I am currently reading a book about technology and how we use it/abuse it, especially in our homes. One particular issue is addressed in the book: how many 'friends' we have on social media and what these friendships mean to us, both personally and privately. An expert quoted in the book notes that while we may have heaps of friends online, we all pretty much have the small circle of intimacy that we've always had. Social media, it seems, may provide a broader base of acquaintances or superficial friends, but in our daily lives, we keep that small circle so many of us maintained before we could like someone with the press of a button (a virtual one, at that).
The whole thing got me thinking: how big is my circle of intimacy and whom does it include?
I made a list. To anyone who knows me well, this comes as no surprise. I am a lover of lists.
I felt it necessary to sort of define this list before I began. What constitutes a person who can be defined as 'intimate?' I determined a person could be defined as within my circle of intimacy if he or she would answer the door in the middle of the night and help me out of some sort of epic mess. Or, to be a little bit less dramatic, she's a person I'd call in my darker moment, when the world seems a little to much, and with whom I could be honest about whatever I was feeling at the moment. It's obviously much easier to be honest about the good stuff in our lives, but there are only a handful of people I can call, or show up unannounced on their doorsteps, and say: I might throttle my kids if you don't hand me a glass of wine.
My list totals nine people. Seven of the nine people are women; two are men. Five of the nine are family; four are friends. Three of the nine are siblings, and one is my mother. Another is a cousin, without whom I would be truly lost in life. I looked at my list and realized a few things.
1. Not one of the people on my list lives anywhere near me right now; in fact, I'd have to take a flight to see any of them.
2. My family members are my best friends, hands down, and I don't know that I always give them the respect and attention they deserve given how important they are to me.
3. All of the people on my list have been through hard times with me. My siblings and family members have been through the ups and downs of growing up as kids and also adult life. Two of my friends served in the Peace Corps with me. Another friend was there with me through the birth of both my kids and the first few years of their lives, and the final friend saw me through my husband's 14-month deployment, when I had a 2-year-old and 4-year-old to take care of by myself.
There are obviously other people I could, and sometimes do, call in a pinch. But if life were to throw me a major curve ball, I'd call these people first. Just thinking about this circle of intimacy and reflecting on the idea of what friendship means has been enlightening. There is something powerful in actually writing down the people's names on paper. I look at the list and see how lucky I am to have it at all. I look back at the hard times and feel grateful to have had support and to know that I have people with me on the road ahead, not only for the hard times but for all the times. When I read these names, it is incredibly clarifying for me where my priorities should lie and how little of my time is spent fostering and caring not just for these people in my life but for the relationships I have with them. I feel downright inspired to reach out more often, to offer my own support when needed and to appreciate the fact that nine people make me feel loved, even through my own wonky moments.
Social media is often an illusion, a Potemkin village so to speak, of connection. When I think of the people in my circle of intimacy, I see relationships fostered not through status updates or memes but through conversations, meals, play dates and even hardship. Especially hardship.
Thank you to all of you who encircle me. :)