hold the heat that conflict generates.

Anonymous said...

P.S. - Your subconscious doesn't want to change the pattern and might have already persuaded your conscious that inertia rocks.

However, I'm not suggesting that you should change this pattern, but as you contemplate change, keep an inward eye on that tricky, blue-dressed devil of a subconscious.

Susanne said...

I have a theory that there are people to whom lasting friendship come easily and others to whom it doesn't. I haven't been able to sustain any friendship longer than a few years. My husband on the other hand had friendships that started in kindergarten.

One factor was that I moved more than him (we're living in the house where he was born), but then he is always so nice and caring and never forgets to send somebody a card or phone him.

Then we found out that he just kept these friendships because of habit. That he had changed and his friends didn't even realize. I, on the other hand seem to have changed so much every few years that people don't even recognize me when I tell them my name. Even when we have shared an appartment for two years. So slowly he has been weeding out the friends with whom he has nothing in common anymore and now he feels much better.

And yes, I'd like to have people around who have known me since forever but this isn't going to happen.

Mona Buonanotte said...

I never had to move as a fact, the very thought of it gave me nightmares. Consequently, I have a hard time when someone moves away, or closes up their blog.

I wish I could take a skosh of your ability to let go.

sari said...

My parents divorced when I was eight. I went to three elementary schools, one junior high and four high schools. I moved out when I was twenty and moved every time my lease was up into a different apartment. I've lived in four states (including Washington state, that was a diaster for me) and actually since I've been married is the longest I've ever stayed anywhere.

I think that it's been really hard for me to have friends as well, but in the last four years (and it's been a long and gradual process) I've started actually being a friend and that has helped. I have friends that are the parents of children that go to school with Eight, but I have chosen people that I want to know better and it's actually turned out well. Not fabulous, I'm still pretty loner-ish, but it's a big start for me.

I also have found some friends on the internet that I actually have penpal relationships with, outside the computer. I like sending letters and getting postcards and things. I don't really see distance as an obstacle in those sorts of relationships, though I have met a lot of people (you included!) that when I think of them I think "Wouldn't it be great to be able to just go pick her up and go to a bookstore?" or something like that.

I seem to have found a lot of people I have things in common with on the internet, and gosh darn it none of them live anywhere near me. Where are the people near me that are like me? It's hard to know.

ps sorry this is sooooo long.

Bob said...

I could write a blog post in response to this, I'll try not to.

I too am a military brat - Air Force. I moved every two years (except 3.5 spent in Germany) until we settled here. I've always had few friends and have kept up with none, except college roommate. That's my one lasting friendship (except my wife) and the longest (not excepting my wife) - 26 years. (I spent 45 minutes on the phone with him yesterday.)

We've lived in this town for going on 17 years and I have 1 friend here. I know 3 or 4 of my neighbors.

I don't make friends easily. I have a lot of acquaintances. I differentiate between them. Obviously my standards (or walls) are high. I would assume the same applies to you. If you don't form close relationships, then there's nothing to end when you move on. self defense.

Maybe that's why my memories of my mother's family are so strong and mean so much to me. They have been one of the few constants in my life and the longest relationships I have.

And they are leaving me, one at a time.

I hate funerals.

Anonymous said...

How you could have time for anything outside of this blog and all the ones you visit, let alone form lasting friendships is beyond me. My theory (because I'm sort of forgetting that post where you lament sitting on your ass doing nothing) is that you keep yourself 98% involved in life, so as soon as someone is gone, something else fills the void.

In just a few months, I've noticed how well you remember the details of my life, and it's a safe bet you do the same for these dozens of others. I don't think it's an attachment issue.

Friendships made in youth are friendships of convenience too: the girl I sat next to in English, the girl who lived around the corner, the daughter of my mother's friend, the people who join the same activities or elective classes as I do, the co-worker who also likes to run at lunchtime...

Anonymous said...

Bob, you are wise to differentiate friends and acquaintances. I've had people label me as a friend and I don't even know their names.

