Monday, February 16, 2015

Heart Strings


By Lisabet Sarai

As many of you may already know, I’m an expatriate. Although I am originally from the U.S., I’ve lived in Southeast Asia (I’d rather not say which country) for more than a decade.

For the most part, I love my adopted home. My DH and I have a far better quality of life than we could ever afford back in America. I have work that inspires and challenges me. My apartment, located in the heart of the metropolis so we don’t need a car, is roughly the size of the house we sold when we moved here and has a garden, exercise room and small swimming pool. I feel a kinship with the people around me, who value friendship, family, good food, good times and a peaceful frame of mind more than money or power. Asia is incredibly dynamic, changing and growing while the Western world sinks into grumpy lethargy. By moving here, I have at least partially escaped a government that’s totally without compassion and a society where senseless mass murder with automatic weapons has become commonplace.

There’s one drawback to my situation, though. I’m half a world away from many of the people I love. While I’ve been here, I’ve lost both my parents. Because of the distance and the cost, I couldn’t attend their funerals (though I did manage to spend time with each of them not long before they died). I’ve still got a brother and sister in the States, plus two elderly aunts and a passel of cousins. Then there are my friends, including a handful I’ve known for three or four decades.

I miss all these folks. Email, Skype, Facebook and relatively cheap international phone rates allow me to keep in touch to some extent, but years can go by before we get the chance to meet face to face.

Sometimes I ache for the sound of their voices (unfiltered by electronics) or the touch of their hands. All in all, though, our separations don’t bother me as much as they might. Despite the distance – even when we don’t communicate for weeks or months – I feel connected to my dear ones.

Every morning I spend ten or fifteen minutes in what I will loosely call meditation, trying to center myself before facing the events of the day. Part of this discipline includes calling people to mind and sending them blessings – holding them in the light, as the Quakers say. I sometimes refer to these individuals as being on my prayer list, but that’s not exactly right. What I’m doing is affirming and strengthening the psychic and emotional bonds between us. In my mind and heart, I draw them close and surround them with my love. I know this sounds like New Age mystical crap, but the ritual soothes the pain of being apart, for me. Meanwhile, I believe my positive thoughts do have a beneficial effect on the ones to whom they are directed.

Because of this practice, I feel myself enmeshed in a web of invisible connections, a tangle of heart strings. Love flows like electricity along those links. I think of my beloved family, friends and colleagues, and I glow.

My connections with the other contributors here at the Grip are particularly strong. Yes, you’re on my morning list. I’ve known many of you for years. I’ve even met some of you (Jean, Daddy, JP and Suz) in person. Those physical encounters are not what binds us, though. I know you, know your hearts and souls, through your writing – both your posts and your fiction, which can be even more revealing.

I sometimes fantasize about a Get a Grip party, where we could all get together, drink a glass of wine or two, and talk, instead of having to write everything down. The geographic realities dictate an infinitesimal probability that this will ever occur. You’re all invited to Southeast Asia, of course. If you can handle a twenty hour plane flight...

Still, I’m not sure that meeting you in the flesh would make much difference in how I feel about you. We are and always will be connected, by our mutual love of the written word, our curiosity about the human condition, our fascination with desire. In some sense, you are as much my brothers and sisters as my siblings back in the country I no longer call home.

23 comments:

  1. I definitely share your ability to feel strong connections with friends one primarily, or exclusively, interacts with in cyberspace. I always love hanging out with those people in the flesh when convenient opportunities arise, but I feel close to a lot of people I've never met in person and quite likely never will.

    For me, I think the biggest drawback of online friendships is that sometimes there are fewer "excuses" to interact with the people one is fond of. If you're not directly collaborating on a project or participating in the same discussion thread or whatever, there can be that feeling of missing someone but not having any context in which to say hello and chat, short of e-mailing just to say hello and chat—which depending on the person and the level of friendship and how busy someone might be, doesn't always feel like something I ought to do out of the blue (though I happen to be someone who usually welcomes it when I'm on the receiving end). The random "running into so-and-so" in the physical world can have its advantages in terms of providing a ready-made opportunity to interact. (Of course, the same randomness can also result in running into someone one does not want to interact with, lol!)

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    1. Hi, Jeremy,

      These days, it's pretty rare to just run into someone on the street. Unless of course you live in a place like Northhampton ;^), which is pretty unusual!

      I routinely will send a quick email to folks I haven't heard from in a while. Though I will admit that I often think "Got to get in touch with X..." while I'm meditating, then totally forget as I start on the day's tasks.

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    2. (:v> Well, when we lived near Binghamton, there was Wegmans (large "magnet" of a supermarket and de facto crossroads of the world; this was by far the most frequent "running into so-and-so" venue).

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  2. Meeting you at the dinner Totally Bound gave for their authors was a delight Lisabet. Electronic contact is almost de rigueur these days but lunch or dinner with friends are still my favorite ways to catch up.

