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Trying to find joy in the small things

I've written about this before, but I am going to write about it again. One of the things that I routinely struggled with, in trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with S, was the imbalance in activities and sharing. With any long-distance relationship, the hard part is, you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't.

If you move somewhere, and really struggle to survive and thrive in the new place (Texas), it's tempting to look back and get depressed, angry, and jealous about all of the fun and wonderful things you used to do in the former place, which your significant-other can still do. There will be grieving.

If you move somewhere, and find that it is a wonderful (or just better) place, and meet good people, and discover that it's a place where you can survive and thrive (Lincoln; aspects of Texas towards the end), there's a risk that your significant other will become depressed, angry, and jealous, especially if he or she is facing struggles in the old place. After all, life has ups and downs no matter where a person lives.

Lives just wind up way out of sync.

I had to cope with a lot of this jealousy boiling over when I moved to Texas. At first, I would read about incredible bike rides and camping trips and hiking expeditions in Arizona, and would feel anger rising up. I would think about how easy it was to do ceramics, and go rowing, and feel a sense of loss as I watched my life drain away in sweaty hours spent lawnmowing. I could recognize that, physiologically, this was Not Good, so I had to work with myself on the mantra, "Realize that you're not missing out." As written before. I also had to shut off certain channels of information, largely on Facebook, because I could tell they were not helping.

Breaking up with S, he has needed to do something similar, shutting off almost all remaining channels of interaction (this blog, FB, the tweet-thing). The hard part in this is that, for me, an important if not crucial aspect of a relationship is being able to share both the small and large aspects of my life. Most of the joy, for me, occurs in the small things - a shared meal, a bike ride to the grocery store. Dates, with a capital "D", can be good, but sometimes I feel as though putting extra emphasis or intensity on the experience can cause it to become more polarized. That emphasis and intensity are already present simply by the nature of a long-distance relationship; it takes extra effort to reach out, and there's always a heightened awareness that time spent together is precious and all too short, so Better Make It Count. It can feel like living through a telescope. If the only things discussed are the Big Things, a lot of daily life is lost.

I can't ask S to open those channels back up. Instead, the most I can do is focus my energy and attention on being present to myself in the daily small things. My cat has been a huge comfort in this department, because she has no choice other than to do so.

But what of this urge to share with others? What are thoughtful ways of doing this? I can't prevent the jealousy of others - as noted before, jealousy is an emotion that the jealous person needs to deal with.


( 16 remarks — Remark )
Apr. 1st, 2015 06:38 pm (UTC)
What really great thing happened today?

I am about to chaperone a trip to the goat farm.
Apr. 1st, 2015 09:24 pm (UTC)
The small things I have been appreciating:

-beautiful weather this morning on the bike ride to work
-the local grocery co-op just started carrying Field Roast's Deli Slices (vegetarian lunchmeat alternative), and they are making for delicious sandwiches
-the undergrads working in this lab are really great people to work with
Apr. 2nd, 2015 02:47 am (UTC)
Which goat farm?
Haystack used to have a great goat farm for visiting, but they dispensed with the goats and now just deal in milk.
Apr. 2nd, 2015 01:16 pm (UTC)
It belongs to a friend of the director of the school. It's near the reservoir.
Apr. 2nd, 2015 12:04 am (UTC)
i try to text "3 good things" to one person each evening

have you been watching enough Monty Python?

every day I think "I should be in Africa helping with Ebola" but instead I am here, doing dishes and sending text messages
Apr. 2nd, 2015 12:44 am (UTC)
You and me both, on the dishes and the Ebola.

I like that thought about texting 3 good things each evening. It also seems like it might be useful for me to direct some of the energy towards my paper journal, which has generally been neglected over recent years (although I ALWAYS carry it with me).

And NEVER enough Monty Python. Duh. ;-)
Apr. 2nd, 2015 02:47 am (UTC)
There's a distinction between smugposting and sharing posting -- but when you're the person doing the posting, it's really hard to make that distinction.
I think about how John McPhee writes, where to a large extent he takes himself out of his descriptions and writes "this is what happened" and I try to do the same, rather than always writing "this is what happened to me". (But I don't think I succeed very often.) I think that's part of life-sharing with a minimum of envy-inducement.
Apr. 2nd, 2015 02:05 pm (UTC)
I suppose to some extent we have to count on our friends calling us out when we cross the line.

And I can see the utility in thinking about how John McPhee writes - there's definitely an element of that which goes into my thinking when I am mulling over a subject and deciding what to do with those thoughts (write them on paper, say them to someone, post them in a blog, post them on FB, let the thoughts go).

