Sunday, September 26, 2010

The New Social Circle

I remember when the internet first appeared.  It was lauded as the new way to bring people together from around the globe.  But it didn't really do that as soon as everyone expected.  For the business world, yes, it was great, and it was great right away.  But for everyday people like you and me, we learned quickly that we had to be careful.  Yeah, it was a cool idea, and you might have some "'friends" in chat rooms or bulletin boards (remember when those were the only ways to "connect" outside of email?) but there wasn't much of a connection beyond that.  Everyone was wary of sexual predators and serial killers, especially when their teenage children were exploring the internet.

Over time, people got more relaxed.  I know my mom has been part of an email movie discussion group called The Balcony for years.  She visited friends or had friends visit her when I still thought it was creepy and weird to make friends through the internet.  How do you know who these people are?  How do you know that the person they're presenting is the real thing?  How can you trust them?  Of course, this was during my late teens, and I'm a smart one, I knew that I needed to be cautious at that age.  But even through college and for a while after, I didn't really branch out.  I had an early version of the blog for a while, I think the site was called Diaryland...or maybe that was later.  Anyway, the whole idea was that it was similar to your private journal, and you could make it private, semi-private, or public.  I remember mine was public, and since I never really kept a diary of private thoughts, it just became a place to talk about my day (kind of like this blog).  I had some regular readers whose journals I also read, and I thought it was pretty cool that I sort of knew about all these people writing from all over the world.  But I didn't really consider them friends.  I always felt like I needed to keep some distance.  And eventually I got tired of the servers overloading on that site and I stopped writing.  When that happened, I didn't worry about keeping in touch with my readers.  A few of them had already gotten sick of the servers or stopped writing for other reasons, and even though we'd been reading each other's journals, we didn't feel THAT close.  We were just a bunch of teenagers -- we had our real friends, and our readers were just these people who happened to be permitted to read the minor, sharable details of our lives.

After that, I went back to using social media solely for keeping in touch with people I knew in real life.  It was nice to have MSN chat when my friends and I all went to different colleges.  I'm not sure I'd even still know my best friend if it hadn't been for chatting online a few times a week.  Even just a few years before, college was known as the time when you drift away from your old friends and make the friends that you know you'll have forever.  Granted, I certainly made some wonderful friends in college, and I believe I will have them forever.  I just didn't end up drifting away from the old friends, and it was all because we could chat online.  Why doesn't just calling work, you ask?  Well, when you call someone, you feel like you have to talk.  When online, especially when you can make a group chat window (which we did all the time), it's more like you're just hanging out.  You don't feel like you have to keep the conversation moving the whole time.  It might even hit a lull and then you don't talk for a couple hours, but then something funny will happen and if they're still online, you can tell them about it.

So, great.  I stayed in touch with my friends who were really still just a few hours away.  And I'd have online conversations with some new college friends if it was late at night and we were in our separate dorm rooms.  But that's still not connecting "around the globe."  Where's that amazing socialization that we were supposed to get?

I know by this point in the post you're all saying, "duh, Bridgete, it's here."  And you're right, it is.  My mom just told me that she's showing one of her Balcony friends around Portland.  Like I said, she had that connection thing long before I did.  But now I've connected too.  Blogging finally did it.  I don't know why blogging is so much different than that online diary I had, whether it's because I'm older or because now most of the people you meet have a blog or two so it's just normal, but it's different.  Jenn and Matt are part of my Boston family, and I never would have even met them if it hadn't been for blogging.  I'd feel perfectly comfortable flying to Colorado and staying with Ginger or Kate.  Bree made her blog private but still welcomed me into the inner circle of permitted readers.  And that's just the people I know through the more personal blogs.  Then there's the author of You Suck at Craigslist.  Those people got me through the bar exam.  Well, let's hope they did, they might have just served as a distraction. ;)

I've added these people as friends on Facebook.  I stoically add only "real" friends as Facebook friends.  So I guess my blog friends are "real" friends.  In fact, I don't even distinguish between blog friends and real friends anymore.  Sure, certain blog friends are part of a particular circle and they don't really interact with the other circles, except maybe with an occasional reply to someone's comment on one of my statuses.  But when I talk about something funny someone said, I just say, "Oh, _____ said the funniest thing the other day!" and that's that.  No need to explain that I've never actually met this person.  That's not important anymore.  We know each other, and that's enough.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Paris, je t'aime...

Okay. I've been trying to figure out what to say about Paris, other than I loved it, I wanted to stay, and now that I'm home I miss it more than I ever thought I could miss something as simple as a location on the earth. But it's not just "a location". It's Paris. Everything about Paris is beauty in its purest form. The food, the wine, the architecture, the art -- it's all beautiful. The ugliest building in the city was built in the 70s, which was a strange time for architecture everywhere -- even that is at least more attractive than the buildings that appeared in the US at the same time.

And then there's the people. Everyone is quiet and polite. You don't have to holler at the top of your lungs and throw your elbows around to get off the Metro. A single, fairly quiet "pardon" and the crowd parts. All the restaurants and cafes are fairly small with tables crammed in as close as they can be, but you still cannot hear the conversation of the people next to you. Unless they're American tourists -- who I quickly became annoyed with as if I was already Parisian. And oh my goodness, the children. You all know that I don't like children. Well, I had NO problem with Parisian children. And at one restaurant, I learned why -- if the child is throwing a tantrum or otherwise causing a disturbance in public, you know what the parents do? They leave. They go home, taking the fussy child with them, and after a while, the child learns that disruptive behavior in public is not acceptable.  I swear to you, even the pigeons were polite.  You throw a pigeon a crumb and instead of begging for more or calling out to his 20 friends nearby that he found someone gullible, he'd just eat the crumb, bob his head as if to say, "merci," and move along.

