Communication Breakdown

Wow, it’s been 10 months since my last post!  2016 has been a major year for adjusting to the responsibilities of parenthood.  It seemed like every time I was getting used to Dorian’s routine he would enter a new stage of development.  I saw my free time dwindle away as he gained more energy and settled to one nap a day.  Household duties suffered, along with my personal projects.

Here I am, in the new year, with a fresh start to being more productive this time around.  Looking back, there were a number of times over the last 10 months when I wanted to add content to our site.  However, each time I would hit a dead end.  I was afraid of expressing myself and being honest about my feelings.  The fear of what others might think would stop me cold before I could even open my laptop.  I would repeatedly visit this topic in my mind, each time hoping to figure it out before I wrote about it.  Well, that never happened.  I don’t know if I’ll ever wrap my head around it.

The longer we live abroad, the less friends and family keep in contact with us.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much effort we put into maintaining relationships with people.  They simply do not respond.  At all, sometimes.  It hurts, and I don’t always know what to make of it.  I am certain that many of these people do care about us on some level, but perhaps they don’t know how to maintain relationships with people who do not actively live in their everyday lives.

With today’s technology, the majority of people have access to their text messages and personal e-mail on multiple devices.  They likely check and read messages and e-mails more than once a day.  Yet, they are somehow unable to respond to the simplest, brief messages from their so-called loved ones.  It’s not as if Angie and I are spouting off short novels or 200-question surveys to people.  It appears that some sort of cyber-cultural norm has developed where it’s acceptable to just leave people hanging.  Perhaps it happens with such frequency that people don’t take it personally.  I find it difficult not to, especially when it happens over and over again.

I feel that if I can take a few minutes to write someone and they take a minute to read it, then they can find two minutes or less to write back.  Call me crazy, but that’s where I’m at in my head and heart, both struggling to deal with the disappointment of being the sole contributor in a one-way conversation, multiple times, over an extended period of time.  At some point, something has to give, and my fear is that we will halt communication because we are not getting anything back from what we’re putting into these relationships.  I understand life doesn’t always give you a 50-50 situation, but I want to put my time and energy into relationships that offer more balanced ratios.

To be clear, I am no angel and am guilty of being a non-responder myself.  I have had moments of not responding to people.  On those occasions, I did not care to keep in touch with those people.  So, my actions came with the understanding that the person on the other end might no longer want to keep in touch with me.  I was okay with that.  I would not consider those people as close friends or family.

All of this comes back to my lack of content over the last 10 months.  I have struggled with feeling upset with people for not being in better touch with us even after we initiated contact many times.  I felt that creating more posts would somehow feed into the unfair nature of it all, where people would have even more access to my life without me knowing any more about theirs.  Then I would feel silly for being selfish and remind myself that this site is not about anyone else, really.  In fact, by producing less content I’m actually depriving my children from more insight to who I am at this point in time.

The feelings I have about my relationships with people while living abroad may change.  Our communication may become more of a two-way street down the road (pun?).  I suppose there was another component that made it challenging for me to document my thoughts on the matter.  By typing it out, I may have had some fear that those feelings would be permanent.  I now realize it’s only a reflection of how I feel at the moment.  If and when things change, I can always share those revisions.  I believe there is value in expressing myself now rather than waiting for things to change before feeling comfortable writing again.  I should not allow anyone to get in the way of my expression or creative endeavors, ever.

How do I post this without offending any person or persons in particular?  I think it’s practically impossible.  My intent is not drama-driven, but rather in hope that my honesty can influence others to reflect on personal behaviors that may have become bad habits.  Possibly I can draw attention to the fact that there are real people at the other end of the characters we see on our devices.  Real people, sharing real thoughts and experiences with one another.

I am old enough to remember when e-mail was brand new.  Those were exciting times, and I recall the excitement that went along with seeing a new message sitting in my inbox.  Now, e-mails seem to be a hassle and even text messages are a pain.  They both require you to TYPE if you even care to respond.  Sure, there’s dictation software to help with that.  But that would require time to activate and set it up.  Oh, and forget about video chat because you would actually have to give people some of your ‘real’ time.  You can’t just hear what they have to say and ignore them for hours or days at a time before responding, if at all.

Yes, we live abroad.  We are not in everyone’s neighborhood.  From my experience, I don’t think it matters as much as some people believe, especially with the communication technology that exists.  There may be some correlation between the simplicity of communication and the actual lack of communication that results.  It’s as though we design things to simplify our lives which end up becoming so much more complicated.  How strange.

I am learning about how busy life can be when you start having children.  I’m sure it will become more challenging as we add a second child into the mix and as the years go on.  Through it all, I hope I never get too busy to maintain my lines of communication.  I want to be a good role model for our children on how to behave in an electronic environment.  The only question is, how do I do that if no one is keeping in touch with us by then?


6 thoughts on “Communication Breakdown

  1. I am so sorry this has been your experience. I hope, with time, the ones who understand the nature of our peripatetic life will keep in more regular contact. There were many with whom I’ve lost touch in my years abroad, but I’ve found, perhaps surprisingly, that I’ve rekindled a number of relationships with old friends who are interested in where I am at and what I’m doing. I suppose, though, I’ve also been self-selective over the years, gravitating to others with nomadic lives–those who “get it”. I hope that such ends up being the case for you. At least know that you have a friend listening in Lebanon!

    • Thank you, James! I know you “get it”. I am still quite new to the international scene and have found it both comforting and disturbing that so many people have had similar experiences.

  2. Hi Corbet – this is Jo Ann, your mom’s cousin (and, of course, yours as well). I found the same to be true when I lived in Japan. Way back then, in the old days, telephone calls and letter writing were the only ways to keep in touch. By the end of my three years in Japan, only my parents and a handful of friends were still writing to me. I have wondered if today’s technology would’ve made maintaining contact easier. Today, I rarely actually handwrite letters. I use email and text often and FaceBook has helped me keep in contact with friends I don’t see for whatever the reason. Your grandmother’s side of the family is small now and we seem to see each other only at funerals or weddings (or birthday parties like Dorian’s!). I will be sure to check back regularly to read your posts and see how your family is doing.

    • Hi, Jo Ann! Thank you for reading and commenting! It’s nice to hear you have an understanding from your time spent in Japan. This lack of communication happens on a local level, too. It’s sad! Oh, and our family, what happened?! 🙂 I guess it’s really hard to keep families close when everyone has their own thing going on. Hmm, maybe we can have another party next time we visit!

      • Hi Corbet – we must definitely have a party the next time y’all visit again! Most of the cousins’ children don’t know each other, which is sad. I remember the family parties at your grandparents’ house and all my cousins being there. As the cousins got older and had families of their own, the parties dwindled. It takes effort from everyone to keep in touch…it’s not a one way street, right?

      • Exactly, Jo Ann! The effort to stay in touch and the importance of family appear to be lost with each generation. I don’t know how to change it but hope to instill these values into my own family unit. Only time will tell if I am successful or not. I think most people find it easier to not think of such things and daily life consumes them. Living abroad has helped me to evaluate what I want for the future of my family.

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