Thursday, August 7, 2008

Written 6 August, 2008


Night before last, Sweetie told me she was a bit worried about me because I didn’t seem to be all that connected to other people—herself excluded, of course. I should cultivate new friends, she said, and strengthen my relationships with existing friends.

I think she’s right.

For about 15 years I pretty much had, in lieu of friends, colleagues. We were engaged in the same sort of nonprofit work and shared the same goals. We admired and respected each other and saw one another three or four times a year at various conferences. Most of us were so involved with activism we had no real time for friends.

I also had people I term phone pests— those who were always flocking about me to get something—whether it was attention, information, or just to say they knew me.

Acquaintances are a dime a dozen. Friends? They’re rare. I’ve had a few. And I’ve lost a few lately.

I lost a good friend two years ago because a mutual friend was effectively fired from a conference at which he did volunteer work. As I was appointed to give him the bad news, I somehow became tainted. I’ve not spoken to either of them since I delivered the message. Not my choice.

I am losing another friend to heart disease. She’s still around, and we still talk, but after several years of her being in and out of hospital, and in light of her deteriorating health, there’s not much I can say to her by way of encouragement. Most of our talk these days deals with her latest hospitalization or her problems with the billing departments of hospitals. I go to see her from time to time, and phone her regularly. I’ve promised to look after her spouse if she should die.

I lost several sort-of friends because they were, at bottom, phone pests. You know the ones; they call when they want to whine and hang up abruptly when you start to share with them. Two years ago—after I started Second Life—I grew unwilling to disengage from the virtual world to waste my time with such people. I let the phone pests go—far later than I should have. I just stopped picking up the phone when they called. They never left a message, because, duh, they’re phone pests. They want to talk when THEY want to talk.

I didn’t quite lose my second-best friend, but our relationship changed after I started SL. She sensed I was caught up in something important to me and decided to give me room. We still talk, but she no longer initiates conversations. I don’t blame her and I’m determined to win her back as a friend.

And I lost my very best friend of all because she refused to attribute any importance or legitimacy to “the imaginary people in an imaginary world” of Second Life. She was insulted because I took my obligations and relationships in SL seriously. She thought I should drop whatever I was doing when she would call and couldn’t and wouldn’t accept that I wouldn’t do that when I was engaged in world.

Of course I’ve gained friends in Second Life—but most people on my Friends list (I still have a Friends list because I use the Nicholaz EC-F viewer) are really acquaintances. My real friends are Bill and Pam Havercamp, who I know in real life, Leaf Shermer, who was my neighbor for a year and is now my sim neighbor, and my Second Life brother Mordecai Scaggs. I count them as friends because they are there for me when I need them. Others are almost friends, but haven’t quite made the cut, or have fallen out of communication with me.

And then, of course, there’s Sweetie. She’s a lover and a friend and a constant companion. We’re in world and on the phone every day. We click on so many levels I don’t really mind that I’m at an ebb so far as other friendships go.

Still, I heard what Sweetie had to say to me. I’ll start paying more attention to my real life friends. Those who remain.

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