05 December 2008

for the love of strangers

Last week sometime I got into a conversation where it suddenly occured to me just how often complete strangers have shown me love that at times even exceeds that of friends and family. 

I have a friend/art teacher with whom I used to go life drawing years ago who to this day stands out as a person that understands me in ways my "family" does not. I haven't seen him for years, in terms of our lives we have practically nothing in common, but if I had to think of people who share a sympathy with my most fundamental of interests, he would be one of the first people to come to mind. Probably for the rest of my life.
In January I stayed with a complete stranger in Paris who let me into her home when one of my closest friends decided he was unable to do the same, and the situation in general was, well, dire.  We spent almost a week discussing every manner of things in a strange hybrid fren-glish, and she is another like-minded spirit the likes of which is totally embedded in my psyche.
In June of this year I had a couchsurfer stay with me who somehow divined from my meagre profile my love for graffitti art and brought me a Banksy book as a token of thanks. I'll probably never see this person again, and also share little to nothing in common with him, but the unprecedented generosity of this person taking a thoughtful moment to look, and then to actually reciprocate the favour of staying at my house was so so lovely to me.
And, years gone by now, I can't even begin to catalogue the Amazing Amazing experiences I had hitchhiking by myself though Europe. 

It was Stunning. 
The Kindness was Stunning.

To digress for a moment, a friend I've had for over 10 years now has taken a divergent path from mine for the last while. Despite living close to each other, we've seen each other less and less. I had always assumed this was just circumstance, and not thought too much about it (surprisingly). 
However for the past year, it's become almost a game to see if she will even say "how are you" when we meet, or whether or not she will launch into complaints about any and every aspect of her life from the get-go, until the very moment we part ways.
Finally I managed to broach this subject (in person), and said it felt very hurtful, that I was happy to talk about all of her concerns, but even a "how are you" would make me feel like less of a tool in the matter. She explained that she didn't want to talk  with me about my problems anymore (sic), and changed the subject because she didn't want to be a "bad friend". Given my ability to rant, I figured this was a valid complaint and left it at that.

Anyhow, the "how are(n't) you" game continued. Oddly enough, I also realized it wasn't even problems in my life that were the "problem", as things going well in my life also had a life span of about half a sentence before the subject got changed. 
A few more times subsequent, and I broached the subject again, saying the equilibrium was off in such a way that I felt discouraged from even making small talk, given the distinct feeling of distain I felt whenever the subject veered away from her. I got no response, so decided that was response enough.

And then it started, the finding out all the "big life events" via Facebook.  Which is fucking weird, can I tell you?
And then, tonight, I had my very first experience of being "unfacebooked". I found out inadvertently. It's kind of amazing; one hears about these things and kind of chuckles. I mean, it's Facebook, for fuck's sakes.

But I'm actually really hurt and astounded.

This very posting is of course in some sense a huge cache of passive agression in and of itself. Despite having attempted on prior occasions to address this all in person.

But my intention is actually (believe it or not) unrelated to the matter directly; it is cited to contrast the following point, which is much more optimistic:

The point is this: I have, over the years, suffered from only child syndrome a great deal, feeling huge amounts of anxiety going to social gatherings where I feel like I'll know no one, I'll make an arse of myself, etc etc. Tedious but true. It's improved a great deal over the last three years, mostly 'coz the people I know are Undeniably Awesome, and so tolerant, and there's just no way to maintain that kind of angst around them.

But still and also, when I am out with strangers, more and more, I realize how innately Good people are. How kind, and giving, and genuinely open, when given any indication that such interaction or communication is welcomed.  People are encouraging, forgiving, and often as open as the people they are speaking with, given half the chance. I realize I'm just a big bloody hippy, citing all this stuff, but So Be It. Tonight I was out with complete strangers, and I had SUCH.A.GOOD.TIME, for all of the above reasons. English, german, there was a bit of everything, all of it far from perfect, all of it interactions between strangers, and it was so wicked.

My point (long winded as it is) is that it's a sad and weird mystery to me how we are so often so much crueler to the people we love, when we can manage such beautiful and honest interactions with strangers, at any given time, in almost any situation.

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