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Holidays, EGreetings, Expectations, Friends, Family, Online Teaching and a Brain Dump

Holidays, EGreetings, Expectations, Friends, Family, Online Teaching and a Brain Dump

by Dani Babb
May 12, 2011

Ah... as an online teacher, this is about the only week that life feels somewhat normal. Most schools (not all) are on break. That leaves time for reading, too much time for the gym (exhaustion anyone?), too much time for thinking, and for many of my friends in this profession a lot of guilt that they didn't spend that one week of "quarter time" with family.

I don't believe in feeling guilty for that (and thankfully my husband doesn't hold it against me); most of the time I have a limit on how much time I can spend with humans I'm related to that I don't have much in common with anyway (something many of us feel but don't think is okay to say), so life is good on this week-long quarter-break time. :)

Always the writer (for fun, believe it or not) I've spent quite a bit of time this past 10 days or so since returning from NYC to California thinking and writing about lots of things.. from e-greetings to how electronics have changed the way we communicate and our expectations of others to blogging to narcissism to personalities to holidays and so on. I've noted a few generalities that have been 'proven' (those of us that teach stats know there is no such thing.. and if you took my class, you better know it! :) ) throughout the past week by behavior so repetitive I am certain I could predict it with nearly 100% accuracy. Some of it depressing; most of it enlightening about the human spirit.

But it all makes for an interesting sociology study during this online teacher's "downtime". So, notes written for the day, squeeze cheese (finally) out of my bangs (don't ask), calls taken, interviews done, everything I have spilled this morning cleaned up and schools taught, I can explain what I mean.

I've noticed a pattern with friends and family over the holiday season. I believe that people have an entirely different set of expectations for those that they love (or are related to - which may be mutually exclusive or not) over the holiday season.. beginning around mid December going a few days after New Years. I no longer, after this year, will spend my holidays with someone or people out of obligation. They sense it, you know it, and it isn't right. It isn't worth it.

I posted on Twitter once after reading a Medline study that people who travel most often tend to have difficulty maintaining intimacy. I counted myself among them; not so much after analyzing my ability to maintain intimacy but my frequency of travel and the stats used in the article. While I'm "home" for the holidays, a part of me cannot wait to get back to what has become the norm, and that is not being home - even though it leads to different types of discomforts (like noise).

Which leads this inquisitive mind to wonder what home is anyway really.. perhaps a few-day reconnection with a loved one; perhaps it's a place where your stuff is (a majority of it anyway); maybe it's a place your family is or maybe it's no where at all for some of us. Maybe we spend so much time trying to build a home that we really don't need one anyway and it's fruitless. I haven't figured out where my home is yet. I have a hypothesis but not one I will share here. Not now anyway.

So the pattern. There seem to be a few kind of friends. I've wondered what kind of friend I am over the holidays too.. and I see a little bit of myself in every one of these -- depending on who I am the friend I'm associating with. (confused yet?)

Non Holiday-Friends - Friends that, for the holiday part of the year, disappear and reappear again around mid January and want to go to Starbux as though nothing ever happened. I've concluded that they are either over worked at home and have no time (at least half my friends like this in my view struggle with this) or that they don't know what to say or what to do that is appropriate to them so they disappear and reappear. The other friend of course wonders why they never bothered to say hello or Merry Christmas; but that goes back to expectations.. who says a friend has to say that? Well, most of us.. not for social norming, just out of kindness. The other friend wonders if you even gave them a second thought. I analyze my friends who disappeared and know most of them didn't do so out of malice, they're socially inept. LOL