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    1. That was such a great party! I met not only you but also Suz and Desiree at that shindig.

      Too bad we can't do that sort of thing more often.

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  3. You do indeed live in a dynamic place, Lisabet. And if there is something akin to god, it's in the interconnectivity of humans beings.

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    1. Whoa, that's even more New Age than my post! ;^)

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  4. Lisabet:
    What a touching post! A Grip party seems like it might be fun. I'll put it on my list of what to do with my lottery winnings. It won't be done with my royalties that's for sure.

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    1. Or mine. Sigh.

      I'd love to meet you, Spencer. But you know, your personality really shines through your posts and your stories.

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  5. Of course, the logical place for that party would be California, right in the middle of all of us! ;>)

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    1. Probably more likely than Alberta, where Jean lives!

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  6. Oh, c'mon, Daddy X. Surely the logical place for a party is Northampton. Annabeth is close enough to get here easily, Jeremy's already here (we should definitely include Jeremy and any other frequent posters--Fiona, where are you?) and the Massachusetts government doesn't do a very good job of being totallly without compassion. And Lisabet, while she's very far away, knows her way around this Happy Valley.

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    1. Hell, it fucking SNOWS in Massachusetts! That's why I left. Not really. California was the place for hippies to go after being disillusioned by the lower East Side. Then we got more disillusioned in the Haight. ;>)

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    2. I always wanted to have a masquerade ball in the Academy of Music theater.

      When I lived in the Valley I used to fantasize about being rich enough to fly all my friends in for the bash.

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  7. Hi Lisabet!

    I always marvel at the way you;ve adapted to your life, no longer a stranger in a strange land. I think one of the two greatest gifts this life can give to us is that period of time, however briefly, in our lives when we experience ourselves in harmony with our world and the people in that world, when we love the world we live in and feel that world love us back.

    Garce
    - Oh! And thank you for the plug in ERWA parlor! XOXO

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  8. Lisabet, I love your practice of "holding" all your friends "in the light." (However, if you want to imagine me in my actual location, I live in the province of Saskatchewan, just east of Alberta.) Where I live is actually quite central and incredibly sunny all year round, although it is damn cold in the winter and damn hot in the summer, which is why even the most business-oriented, ungenerous government has to show compassion for the concrete and the asphalt, which tend to buckle and crack under the extremes of temperature.
    Despite cutbacks at the university where I teach, I still have access to an expense account which can be tapped for writing-related trips. So if a "Grip" reunion ever becomes possible, I wouldn't mind travelling. New England is no colder/snowier than I'm used to, though California is always appealing. :)

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    1. My apologies for my ignorant mistake, Jean. Just shows you how little we Americans know about Canada. I knew you're in Regina, and at first I was going to say Saskatchewan. But no, Edmondton is in Alberta. I should know that, since we have good friends who teach at the university there.

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  9. I'm in the Midwest near Chicago, and right now freezing my ass off, with 30 below zero wind chill. My royalties can't usually even buy me coffee, and the 3 p/t jobs I have barely bring in enough for me to buy groceries. Nothing gets saved for a rainy day, or for vacations. I'd love to attend an EPIC convention, but they have them in Texas usually, and during the school year. Too expensive, plus I'd be losing money by not working.

    I'd love to get together with all of you, but I fear it would be weird to meet "strangers" with whom I've shared so many inner thoughts and desires. Would we make idle chit-chat, or launch right into, "So what did you mean by saying you're an orgasm sponge?" LOL! And how would I explain to my husband, that these other men know intimate details about me that he thought only HE was aware of? We never take separate vacations. If I suggested one, he'd ask a whole lotta questions. I know he trusts me, but he does know a lot about what I was like before he made an "honest woman" out of me.

    Alas, I think I'll have to remain your "virtual" friend, sharing naughty anecdotes as well as deeply-felt feelings, but hiding behind the anonymity of my on-line persona. But Lisabet, I'm honored that you include me in your prayers. Good Karma is always to be welcomed.

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    1. Hi, Fiona,

      From my experience, it's rarely awkward to meet folks in person that you know well online. I remember the first time I met RG - it was as if we'd been friends all our lives (and actually, I knew her less well then than I do now).

      However, I also respect your feelings about anonymity. Anyway, the party is likely to remain nothing but a pleasant fantasy - though I'm never going to say anything is impossible!

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  10. Okay it's settled then. My adopted home of Summer Haven ,Florida where both Ernest Hemmingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were frequent guests of the branch of the Mellon family who owned the land where my parents bought their retirement cottage.

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  11. Lisabet, this post is so lovely and touching. All of you at the Grip are dear friends to me as well. I would give a lot to meet you in person, and I carry you in my heart at all times. <3

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    1. Thank you, Annabeth. I hope that the next time I'm in the US we can do a mini-reunion.

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