You are also wise to remember that people do leave us: every single one of them. Sometimes when I'm out walking, I'll remind myself: "Everyone you see will be gone in a hundred years and other than perhaps their names, mostly forgotten. Live accordingly."

I like what sober-b wrote about many friendships being connections of convenience. I think we're lucky to have 2 or 3 true friends in our lives. Over at myspace, people collect dozens/hundreds/thousands of friends. I think they're sillies over there.

thailandchani said...

It says you are perfectly normal. :) We make friends for various reasons but that true connection that allows for a lot of distance and flexibility is rare.



shara said...

Yes, old friends are a comfort, but sometimes you meet people you immediately get to that stage with, it's a familiarity of compressed lifetimes. Friends are friends, they come and go, everything comes and goes, doesn't it? I suppose a balance of long-standing and short-lived situational friendships would be seen as a good thing. I'm just happy anyone puts up with me, I'm a bad correspondent, hate making phone calls, and that sometimes gets translated as indifference, or carelessless or something, I don't know. I'm babbling, it's been one of those mornings. This was very interesting to read, though, and I don't mean that in the "oh, that's very....interesting" euphemistic kind of way, I mean it held my interest start to finish, I don't know if it was the subject matter or writing style or the directness of it, the self-awareness I suppose, in any case, it was a good read, and went perfectly with my coffee. :)

karmic said...

Perhaps what you did is a self defense/preservation mechanism. The only thing I can offer is when I moved to this country.. I hardly knew anyone.
And then we moved a lot too, till we finally settled down. So I sort of know what you mean.

egan said...

Real life friendships are more work to maintain anyways. That's why I like to stick to the virtual ones. The expectations are low and you can "visit" as often as you like.

Seriously though, no worries. This is how life works. The long distance stuff is challenging. It takes two willing parties to keep them going.

Anonymous said...

As you know I am in the middle of a big move. My kids have had to move a lot and I have moved a lot. My way of thinking is that it is a lot of work to maintain a really true and great friendship. I usually only have one really close friend at any given time and a few regular friends and tons of acquaintances. I try to be kind, to listen and be involved with everyone. Imagine if you spent an hour on the phone or going out to lunch even once a week with everyone you have ever been close to, soon your hours would disappear.

I feel like friendship, kindness to others, etc. Is like Karma you extend to others and you get in return. Who the others are, if it is someone you have known 5 minutes or your entire life is negligible. It is to me important to be engaged. You seem pretty darned engaged, with your husband, your daughter, your current friends, us bloggers. It seems to me that remaining fully engaged in all the minutest details of the lives of our friends who are now far away seems like it would take away from the time we have for our family and the new friends close by?

I have a friend who keeps up with everyone all the time, she spends thousands of dollars at Christmas on cards and presents to everyone she has ever met. I think that takes away from the time she has for her husband, kids, and neighbors. But, we are all different.

Lynnea said...

I've made two major moves in my life. Both times I discovered this phenomenon of attempting to stay connected and then over time it dwindles. I have yet to find a friend that has lasted for years and across the miles I've moved. And friends of convenience I have learned about too. Making friends at a job was so easy because you automatically had something in common. Now being a mom at home, well finding friends is a lot toughter - you have to work harder to find the commonality between you and others. But perhaps when those friendships seed and grow they will be the lasting type?

Tink said...

I hear ya on moving. Only, I wasn't a Navy brat. We were like gypsies. I wonder somedays what the hell we were running from...or towards.

I'm grateful for it because now I can adapt to damn near anything. I don't mind being alone and I can handle pretty much anything by myself.

