Month: March 2015

Showing Up

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It’s been 7 whole months since we’ve hugged family.  Skype and what’s app are great, but nothing beats this! 
I think my mom would agree that I’ve always been a “do my own thing” kinda girl.  My teenage/young adult self was clear: “I’ve got my own life to live, and I’m off to live it.”  I come by it naturally, being the only child of a strong single mother.  She taught me that there’s nothing we can’t tackle.  Hang pictures.  Lift heavy things.  Fix clogged toilets.  That’s just the physical list.  The emotional list is longer.  But you do what you’ve gotta do when you’re two young women on your own.  So, I guess it’s not surprising that I developed a strong independent streak.

My mom has always supported this in me.  No matter what I’ve wanted to pursue or where I’ve wanted to go or what I’ve wanted to do, my mom has affirmed me, loved me, been proud of me.  I’m sure there have been times when she would have preferred me to be around, but instead she sent me out with her blessing, which I believe has really allowed me to embrace life and the opportunities that come my way.

Since I wasn’t a daughter who frequently flew back to the nest, mom took the initiative to fly to me.  There are a number of occasions in my adult life when I remember her being present and it being so significant to me.  One that really stands out was during my second year at Bible College in Regina.  I had been experiencing a great deal of pain, which had landed me in the emergency room for 3 nights in a row, and eventually led to an emergency appendectomy.  The surgery turned out to be a little too late, as my appendix ruptured and caused a whole host of problems for a couple of months.  Nevertheless, I vaguely remember being in the hospital room prior to surgery, on some pretty strong pain killers, and waking up to see mom by my side.  I was 20 years old, an appendectomy is fairly routine, and I had loving family nearby, but there is something so comforting about your own mother.  She didn’t have to come.  A phone call would have been great.  But, she did come.  She got on a plane and came to hold my hand.  She showed up.

There have been a number of times in my life when I have failed to show up for people I love, and I regret it.  And there have been times when I have showed up, and I’ll simply never regret it.  The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to break away from your daily routine and rhythm to step into the life of a loved one who needs you.  It is, perhaps, my greatest concern about moving far, far away – the possibility of not being able to show up for family and friends.

But in the meantime, my dear mother is here.  And my dear Larry.  They are the first to show up.  And showing up in the UAE is no small matter!  It’s expensive to get here.  And the flight is looooong.  And the time away is not easy to arrange.  I really don’t expect anyone to come- I know I couldn’t have come and visit myself!

Nevertheless, look who flew to find me.

jenandmom

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Dialed In

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It’s been 6 weeks since I went off Facebook.  If you read my post about it, it was primarily because I was sensing that I needed to focus more fully on my life here in the UAE, and less on people and events elsewhere.  That simple description makes it sound like it was easy, but it wasn’t.  I explored some of the deeper reasons why it was hard to let go of social media for a season.  Mostly, it came down to my longing to be important.  I won’t rehash that now, but it was an interesting discovery.

facbookIt turns out that a lot of the difficult lessons I’m learning lately are really freeing.  Yes, I went off Facebook.  Yes, I’ve missed out.  People have said things and posted things and experienced things and I didn’t hear about them.  And yes, I said things and thought things and experienced things, and because I didn’t post them, my Facebook friends didn’t hear about them.  But, here’s the flip side:

I’m so happy here.

It could just be a coincidence of timing.  We hit the 6 month mark, and we’re more connected and settled.  But my gut tells me that it’s not a coincidence.  I have been happier with life in Al Ain since I dialed back my contact with people far away and dialed up my contact with people here.

What’s App remains one of my lifelines.  I’m connected with all our family and most of our closest friends on there.  But now, when something happens in my life, I don’t throw it up on Facebook for the masses.  I send it to the people whose hearts are most connected with mine.  And I know each of them will reply.  And they will, in turn, share their happenings with me.  And if I’m honest, those relationships are all the long distance I can handle.  If I give each of those dear, long-distance friends and family a piece of my emotional energy, and use the rest for those who are here in front of me in Al Ain, I don’t have much left.  Well, if I’ve really invested well, I’d say, I wouldn’t have anything left.  I mean, how many truly reciprocal, authentic relationships can we maintain well at any given time?  That’s what I’ve been asking myself.

And yet, there are so many people I’m friends with on Facebook, whose friendships have been significant in my life.  For whatever beautiful season God had us together, I was impacted and I’m so grateful.  And because social media allows me to stay at least loosely connected to each of these wonderful people, I find it difficult to walk away entirely.  And yet…what is the cost to our present day relationships, when we move through life gathering new friends, aiming to maintain each one?  It’s a quandary of our age.  Simply because we are able to keep in touch with anyone we’ve ever known, we feel we should.  If I’d moved to Abu Dhabi 30 years ago, I would have held onto a few very close relationships from home through expensive phone calls and possibly letter writing.  But in this technological age, we maintain the false illusion that we can carry on with every relationship we’ve ever had.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t.  I thought I could.  But there is a price to be paid.  For every hour I spend on Facebook looking at pictures and reading articles and watching videos and dialoguing on status updates, I lose two hours in my present life: the hour I was physically on the computer, and another hour or more processing and thinking about the people and issues and events I was exposed to.

I mentioned this to Dwayne, who is a man, so perhaps we process differently…  This is how that went:

D: Can’t you just scroll through and read and think, “Hmm, that’s interesting,” and be done?
J: (blank look) No
D: (blank look) You can’t?
J: No

That’s not how I work.  I care about what people say.  I’m interested in their lives.  I’m curious about what they have posted that is so awesome.  I engage.  But, here’s what I need you to know, if you are a Facebook friend of mine.  I care about you.  I am so grateful for the time we had together face to face.  But if I engage with you less online these days, it’s because I am trying to honor the people who I’m face to face with now.  I will believe the same about you, if you pull away.  Go and live your present life.  Be blessed and be a blessing.