Monday, January 26, 2009

Cyber Sulking

Actually I've been cyber skulking more than sulking. I've been skulking around the blogosphere, reading blogs, but with no energy somehow to comment, lurking on ebay, writing emails, doing my BYKI computer Albanian. The computer is a very accurate barometer of my pyschological & emotional well being. When I'm down or bored or feeling lonely I turn to virtual reality. Sad really. When I'm busy & active & involved in stuff, I obviously have less time, but also less need.


Trouble is when I'm really low I don't even blog, which is not good as I find it a very creative outlet. I just lack the motivation to sit, think, create, edit. I feel lethargic. That's why I hypocritically argue against my children spending time on the computer, the Nintendo, watching dvds, because it's largely passive & solitary.

The cyber sulking was induced by email silence. From my friends. I get fed up sometimes always being the one to write, or I write to friends and a week, 2, 3 even 4 wks go by and I don't get a reply. Sometimes I never get a reply. You then wonder if they didn't get it, but you can't write & ask. If you write again it looks too keen. I was brought up always to reply to any letter sent. Maybe that colours my reaction to this silence. It's seems rude. A blogging friend (she's very wise) pointed out that perhaps I'm cross for needing my friends more than they need me.


Ah, how true. I'm cross that they are leading bustling, fulfilling lives & are certainly not sitting around waiting for me to write to them, & even less likely to spend time sitting around sending emails. Too busy leading real lives...


Trouble is it's hard not to feel needy, particularly where friendship is concerned, when you are living abroad, in an alien culture with an unknown tongue, amidst many frustrations, much loneliness, & a lack of emotional support and when you have been used to the ample and comfortable bosom of a strong support network 'back home'.


When an email does pop into my Inbox, I find I pounce on it, and then have to work very hard at resisting the urge to respond immediately, thus scaring off my friend, or becoming what this same blogging friend was herself called , a "dauntingly good correspondent" Speaks volumes doesn't it? It says in 3 words:


  • You write too much
  • You write back too quickly
  • You write too often
  • You scare me with your keenness
  • I can't compete
  • and probably 'I don't intend to try & match that'.


Or am I reading too much subtext?



I think Christmas is what did it for me. One of the things I love about Christmas is the post. Real letters & cards. It's the gold wrapped truffle in the Christmas chocolate box. for me. We have always sent & received a lot of cards. Increasingly rare in today's cyber world, & thus even more of a treat to receive. But I also love receiving emails (still a chocolate truffle, but maybe silver wrapped. You can't hang them on festive ribbons from the ceiling after all) People send greetings & catch up with you, sometimes a once a year occurrence only, but others more frequently, but always an annual dead cert.



Except this year it wasn't. We heard from fewer people than we ever have. And I wondered why, and then I went into a cyber sulk, as January slipped by & I realised we weren't going to...

You try & make excuses by saying well, people are very busy, it's a hectic time of year, I know it is. You try not to come to the conclusion that people don't care, or aren't thinking of you, or have forgotten. And these are good friends, some of these are friends whose children are our Godchildren...(& I can write this here because I also know they don't read my blog. Too busy for that too.) But I can't escape the notion that you make time for what you want to make time for. People aren't too busy to clean their teeth or change their clothes are they? I wonder if it's because we're 'abroad' now. Gone. Moved on. I feel like saying "No, no, moved away, not moved on" Or am I supposed to move on? But then whatever happened to 'Forever friends?'

Communication is SO easy these days & so cheap, even free, yet no-one skypes, or even make the time to send a one line email which would be so easy. Shamefully easy. A cop out almost. Yet we would have been grateful. Pathetically grateful, and devoured the crumbs offered.

I will paint a picture for you. First of all we live in a street with no name, on the top floor of a villa with no number. We have no landline, no letter box, we live out of the city centre. I am sure, to a Westerner, not being assaulted by the phone ringing would be bliss, not having unwelcome callers would be nice, for a while. But picture day in day out being like that. It can get quite lonely. The phone never rings, no mail plops into our non existent letter box, people don't pop in when just passing. I can say hello & how are you in Albanian but that's about it with my neighbours.

I am reasonably o.k a year on, in this country, until my routine slips, the few regular fixtures in my week which give it shape, & then it's just me & I'm not so o.k. Several things have not started up again for various reasons this year. Also a driver takes my son & 6 other children to school. All parents do this here because the traffic is so bad & it's a cheap option. It does, however, mean there's no loitering by the school gate, meeting other mums.

