Thursday, May 27, 2010
Le Plus Ce Change
Visiting Seattle is like returning to your high school a few years after graduation. Everything looks the same. The cafeteria still smells the same. Even the clothes styles are basically unchanged. Yet, all the faces are just slightly different, there is something new about the flip of hair, the length of pants, or something you just can't quite put your finger on. And no one recognizes you as you walk down the halls.
My days here are very full. In addition to meeting with my Seattle clients (including beating the pavements for new contracts), I divide my time between meals with good friends and mining boat and used book stores to get information on crossing the Pacific. DrC sent me with a long list of errands and tasks for our investment properties, and every day someone else emails and says, "Oo! You're here in Seattle! How about we get together?" It's an unexpectedly Sally Field moment (you like me! you really like me!) for which I have no earthly resistance. The long chats over pizza or pad thai or wine have been wonderful, each deeply satisfying in a slightly different way.
Friends are a gift which it has taken me nearly forty years to appreciate. I never thought much about the long term value of friendships, and I'm afraid as a result I was not a very good friend. It didn't seem worth the time or energy to cultivate a relationship after time or distance threw up what seemed an insurmountable barrier. It's fair to say I was lazy. However among the many other recognizable changes to Toast rev 2.0 (as my good friend Jim describes me now), there is a deep appreciation for the people in my life who have for many years devoted energy to our connection.
I recognized this change as Jim and I sipped and spoke over craft beer at Big Time Brewery a few days ago. We first chatted in Big Time many years ago, the first week Jim arrived in Seattle after moving from the mid-west. Contrasting Auckland, Seattle, and Columbus, Ohio, I could tell him honestly that his move involved greater cultural displacement than our own to New Zealand; As long as I live, I don't think I'll ever understand the middle part of this country. Jim has changed in ways both visible and spiritual. I've changed, too. Gad, I'm older. Yet, we haven't really changed at all. There we were still enjoying, listening, talking, even the spice of a bit of disagreement over some totally non-important topic was pleasant, slightly different and absolutely familiar.
I don't miss my friends, though. I don't have any wistful sense that this is our last conversation for a long long time. Maybe that's why I used to resist maintaining them. It used to be such work. Yet when I settle down with Greg or Jim or Wyatt or Ian, we are just continuing in Real Life an ongoing, time-shifted conversation in which we've been engaged for over a decade. I start to tell them about this or that bit of my life, but they already know and ask for more details. I get to see a new picture of Jim's son, but his face is well known to me. I could easily pick Jim's little one out of a crowd of kids his age.
There is an element to in-person contact that is no doubt missing in our online lives. Touching base on occasion and tipping a glass is important and very pleasurable. On the other hand, these are the people who monitor my daughters online, share with me their own life stories, and know I'll be there if they want to chat in the middle of the night… particularly now that their middle of the night is my afternoon.
I really like this new form of friendship. It's easier for me to manage, while remaining rich and full and satisfying. I might not get back to Seattle for another 3 years, and when I do these people might not be here any more. Which is okay, since I know I'll chat with them tomorrow anyway and every tomorrow thereafter.