Friday, June 06, 2008

Blogging, Friendship, and the Internet

Once upon a time, not so very long ago (July of '06, to be exact), I started this blog. Within just a few days of my first post, I discovered Jen's blog, called Heisse Sheisse ("hot shit" in German). Jen, a Bay Area girl (like me) who'd married a German boy (like I almost had) and moved to Germany, immediately drew me in with her wit, her honesty and her (shall we say) unique perspective on life. I felt an immediate kinship with Jen, prompted by the Germany connection and the Bay Area connection and the blogging connection and -- well, she just seemed like someone I'd love to meet someday.

And meet, we did! Boy, did we ever! In September, 2007 Jen and ten of my favorite German/American bloggers came together in Frankfurt, Germany on the last day of my month-long trip to Germany with Tom and Elisabeth (though Tom had flown home a week previous). Although I knew that online friendships could run deep, it wasn't until that day that I realized just how real, how genuine and how deep those friendships could be. We partied long into the night and when the wee hours of the morning arrived, we knew we had to say goodbye. I'd grown close to people like Jen and Geoffrey before my trip, but spending time with them in Germany just made me feel closer to them, and flying home the next day was difficult.

Blogging Buddies at the Blogger Meet-Up in Frankfurt, Germany

Jen and I stayed in touch, though our lives got busy and each of us blogged less frequently. Still, I looked forward to chatting with her again on Skype because, with Jen, so much of her appeal is in her energy and her feisty spirit. It comes through on her blog -- but it REALLY comes through in person!

I hadn't talked to or heard from Jen in months when, at 1:30 in the morning on the night of our anniversary, while we were still celebrating with the kids and no one had even thought to get to bed (and it was a school/work night!), I got e-mail from her. Jen, who had been trying hard to get pregnant for a long time wrote me to tell me... that she was pregnant!

Jen and Sparky

But wait. What was this?

"What in god’s name am I doing having a kid?"

The she freaked out (her words) a little and added, "Is this freak-out normal, Carol? It happened just like I wanted it too and now I’m so not ready. Any advice because I could sure use it. I know you are super busy with work so get back to me when you can." I read her letter to Elisabeth, who loves her as much as I do, and we both knew we had to reach her. I wrote her back immediately, knowing that chances were good that she was still online since it was 10:30 AM in Germany, saying "Let's talk. Skype!"

Jen and Elisabeth

Within three minutes Jen and I were on the phone. (Or rather, on the Internet headphones.) I have no idea what I said to her because I just said what was in my heart, but it had something to do with my own frequent hormonally-driven freak-outs when I was pregnant, and with the very normal fear of the unknown, and the very typical fear of parenting, and with the absolute confidence that she and Sparky would be amazingly wonderful parents. Jen went all "what have I done?" on me, and I went all "this is normal, I promise!" on her.

I wished I could give Jen a hug, wished we could spend the day together sipping coffee, going for a long walk, or hell -- shopping till dropping... wished it wasn't 2 AM on a work night. But it was and our conversation lasted nowhere near long enough. I miss Jen and if she and Sparky lived in Seattle, they'd totally be part of our family!

A few days later I got another e-mail from Jen. The subject line was "I'm better," which made me feel good. But a few lines into the e-mail, I saw the words "I miscarried." It brought tears to my eyes. Then Jen thanked me for chatting with her, saying "I get all veklempt when I think about it and if you were here, I’d squeeze your arm." Just like Jen.

I didn't give it a second thought, really. I was happy to talk with Jen and calm her fears and wrap my Internet arms around her.

And then I read Jen's blog entry today. And I realized that we really don't know when or how or how much we impact people around us. About our late night conversation Jen said, "Carol talked me off that ledge. I really honestly do not know what I would have done without Carol. I had no idea that those could be normal feelings. I didn’t even think about hormones. She helped me get perspective. And look at her kids. How do I make sure I have kids like that..."

I had no idea. And that made me wonder how often we say or do things that have an impact on people that's far more significant than we realize -- both good and bad. Did I say something off-the-cuff last week that offended someone? Did I offend someone yesterday by not doing or saying something?

If a stranger can ruin my day by flipping me off on the freeway or make my day by paying me a compliment, then how big an impact can we have on people we know? Huge. It's both humbling and empowering to realize that.

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Jen said...

Congrats to Jen, and to both of you for such a great bond!

Margaret said...

We truly do never know how we impact people. I am a teacher and some of the kids who come back to visit and say that I had a huge influence on them, well.. they're not the ones I think will feel that way.

J said...

Non-internet people don't realize what strong bonds internet people do form. I've given up trying to explain it to them, but am glad to be a part of the blogging world.

Maria said...

I find myself wondering that too... how do I impact people without realizing it? Anyway, I'm glad you were there for Jen, and I love you both from afar! :)

Goofball said... me goosebumps.

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