I am still sticking with my assertion that my primary blog audience is myself - and yet, if that's the case, why am I posting here?
Apr. 3rd, 2015 12:50 am (UTC)
Heh, that's the existential crisis question of LJ, isn't it?
Apr. 3rd, 2015 02:10 am (UTC)
Okay, okay, true. :-)

Those of us who are still here are those with long attention spans, and I think we seek out that quality in others.
Apr. 3rd, 2015 12:13 am (UTC)
Interesting! I take a totally different approach towards similar end goals... I try to make my posts about ideas, and deliberately collaborative/participatory. I ask questions on things my audience knows about, and I try to make some of that things EVERYONE knows about. (Nearly all the [Sociology] posts are intended to engage people without a high experiential bar to entry, frex.) So I'm still the narrative voice, but I try to present the down sides to things as well as the good sides, and to try to be funny about the difficulties. (If you're funny, you're probably not whining. If you're posting all the work as well as the high points and inviting discussion, hopefully that's more engaging storytelling than smug But No, Seriously, Look How Awesome I Am.

Still, I've found that some of it is in the mood and setting of your readers. When people for unrelated reasons decide they don't like me (partners-of-partners after their partner and I just broke up is the classic case), sometimes they read the same posts in the same journal and conclude "look at that bitch over there eating crackers". I've also had it happen where I posted something about stress at work and got WELL AT LEAST YOU HAVE A JOB, or something about my dating search and got I WOULD BE HAPPY WITH EVEN ONE BOYFRIEND WHY AREN'T YOU. Sometimes, they just have to get to a place where they're not mad at you, or mad at the world, before they can read without that-bitch colored glasses.
Apr. 3rd, 2015 12:47 am (UTC)
I think the major driver of inference is the inferrer's point of view. Any positive statement at all sounds like gloating to someone who is mad enough at the speaker.
Apr. 3rd, 2015 01:13 am (UTC)
Oof, yeah.
Yep. At which point I... am sorry that they feel that way? Worst non-apology ever, but it is so precisely because it indicates an actual unwillingness to change. If they're that angry at me, at least in my experience, that divide was crossed already and we each held our lines and now all that we can do is try to make the best new and differently configured world available to us. Which usually involves not talking to them or reading their blog for a couple months to give everyone a chance to cool down.

I think this is also one of those situations where one hopes that one's friends will be the voice of reason if needed... I've mostly learned to close tabs and take people off my Default View if I need that space. And it's not like I have a heartwrenching breakup and then the very next day post "I won a volcanic island and so I'm going to fly off in my private jet to see it and ride my bicycle down the volcano because WHO NEEDS MY EX ANYWAY, VOLCANOES ARE BETTER THAN EXES", but "Mayhem and I went to the grocery store and he bought me Wheat Thins" can still be read that way by someone in pain. I kinda hope that their friends can help them through that, because if it's me that they had the angrymaking break with, I'm in the very worst position to do so and every time I've tried it has gone more horribly than I possibly could have imagined. So I'm not gonna start self-censoring about grocery stores, but I have learned that if I don't want to hear about what a terrible bitch eating Wheat Thins I am (this does not help anyone), to give them some time and space to rebuild their cope and then we can try again once they're there, if they want to.
Apr. 3rd, 2015 01:30 am (UTC)
Re: Oof, yeah.
I haven't had to do this in many years, but there's a lot of good stuff in here.

Man, now I totally want a volcanic island.
Apr. 3rd, 2015 02:19 am (UTC)
Re: Oof, yeah.
Likewise for me.

Summarizes a good portion of the communication breakdown with S, according to my clinical-analytical side. I hate to feel articulate about it, though, because I am deeply sad about it and I've always had doubts about my relationship with words. I've had to read and re-read email messages he has sent to me to figure out if I'm interpreting them correctly, and after clarification, in some cases I haven't been (but where's the error? The writer or the audience?). But unclear in other cases. To me, it all just highlights the major limitations to communicating in text on the internet, which humanity still hasn't figured out yet. We're social animals and sometimes we need facial expressions and human contact.
Apr. 2nd, 2015 03:23 am (UTC)
I just share, I think. That's part of what I use FB for. Also, I have a friend in California who is like a brother to me, and he and I text several times a week, sharing back and forth all kinds of info about our lives. It's become a valuable and meaningful exchange.

However, I am a very chit-chatty person at work, and I make a point of sharing little good, fun, or shareable tidbits from my life with coworkers that I care about. It builds a common knowledge of the ins and out of each other's lives, and is a comfort in so many small ways.
( 16 remarks — Remark )

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