Saturday, December 20, 2008

The changing social landscape

In the past, I've written about how my different birthday observances over the years reflect the changes in the people in my life. The same can be said at looking at different unusual occasions -- I'm thinking of events that could be called disasters or emergencies, but did not have disastrous effects on my own life.

I was okay living without power for the first 24 hours or so, but after a while it got kind of old, and I speculated about whether there was anyone whose house I could stay at if they had power. Locally I have one friend and one person I don't quite call a friend. I thought of them, and I discarded the idea of calling them to see if they had power and a place I could stay. The options that I saw before me were: living in my cold, dark apartment, living in my office, going to the Red Cross shelter, staying in a hotel, driving two hours to my mom's house, or driving two hours to my dad's house. I chose living in my office.

I thought back to Sept. 11. It didn't personally affect me, but they closed work early that day. What to do with myself? I was feeling edgy because of the events of the day, so I didn't really feel like going about my normal activities, whatever they might have been. I checked with my two friends, and we decided to go for a hike. I think it was a good way to spend the occasion -- to be with friends, and to do something that reminds me of the beauty in the world.

The people who are in one's life are the people one instinctively checks in with and makes plans with whenever such an occasion occurs. And I spent the power outage alone because there was no one locally that I felt like checking in with.

A few days later, the aforementioned person I don't quite call a friend said next time there's a power outage, call him, and I can stay at his house if he has power. But the thing is, I knew it wasn't true. Maybe he and I both want it to be true that I could call him, but the truth is, I can't. Because I expect that his most likely response would be along the lines of, "Oh, there's a power outage? I didn't know. I've been in Vermont on a ski trip with all my friends. We'll be back the day after tomorrow." That's his lifestyle. It's full. Most likely, at any given time, he is busy doing something and doesn't have room for whatever I would need. I can't call him because I can't take yet another reminder, after the thousands I've gotten already, that he always has more important things to do than be there for me. And he can't take it either -- it would make him feel guilty, and less comfortable about me.

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