I love 'busy-ness. In the UK, I was a part-time teacher, I ran the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, I ran a mums' group, I organised a parenting course, I helped set up & run arts & crafts at a toddler group, I was on various committees, we always had an a open house, had people to stay, people dropped by. It makes the contrast even starker.

My brother who has just returned from 3/12 yrs in New Zealand, & my sister, who spent 7 yrs in Canada & other friends, all say this is universal ex-pat abroad experience; surprise at who does write, surprise at who never does, the experience of feeling forgotten or neglected by people back home, people not being interested in what you do or what life's like. Out of sight out of mind etc. I gather there's a whole raft of similar stuff to deal with in reverse when you DO move back. But I'm certainly not going to think about that now.


I have come to the conclusion if you haven't lived abroad that people back home have no idea what it's like, but also little realisation of how so very little goes such a long way in making one feel thought of & connected.


So I haven't been writing, this is what has been on my mind but it's introspective & perhaps too honest, & let's face it, not hugely entertaining. But that's the stuff I write about.

You know what though, 4 things really cheered me up last week, and they all occurred in the blogosphere where I DO feel cared for, and have people to correspond with who know what it's like.

I have gained a friend from my Oxford community back home, whom I didn't know very well at all when living there. It started through her reading my blog. She has sent me parcels of stuff I can't get here because she bothered to write & ask what she could send me. And she writes me long chatty emails. And she works, and she has kids & she helps her husband run a busy boarding house with 60 boys, who she provides food for every Sat night. And is in a book club, runs a church group taking up evenings too. She has made time for me, and I am grateful & humbled by that. She acted like a real friend before we even became real friends. I think it is no coincidence that she is an ex-pat herself, a South African living in Oxford. She understands.


Wife in Hong Kong very kindly gave me an award last week, which says:
Blogs who receive this award are "exceedingly charming," says its authors. This award is a fine one because it focuses not on the glory and fanfare of blogging, but in the PROXIMITY to one another through this online-world. This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY--nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award."

That's just what I'm talking about here. Iota has been corresponding with me, having virtual cappucinos, and has generally been cheering me up (& look at what she's just blogged about) & Reluctant Memsahib noticed I'd been very quiet on my blog and asked if I was ok.

That's why I keep going back to the 'blogosphere' because there's a community there which is, maybe in virtual reality, but they are real people who have offered me real friendship & support. And managed to bring me out of my cyber sulk. For that, and for them, I am grateful.

22 comments:

nappy valley girl said...

I'm cross with your friends on your behalf - I hate people that are crap (and seem to know lots of people that are).

Being too busy to keep in touch is a rubbish excuse, and one usually used by people who actually don't have that much to do, but are just disorganised!

Potty Mummy said...

It's just thoughtlessness on their part I'm sure, but like NVG I'm cross with them too. Maybe you should get them to set up an RSS feed to your blog so that they know to check in regularly when you update it - even if you are cross with them, they can read it along with the rest of us and feel as embarrassed as they should. Also, have you joined the British Mummy Bloggers yet? There's a link on my sidebar if you fancy it. Not sure what it will add to your life other than more ether input but sometimes that helps...

Feel better...

Iota said...

I feel I have so little to say, except take your friendship where you can, and if cyber-friends are working for you, then hang out with us, Cyber Sistah.

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Thanks, sistahs. Much appreciated. And PM I've joined the British Mummy Bloggers, just waiting for to be 'approved'. Is this what it feels like when joining a gentlemaen's club I wonder. Not that I guess any of you wd know.....

AG said...

Thank you. What can i say? You made me cry! (at work!) and you haven't even received the parcel with Weetabix in it yet!

A Modern Mother said...

Hi there,

Just found you...

I too am an expat with multiple identities.

I too respond way too fast to emails.

I too got very few cards this year. I put it down to people being green. Maybe there was more too it.

Oh, well.

Happy to meet you.

Parisgirl said...

I know exactly what you mean and it is very depressing. When I left the UK several years ago my friends and colleagues assured me they'd be out to visit, keeping in touch, calling, writing whatever. Years on and only a handful have ever come out and we're a Eurostar away, the calls are rare and the Christmas cards even rarer. I don't think it's mean or deliberate but thoughtlessness and the perils of being an expat...sadly, as the saying goes: Out of sight, out of mind.

Sarah said...

Hello! I've just come across your blog via 'An Aerial Armadillo'. I loved her blog so much that I scanned her blog list and randomly picked yours to read first!

I have been an expat in New Zealand (from the UK) for ten year's now and I can so relate to everything you say. I almost had a tear in my eye reading this post, as I have been there.

