Today’s 4am pondering: Why do I find it so difficult to relate with my fellow humans? To connect in a meaningful way. Sure, I can talk about the weather. I can handle chit-chat. But idle banter is usually not meaningful connection. Warning, the post ahead is meandering and perhaps of little interest to others.

Last night, innocently enough, I discovered a new-to-me blog and spent an hour reading through a couple posts before bed. Upon waking this morning rather than hopping online to browse or Mastodon my mind began wandering and wondering. It started with thoughts of that blog and what about it had appealed to me. Partly it was the low tech nature of someone coding a website by hand rather than the usual blog. In a world of brief, shallow status updates and quips, I’d stumbled on a personal website of individual page-articles that reminded me of the web of the late 1990s. And it was the voice of her writing, a human sharing her efforts to learn. Simple, authentic sharing. More about this soon in a separate post.

From there my mind turned to thoughts of a little family meet-up today. My folks who live just a mile away are stopping in to visit with my aunt and uncle and I was invited as well. They’re probably going to play some games. I’m not a game player so will likely just visit for a bit. It’s the kind of thing I usually skip but my folks are moving several states away in a couple weeks so it’s an opportunity to visit.

A personal insight, a little discovery. As it happens, I often skip such visits. I’ve missed out on many such chances to visit and I think this morning I stumbled on the reason. (Sidebar: Strange that it wasn’t clear to me before. Our brains are weird like that sometimes. Or at least mine is. I’ll have something sitting there and though I’m aware of it, I’m not clear about it. It’s just sort of lurking. And then I’ll see it more directly and actually take the time to examine it. ) So why do I avoid visiting? The short answer is that I have very little interest in banter and gossip. My interest is in authentic conversation. Sometimes that might mean discussion about an issue of some sort. Or exploring interests. But generally, it means going a bit deeper. My interest is in knowing and being known.

It occurred to me this morning that perhaps my tendency to look for a certain depth is connected to my lifestyle. In short, I’m single and have been for most of the past 30 years. I’ve dated but my experience of “long term” partnerships amount to 3 relationships that each lasted about 2.5 years. And by choice I never had kids. For most of the past 15 years I’ve lived on my own in my tiny house. Pre-covid I had a few local friends that I’d see on a semi-regular basis and family visits were fairly regular. But I’m quite comfortable being on my own which means I have a lot of time to reflect. Whether it’s the state of the world or just enjoying and observing some aspect of the natural world, I tend to, in the words of one family member, “over-analyze everything”. Perhaps that’s true.

Not only have I been on my own but I live a simpler life than most which generally translates to having more free time. For several years I spent that time at a telescope and reading about cosmology. Other times it’s had me focused on learning about plants, birds, and generally the natural world around me. I volunteer for the local library and for a year of that time worked on a podcast which consisted of interviews with older county folk. Stories of mostly rural life experiences: farm life, a few folks that worked in the lead mines that were once a feature of this area, some that traveled to work and returned here later. Sadly the project paused just before Covid and has not since been reestablished.

All that said, previous to these years of a generally quiet life of solitude I’d lived in Memphis where I was a part of a buzzing, active community. It was a life rich in experience and steeped in sharing. Almost the complete opposite of my life now. But in both of those two stages of my life I believe I made an effort to be deliberate and present in an effort to grow as an individual but to do so in relationship to the community around me.

I left Memphis in 2004. It was a life transition that happened physically in terms of my location and social connections, transitioning away from a created, local community back to time with family. And as that was happening the internet that I had been a part of was also beginning to transition from small independent websites and blogs to social networks from MySpace to Facebook to YouTube to Flickr to Twitter and podcasts too.

In the quiet of this morning I find myself thinking about a world in which I’m less able to relate to those around me. When I’m with family as I will be later today I have difficulty communicating. Partly it’s because I’ve grown so concerned and in recent weeks deeply troubled by the growing climate crisis. It’s what I think about many of my days and my family have little interest in discussing it. So I bottle it up which makes listening to the small talk all the more difficult. But even before that my efforts to find ways to connect with family often felt difficult. My interests often seeming to be so far from others.

Which brings me back, full circle, to my discovery of a simple but thoughtfully written website. It may well be that the problem is one of my own making. As I’ve found it difficult to connect face to face I’ve spent more time reading online and too much of that time is spent on a “feed” of some sort. From Mastodon to, the scrollable timeline is very similar. Though both are an improvement over other social media they are still largely composed of short status updates fairly similar to the shallow small talk I dislike with family visits.