Last night on Twitter, I was chatting back and forth with two good friends, Corina and Melissa. When I say "good friends", you might think I see them all the time and that we might even live in the same town. The truth is that with one living near Detroit and the other living in Philly, I have maybe spent two full days with each of them face to face, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I know I could call on them and they would be there... well... virtually, anyway.
The chat was sparked by Melissa's post about how people used to live in the early part of the last century (a community. People looking out for and truly caring for each other). They lived amontonados, as my grandmother would say, or rather, on top of each other... crowded. That way of living used to sound awful to me. It brought to mind poverty and chaotic noise. For my family, I wanted a big house at the end of the street where I could find some peace and solitude. Everyone else I knew wanted that, too. Living in a crowded building or so close to your neighbor you could chat through the window? Heck no!
Still, I wanted to live in community with others.
I wanted to be able to go to the neighbors and chat. Just sit on the driveway and watch the kids ride around in the cul de sac. We had those days, but they were few and far between. Every afternoon and on weekends, I'd watch as we all loaded up into our individual SUVs and mini vans and took off in all directions to soccer or the beach or to our various churches. The people that lived on my street weren't really neighbors... not in the way "neighbor" used to be defined.
A couple of days ago, November 1st, I came across a spiral notebook that's been floating around my home. I finally opened it up to see where I needed to put it. There was a journal entry on the first page. It was dated November 1, 2005, exactly four years earlier. I sat to read it and found that I was making my plan to blog. I wrote what my intentions were for my posts. What I hoped to say. How I hoped people might read my words. On the next page was a short list titled "Things I've Been Through" followed by page after page after page of spilling.
That week, I published my first blog. That blog has long been deleted. I regret doing that, but at the time, I was scared that anyone would read it and judge me. The next blog started off "safer" but eventually, my real words came out and it suffered the same fate of the first. By the third blog, I had gained some courage and eventually came to meet some friends who were there for me when times were tough. They encouraged me to keep writing... keep spilling... keep growing. I started to look forward to their stories and comments as much as I looked forward to getting the mail, hoping to run into a neighbor. Little by little, I began to "meet" more people that had beautiful words, great advice, and a place for me to be me.
I had found my tribe!!
In the last four years, I've found other parents struggling with teens or step families. I've met people who have dreamed of living the life creative. I've met people who have explained to me in fine detail how to tweak my sites. I've met people who were sad and were working towards living their happiest life. I have experienced the same kindness and support that people 100 years ago were getting... well, sort of. It was still missing the physical presence of my friends, but truth be told, they were better neighbors to me than the people that lived on my street. Still... how awesome would it be to sit and talk with those friends over coffee rather than a computer.
Melissa and Corina and I talked about neighborhoods that were set up to replicate that old community feeling. We talked about living in a crowded building where neighbors might look out for each other. I suggested that it would be a wonderful place to live if all of our favorite on-line friends were our neighbors. How cool would it be to live in a crowded, chaotic building with all the people that get you? We could chat each other up and borrow a stick a butter all in the same knock at the door! Now THAT would be wonderful. But that will likely never happen. So I continue to virtually rely on my village. And you know what?
I am so thankful that I even have that Virtual Village, no matter where I hang my hat.