Monday, October 25, 2010

Bi-continental

I’ve written often about how much I enjoy living in Minsk, and I’ve written occasionally about how I enjoy life in Boston. I find that I experience a little sorrow when I think about leaving either place, even though I’m headed to the other.

Apparently I’m not the first to experience this angst. I had lunch last week with a friend whose mother divides her time among three homes and feels sorrow at leaving each of them. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone, but I really didn’t expect this. I figured that anticipating the joys of the next place would more than overcome any concern about flying away from the pleasures of the present. My life is indeed rich, with very dear people in both places (and elsewhere), interesting things to plan and do, and even some responsibilities. Analytically, I expect an emotional balance as I plan to leave a place I enjoy and go to a place I also enjoy. Life, however, doesn’t always follow expectations.

I think my nephew identified the problem. Not a member of what he calls “the leisure class,” I must plan my trips economically and cross the ocean infrequently. If I felt free jet back to Boston for an important event, then I imagine I would feel less concern about closing a door behind me.

The hardest thing about traveling in either direction is leaving behind people important to me. I really enjoy communication, and there is no perfect substitute for proximity. While nearly everybody remains accessible by telephone or Skype, time-zone differences and differences in personal schedule render communications difficult and at times even unlikely. In Minsk, we can easily look out the window, notice a beautiful day, and find somebody free to go out and share it with us. In Boston, we can do the same, though perhaps with a smaller circle of people likely to be free. But when it’s a beautiful day in Minsk, the best we can do with our kids is call them and tell them that we are about to enjoy a nice day, information they don’t necessarily even want at that moment.

I wonder if there is a low-cost way to mitigate this angst. I honestly don’t think the answer is social networking. While Facebook allows me to know that my cousin’s dog is in surgery and that she made wreaths with friends yesterday, it doesn’t really assure me that she is enjoying inner peace or let me know if she needs a pat on the back. Sure, social networking can be one tool in our kits, but I don’t think it’s sufficiently personal.

There’s probably some limit to the number of relationships we can maintain in a status of “really important,” and living in multiple places tempts us to extend the number of relationships we wish to maintain at that level. Perhaps that can be a good thing, but it suggests an implied responsibility. If those relationships really are important, I need to be doing a better job of writing letters and making time for phone calls. Hmm… Sounds like fun.

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