But the loneliness sucks. I don't know where any of my old friends are. Sometimes I pretend to care too. But in the end, life moves on. It's too hard to keep track of anyone outside of that.

meno said...

ac, Ireland would be cool. It's also a great way to get rid of crap too, moving i mean. I wonder if i am lazy or protective of myself too.

patches, i agree that it provides you with a wider view of the world. I also like what you say about needing people's strength at a certain time. i have certainly had that happen.

holly, i have to smile at the imagery of what you have written. It is obvious that you are a writer. Hannibal Lecter in a blue dress indeed. I think i just accept the inevitable loss of closeness faster than most people because of my life experiences. More realistic is not necessarily a reason to change.

susanne, i like your theory. And i like what your difference said to your husband. The friends of inertia are not always the best.

mona, practice has made it easier. But is this really practice you want to have? I dunno?

sari, mu blog is a no-apology zone. I love your comment. I also wonder where the people like me are around here. I mean, they must be around, but where are they? 4 high schools? That must have really been an experience. I only went to one and that was bad enough.

bob, wow, another incredibly articulate and moving response. My walls are high too. I just sometimes, not always because they have often served me well, wish they were lower.

meno said...

de, i have time because i am retired and my child is not a young 'un anymore. I am not on-call for juice and food and ass-wiping 24/7. Work did have many friendships of convenience. I miss them a bit, but not enough to have a job. I remember the details that you have told us because i am interested. And you were one of my first. :)

holly, bob is a wise man who accepts who he is. Even my daughter eschews the idiocy at myspace for it's shallowness.

chani, yes, i should remember how rare it is. Thanks for the reminder.

shara, do you ever get to that stage with someone immediately and then find out you were wrong? I'm pleased that you found it interesting and i thank you for telling me so.

sanjay, i am sad when people leave, but i know i'll get over it. And that makes me sad too. Conflicted? me?

egan, i like my virtual friends alot too. :) Easy to maintain, they are all over the world, and i can do it on my terms.

marsha, i though about you as i was writing this too, with your kids and your house hunting and moving across the entire planet. I think your friend is weird. I have known a few people like that. I avoid them in case they want a card or a present back.

maggie, now that i am retired, with somewhat less opportunity for friends of convenience, i find i have to expend more energy to connect. It's damn good for me too, who would rather stay home and hide.

tink, it's funny about being a military "brat", everyone knows that it means you had a peripatetic childhood. But you don't have that shorthand explanation to fall back on. It does make for an adaptable and accepting person because we know just how bad things could be.

Lynnea said...

Oh I'm a hider too. I'm just barely (after almost three years) coming out of hiding. But I say just barely because the extent of getting out to possibly meet people has reached to going to the gym. More plans on the horizon, just have to force myself into it.

Sinda said...

I had a similar childhood, and I agree with you - it's both good and bad. I do think that I'm more adaptable and can more easily step into a new situation, group of people, etc. than I could have without that training. BUT, it also taught me that if things are bad, just wait - soon enough you can leave and start over. Not a good lesson.

My husband grew up in one city, and still has friends from elementary school - I'm always amazed. I've turned down several promotions in order to remain in Austin so that my kids can have a chance at that as well.

A few years ago, some good friends announced their plans to move across the country - I think I mentally dropped them immediately. So I'm with you there too - though-provoking post, thank you.

QT said...

What an interesting post! I only moved twice growing up, but they were at key times, the last time in the middle of my junior year of high school. This was pretty hard for me to take, and I think it is definitley when I developed my outer "shell", which has come in quite handy as an adult, but oh the price I paid!

As for you, I don't think it says anything bad about you that you chose not to maintain a long distance friendship. It is difficult and easier to grow apart from someone who does not share in your every day life.

Lucia said...

I grew up in the same place, and STILL don't know anyone from high school or college anymore. Sometimes I feel guilty. Then again, after that, and into adulthood, I have a few close friends who will be my friends for a long, long time, and they're spread out all over the U.S. (not really, they're concentrated in CA and MO/KS).

meno said...

maggie, you are also dealing with a new language, and small children. But your hair looks fabulous.

daisy-sinda, Em has also been in the same city since she was less than a year old. I did it on purpose too, just like you. But i do like the adaptability.

qt, i feel for you having to move at such a critical time. That shell is useful, but it also blocks some good stuff too. Balance i guess.

lucia, i did go to high school in this town too, or quite nearby, and i suppose i could track down some people if i wanted to. But obviously i don't. Thaanks for commenting from Rwanda, it's a thrill to think of you there.