Newsletter 21 - Making Myself at Home
April 14, 2019
Although I enjoy meeting new people and visiting new places, I overall live a very quiet life. It is sometimes so quiet, that while lying on my futon, I hear the faint buzz of my phone charging.
I recently canceled my American phone plan and rented a wifi hotspot instead. I like turning it off at night, it’s like closing massive wooden doors, the modern addition to setting the book down and turning out the lights. Except, those remaining in the digital landscape don’t wait unchanged.
When I first moved away, sustaining my existing friendships was a big priority. I thought regular communication was key—if not regular, then at least quarterly or annual contact. I'm so thankful for the people in my life who have sustained our relationship by sending affirming messages, proposing next hangouts, or calling just because. I was determined to be a big kid and do the same, as needed.
Spare the few brilliant people who use calendar app reminders, what I found is that friendships don’t breathe in orders of time like days, months, years. In beautiful chaos, each person has different and likely multiple time patterns for their relationships.
Say a coworker greets you every morning. It makes your day! You associate your coworker with this lovely greeting.
Meanwhile, the coworker gives everyone the same greeting, so they hardly associate You with it. Actually, the coworker associates You with your shared love of coffee, and the occasional coffee escapes you have together.
The coworker will likely not notice when you are sick from work one day, though you in contrast might message your coworker when you feel the loss of your morning greeting. Meanwhile, say the coworker reads about the opening of a new coffee shop nearby. They may ask if you’re free, while you who had read the same article did not think to do so.
Different patterns at play, forming each relationship's unique pulse.
Last week, I went hiking with a friend who mimicked the cry of a uguisu excellently. Since then, I think of my friend whenever I hear that bird, and perhaps I will do so every early spring in Japan. I have a prayer buddy who I think of when I pray, I have a friend who I think of when I see someone waving at a train platform, and I think of my bosom friend when birds fill the sky.
My long-distance friendships fail in regular contact. So many of us are busy, distracted, or have nothing that seems worthwhile to say. But much like David looking to nature for assurance of God's presence, when I measure my friendships by bird calls or skies full of birds, I have nothing to fear.
Some months ago, I was walking on an empty street towards Kobe’s harbor and recalled a man telling me about iguanas. “Most people won’t buy a fat book on iguanas,” he explained. “That’s why I write small volumes.” As confused as you, I mentally scrolled through who this could be and why this was said. I realized I hardly knew iguana man; he was simply a man interviewed on a podcast I had once listened to while walking that same street.
There are many ways by which we try to include people in our lives. We take photos of things we’ve seen, eaten, created, and loved. We share news as quickly as possible; there must be something to its freshness. Our phones increasingly act as mediators of time and space, transforming personal lived experience into galleries so we may join hands with a loved one to look at the painting of our lives, ignoring the screen that divides between. Digital space can no longer be ostracized from terms like “physical” or “real,” it is all already fusing together to make our new, inescapable reality.
Rather than share my life with all, I prefer to bring what I can into mine. Like rewatching favorite films, or rereading favorite books, I savor and find more to love and learn from. Like the treasured chachkies lining my windowsill, mementos plant themselves into my new life like rogue seeds scattering with the wind. All around me, amidst the quiet and solitude, amidst the new, chime reminders of friends and iguana men, keeping me company. Of course, I make new memories too, but this is how, I make myself at home.