The over-"electronicized" friends. These are the friends that take the week or two they have off, and read everything, every blog, every twitter and every post and watch every interview you did in the last 350 days. That's cool - but then they apply it all to themselves in a narcissistic fashion. I know all about narcissism, I was married to it in the early 2000s. I have friends that drink too much and think everything you wrote about CEOs in their home state means you think they are losers. I delete their messages knowing that they will come around when they've put down the booze. The friends that think none of anything you wrote had anything to do with them, and it did - at least you were on their mind when you wrote it. Most of what we write, even in specific scholarly disciplines, has something to do with life in general. The friends that want you to explain what you wrote last January in context when you haven't a clue.. you're too busy focusing on your new posts. Maybe they do it out of boredom, or maybe they want to know "what you really thought of them" all year and are a bit paranoid. Chances are, it wasn't about them. I actually lost a friend this year because someone thought a twitter was about them - and it was anything but. If they are that sensitive, they have to go in the prior to 2009-friend-bucket anyway. Time to clean house, as they say.. and figure out who our real friends are. I don't believe in New Years resolutions, but this year I will have one, and that is mine.

Then there are the friends that go out of their way to do and be everything they can be for you. I believe we all have only 1 or 2 of these friends. They are amazing; they make you feel special out of the Love Language (great basic book) of "doing things". They are do'ers and big time. Every gift has meaning, every act has meaning. I believe this is nothing more than their mere love language; as long as they don't expect you to be able to do the same in return.

The gift-phobic friends - that freak out if you give them a gift. (remember these aren't mutually exclusive.. most of my friends have more than one of these elements!) They feel that their gift wont live up to yours.. admittedly I love to buy things for people. That is one of my love languages. I learned many years ago that most people don't enjoy it, and always always give with no expectation of anything in return. But these gift phobic people freak. I had a friend one year beg me never to buy him anything again. I haven't and that is my gift to him. He doesn't realize it's far more difficult than if I did buy him one. But that is the meaning of gift giving anyway perhaps!

There are of course just the regular friends .. we might have lunch a few days before Christmas, they call on Christmas, we say hello and wish one another a great day, and they are in our thoughts all day. We touch bases again the next day to see how things went... and we might see one another again right around the New Year. Most of my friends are rather accustomed to finding that time while I'm in California as my friends are here - NYC, while a big place, is quite hard to make real friends in.

I find it fascinating how electronics have changed the way and the acceptability of being distant.. in the mid 90s greeting cards printed from online services with a picture tried to personalize things; we seem to have come full circle to the most impersonal. This year the night before Christmas I cleaned out all of my texts and the next morning all 100 my phone is capable of handling were filled.... with Merry Christmas's ... about half the people I know and the other were not in my phone. I have no idea who they are. I appreciate the thought though! Then of course e-greetings.. sending e-cards instead of cards, entirely replacing cards.. using the recession or lack of time as an excuse. I don't know whether I believe it's a valid one, even as a technologist. There are those of us that combined technologies; emailing family and friends but also sending traditional cards (well my cards aren't exactly "traditional".. if you've received one, you know what I mean LOL). I think that texting and emailing and e-cards has made it far too easy for all of the types of friends above to make life easy on themselves.

Then there are the people that focus on a small handful of people in their lives and ignore the rest. They're very intimate with those that they're with over the holidays, but "forget about" everyone else - perhaps completely - I haven't figured that part out yet. They give as much as, in their mind, they can.. but my belief has always been "where there is a will, there is a way." I email that reply to everyone that asks how I started and built my career. It holds true in life in all aspects.

Given that last phrase.. it would be and is easy and accurate for my family and friends to say "well you didn't visit me and you were disconnected.. but where there is a will, there is a way.??" Yes, precisely. I believe that we have far too much pressure on us to see and be with people we really don't want to be with or to act and behave in a manner consistent with some fantasy rather than reality. This entire holiday season I've been highly preoccupied - with work, with relationship matters, with 'stuff' in my head, with reading, with trying to take my ground school test, with kicking my butt back into pre-1st-marriage shape (mission accomplished - a hard feat as I was 25 and quite athletic). I've chosen to spend it with people that understand I'm preoccupied, and therefore, probably not "acting normal" or behaving in a manner they would like. That is okay with them because they love me anyway and know I have a lot of 'stuff' happening that is life altering. So I didn't visit the people I might normally have visited, and spent time with ones that I could sit on their bed with them and share our most intimate feelings. That after all in my view is what the holidays should be about. Which basically requires zero expectations.