I have found it incredibly sad when new friends I've made here move overseas and never even drop an e-mail at Christmas, even though we shared so much together. I write cards and phone for a certain amount of time, but when I am always the one to initiate the correspondence it only naturally feels a little sad.

Like you, I make excuses for them and try to think positively of them 'living in the moment'. But then, other friends have stayed in touch and understand the value of long-distance communication and the joy of reunions - even when they're year's later.

There is no excuse. The reality is that some of us are just better at keeping in touch - but I really believe (or hope!) that some of those good friends do still hold me and my family in their thoughts - they are just darn useless at showing it!

Hugs to you,

Sarah

Nobby&Me said...

Hello, I am another expat who stumbled across your blog via NVG as I was skulking too. I spent 4 years in France and now we are in Hungary. The children are out all day and already have very busy social lives. I am just the cook, cleaner and taxi service. We went back to the UK for Christmas and saw lots of friends. On the good side we all just picked up where we left off, the friendships are still there and functioning. But I felt indignant that they were all just getting on with their lives without me... surely my departure should have a left a bigger hole than that? As someone else said, its a hazard of being an expat. To those 'left behind' it all sounds very glamorous and they all say they will visit to sample a slice of your new life, but something else always comes up and I feel that I am 'out of sight, out of mind'.

Thank goodness we have blogging as an outlet. I will put you on my 'following' list now - I'll be back! Hang in there!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Yes, I guess it takes one (ex-pat) to know one. Good to know I'm not alone! And it's true you can pick up where you left off when you go back, and many of my friends have been friends for 20 yrs, so I'm not about to lose them. Just wish they'd communicate a bit more! And it does always seem to be 'us abroad' that do the initiating.

AndrewC said...

Moving overseas (kiwi living in chicago) has made me realise just who my real friends are...the ones that have bothered to stay in contact....i love your cyber sulking piece and i have fwded it to all of the ex-pats i know...its exactly how i feel.

expateek said...

Hey, I'm there with ya. We've been abroad for almost 7 years (3 different postings) and it does get old (doing all the initiating of contact).

I feel like I live mostly virtually of late... but we're moving again (packers arrive Monday) so everything's shutting down here. We're actually moving back to the States, where we're from (Chicago) and I'm only half looking forward to it. I think I've changed an awful lot.

Thinking of you, as another understanding expat, x

nappy valley girl said...

Hi there, have 'photo tagged' you over at mine....

mothership said...

Somehow the onus is always on the ones who are away to stay in touch with the ones who are at home. I also get this, and having been away for five long years I feel that I can really tell who my real friends are - and they are not necessarily the people that i spent most of my time hanging out with!
I've just started a group called mums abroad on the British Mummy Bloggers network. So far I'm the only member so come and join me and we can cyber sulk together!

Wife in Hong Kong said...

Very moved by what you wrote. There is no excuse for not communicating in this day and age. It's just that some people don't realise the significance of a letter/email/card when you are far removed from home. I have always been the one to move away so take with me the onus to communicate with others I've left behind. And inevitably it leads to disappointment in some areas and the occasional pleasant surprise elsewhere. I identify very strongly with what you write so please don't give up. We really appreciate you!

Parisgirl said...

At least you have some hope of "going back". Imagine what it's like for us stuck abroad! x

Brandi, Dana and Briana Bates said...

Hello Jacquie! I hope you remember me, your mom's friend Brandi who works in development in a coal-mining region in Romania. I've enjoyed the times we've been in Oxford at the same time and I've gotten a chance to talk with you. And boy am I glad I visited your blog today because what you've posted there is almost precisely what I've had in my mind to write since Christmas. I have lately felt like I am in the "winter" of my life as an expat, except that unfortunately it will either be a very long winter or one of many since we expect to be expats for most of our lives. I've been away long enough that friends no longer have me/us in their recent memories...therefore until I come around again I kind of can't expect much or anything. I even had to orchestrate my own family sending us a Christmas package...that began a similar depression and loneliness. And I know that people have people move away from them all the time, but when some of your only friends move away (as ours did right before Christmas)from an already very-stark social landscape, it is devastating. Briana and I have just stopped short of wearing black...we are certainly in mourning. I am currently blogging (rather intermittently) at The Other Princesses: http://brandianddanabates.blogspot.com/ . Would you please send me your mailing address so that Briana and I could send your children some new kids music we've been enjoying (cyber sulking often ends up in iTunes purchasing for us, which surprisingly does fill the silence)? Can you receive a couple CD's easily without having to wait all day in a customs office?
Thank you for voicing what it seems many of us are feeling. Precisely when communication is so stinking easy, why do so many stink at it!?
With love from Romania, Brandi

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