You see it all the time, the pretty pictures of perfection and happiness. Sometimes I wonder if life on Instagram is an alternate universe. You scroll through success and opportunities, the most gorgeous images of happy families and idyllic lives. What about the everyday quarrels and little issues that sap your energy? You can never quite fathom the deep growing pain, despair or anger that is taking root. You never know because you don’t see it in the pictures. It’s human nature to hide our sadness and disappointments, even our smallest failures.
Living in a county away from my family and friends, and leading an expat life has led to a distancing in my relationships. I’m physically apart from people I care about, and sometimes there are gaps in the relationship that are hard to fill in. I rely a lot on WhatsApp messages for conversations (that’s the extent of my communication since Skype no longer works here), to send photographs and audio messages from TT, which she has recently discovered. But even then, it might hinder a deeper conversation and we text about superficial things. It’s hard to have full, meaningful conversations when time zones are different or when everyone’s on a different schedule. At times, words fail to convey what we really mean and misunderstandings arise. I’m also guilty of not reaching out as much as I would like to.
It’s so difficult to get a completely accurate sense of what is truly going on in my family’s or friends’ lives. On a very simplistic level, I often see pictures on Facebook or Instagram of celebrations, holidays, and weekend meanders. Everyone looks happy. Everything seems fine. We “tell” each other what’s happening but it’s all a bit distanced, isn’t it?
Here’s when I miss actual face-to-face conversation and contact. When I’m physically there, I’m able to give of myself more fully. It’s easier to talk when I can look at a person and listen to them tell me about the ups and downs of their lives. It means more to be there and give someone a hug when they really need it. Recently, I’ve felt the strain of the distance. It hurts a little more when I see my parents getting older, when they’ve suddenly aged a lot more because I haven’t actually seen them in months. It pricks when I don’t know what’s happening in my friends’ lives, when I seem to say “oh, I had no idea” so much more frequently. It stings when we want to support our family in times of loss and deep hurt, but can only be with them so briefly.
All this hurts. But this is what I have to say to you:
I’m not there, and I may not know everything that’s happening in your life right now. I know it’s not all wonderful and idyllic. If things are looking bleak or disappointing, or if you’re just having a real shitty day, or if there’s a gaping hole in your life, know that you’re not alone. Someone does care and someone definitely notices.
Your anger and sadness and pain – it all matters. And it’s ok that everything isn’t the way you planned or envisioned. I may not be able to reach you physically right now, but know that I’m thinking of you. And if you need me to be your person today, I will. I’m here for you, and you matter to me.
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