I know you all want to know the specifics, like what we did, what we saw, what we ate.  But I just can't make myself reduce Paris into a chronicle of experiences.  It was simply THE experience.  So, for what we did and saw, you can visit my mom's chronicle on her blog, starting with day one.  You can also see what she ate -- I didn't record what I ate.  I just ate.

As for photos, my mom has a few in her blog.  You can see my photos on Facebook.  I've already checked, you will be able to see those photos whether you're my Facebook friend or not.

I now know that I MUST return to Paris as soon as I'm able.  So, on that note, to my dear Paris -- À bientôt!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Eating, Praying, Loving

Well, I finished reading Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert, for the book club that Ginger started. What I found most interesting is not necessarily the book itself (although I definitely enjoyed it), but rather the fact that it was so the right time for me to read this book. Here I was, going on a trip to Paris, where I indulged in food and wine more delicious than anything I've ever had here in the states, even in Boston's most fabulous restaurants (and Bostonians love their food). I ate. While in Paris, I entered Notre Dame Cathedral for the first time in my life and the energy of God or the Universe or whatever you want to call it overwhelmed me, to the point where I had to just sit and let it wash over me. Then I lit a candle to pray for a job and I'm now trying to patiently wait for that to come along. I prayed. And I fell head over heels for my roommate with a sudden rush of feelings so strong I wondered where I'd kept them the past six months. I love.

This book taught me a lot about how to look at those experiences I've just had. First, that allowing pleasure for pleasure's sake, without allowing in worry and regret and whatever else, is an art that, as an American, I may never achieve. But after spending a week in Paris where nearly all I did was go sightseeing, eat, and drink wine, I've learned that I want to try. I want to figure out a way to be a lawyer while still taking time to actually enjoy my lunch, instead of scarfing it down in front of the computer screen because that memo just can't wait for me to digest. I'm not sure how well that will work since I just had to pick a profession that always needs something done yesterday, but both my experience in Paris and my new understanding of true pleasure from the book have made me want to try.

Second, I've been weird about religion for a long time now. I've felt the Universe work for me many times before. One moment that comes to mind is when my mom was almost stuck in Portland for Christmas due to a huge snowstorm in the NW. I remember when she told me her flight was canceled...I hung up the phone and fell to the floor in tears, screaming to the sky that I don't care about the presents, I don't care about anything but having my mom with me for Christmas and DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?!?!? About 5 minutes later, she called back and said her flight had been reinstated and she was on her way. Then there was when Severus was really sick last summer. He had a bladder infection, which can be really dangerous in a male cat. I remember getting him on the antibiotics and they just didn't seem to be DOING anything for the first three days. I was terrified, and I didn't know what else to do. So, I prayed. I prayed to anything that I could think of. And he got better. And, most recently, I prayed that Christen would be okay and that her headaches and whatnot would be nothing. Well, the tests all came back healthy, and in the meantime she realized she only felt sick at work. So, she quit, and she's already starting to feel better.

The thing is, my prayers always involve tears. I'm always sobbing about something or other and begging for help. But I guess that's how it started for Liz. And I liked that Liz feels a lot like me in that she knows there are many paths to who she calls God. I also liked that she calls the being God without attaching the Judeo-Christian ideals to it, she just says it's more comfortable and familiar for her. I'd been really struggling with what to say when I'm praying. I've even been struggling with calling it praying. I still don't like organized religion, with all the rules and right and wrong, so the words associated with the most familiar group of organized religions in the US sometimes bother me. But I think I might go ahead and adopt Liz's idea, that I'm just saying God because it's familiar and easy. I think that will help my attempts at prayer, whether I do them every day or just when I need something. On that note, I liked the bit in the book with the petition to resolve the whole divorce thing, and then the resolution came. I mostly liked when Liz said something to the effect of, I can't just go to God when I want something, and her friend said, "why not?" This makes sense to me. If you're always devoted in your heart, if you're always aware of and grateful for the forces at work, helping you out, then what's wrong with only praying when you need or want something? It's like...well, okay, I have wonderful parents who never guilt me into calling more often or whatever, so this comparison may not hold true for everyone, but I'll use it anyway. It's like when I call my mom or dad for help with something, and they just do it. No stipulations (except maybe paying back borrowed money), no guilt, just love. And I don't have to tell them every single day that I love them, they know I love them. It's in my heart, always. So, why can't God be the same? And, even better, help to the greatest extent possible, for God, should be infinite!

And finally. I have loved before. Years ago. I was young and didn't handle it well. And then some things happened and I was intentionally celibate for two years because I couldn't even deal with the idea of sex. The celibacy broke with a little summer fling that I had just before leaving Portland for Boston to come to law school. He was actually a really great guy and the perfect person to have chosen for the purpose he served -- to bring me back to a place where someone can be interested in both physical AND internal beauty (some of the issues from before). Then there were a few "almost lovers," to quote Almost Lover, by A Fine Frenzy, through the three years of law school. Nothing really ever panned out, for a variety of reasons -- sometimes my issues, sometimes the guy's issues, sometimes both. And then there's now. It's been six years since I've been in a RELATIONSHIP.  I've grown up a lot.  I've learned a lot about myself.  I've learned a lot about what I need and what I want, as well as what I don't need and what I don't want.  I've fumbled around in the dating world and decided against a lot of potential flings/relationships/etc. because I knew they wouldn't be healthy for me.  And then, when I found a person who might be right, I finally gave myself the green light to go ahead and fall again.  I finally told myself I'm ready for the unbalancing balance of love.  And now I'm here, and I'm happy with my south Brazilian (another coincidental similarity to Liz).

So, thanks for the perfect timing, Ginger.  Now, on to the next book!