I think of the boat distressed at sea trying to find help. I think of the airplane pilot distressed in the air trying to find help. I think of the person alone in the forest that is looking for some human contact for help...
“Hello! Anybody out there!?”
In my expat living I would say I have hit these times. Feeling alone, maybe even lost, in the midst of a big vast sea of water or a vast forest of trees and wild animals. Desiring connection. Desiring communication. So, what can lead to these times and what can help when these times come?
First, before I go any farther, I would like to say…I am so thankful for this day and time where technology has paved a huge bridge for communication over the miles! I think of those who set out on this adventure of expat living before technology was this advanced. No social media. No Skype. No emails. Wow! My hat is off to those who lived in another nation in those days!
So, then even in this day and time with advanced technology, what can lead to this call for help…"is anybody out there!?” Distance and disconnection.
How does distance happen? I can talk about this from my experience and viewpoint. I see distance happening in various ways. Of course, by miles. Living on the other side of the world or maybe just the other side of town presents a distance. With physical distance, it takes more effort to stay involved in each other’s lives. We don’t shop the same stores. We don’t go to the same restaurants. We don’t hear the same local news. We can’t just visit each other face to face at the drop of a hat. And the list could go on and on. Effort is the key word here. The more physical distance the more effort it takes to bridge the miles.
Distance develops not only due to physical miles apart, but distance also happens on a social and emotional level. We begin to hang out with different people. We don’t share the same interests anymore. We don’t share our day to day or week to week life stories anymore. We become absorbed in what is in front of us and have little time or energy for anything outside of our immediate sphere. When one side of the relationship begins to lose its grip and drift away, the other side may find it too difficult to hang on because there is no reciprocal effort or help. So then both sides let go and drift away physically, socially, and emotionally. This drifting signifies a disconnect has happened.
Is this inevitable? I have had to consider this question with my expat life since 2014. I have been so aware of living in one place but needing a bridge that keeps me connected to others who don’t share this expat life with me. I have learned to consider a new type of grip or hold on my relationships. Let me explain: I can join with someone by holding hands, but this is not the strongest hold. If one of us relaxes our hold, the other automatically loses their grip also. When I think of the grip, I think of the game Red Rover. Do you remember that game? In this game there are two teams. Each team lines up across from each other (some distance away) and holds their team members hands to form a straight line. But the best way to connect is by grabbing at the wrist/upper arm area. Then when the chosen person of the other team comes running over, the wrist/upper arm grip makes it harder for the person to break the union between the two people joined together.
So…as I think on disconnect as an expat, I say, NO, it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. We can all learn the stronger grip. The grip that can hang on even when the other relaxes their hold for some reason. The grip that can resist the pressure of miles, etc.
Hold on to your relationships. Choose to connect and not disconnect. Use the tools we have with technology (overcome your fear with this) and be creative. You may have to be the one who holds on, but it is worth it! You will be an example to others how to do it. You may want to relax your grip…DON’T…don’t give up. Dig in. Make the effort. Show love at a higher level. Don’t grow weary. There will come a time that each of you will need each other and the friendship you give to one another.
A reminder of one of my many special friends who stays connected with me over the miles.
Cindy writes about her adventures, observations, and other nuggets from living in another nation. She and John live in SE Asia. She will also share nuggets from her 58 plus years of life.