Tonight, on the last night of this November month of gratitude, I think back to the start of the month when I got on a jet plane and flew off to a far away state to meet a friend. A mere four weeks later, it kind of, sort of feels like eons ago. Maybe because it kind of, sort of feels like I have always known Mary. But I haven’t.
Mary is someone I met through blogging. She started as a reader — an amazing reader, kind and supportive and flattering. The kind of reader that a blogger dreams of and, if we’re honest with ourselves, never quite feel worthy of. That’s my Mary. I think she found me in September 2011 when I was posting Donna’s Cancer Story in daily increments to recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Mary is one of those folks who came and never left.
She made herself known to me by leaving empathic comments. Later, after September, she was still commenting, but her remarks evolved. They became wicked funny. Hilarious. Spot on. Protective. Unfailingly supportive, but questioning when she felt questioning was merited. I mean, seriously, you couldn’t dream up a better reader.
Somewhere along the line I started to see her pop up in fellow blogger’s pages. I’m not gonna lie, part of me felt like Mary was cheating on me. I mean, really, she was leaving cute and supportive quips for other bloggers, too? Pffft. What kind of reader is that? Ha. That’s when I knew something was changing, evolving. Mary was becoming more real to me.
Somewhere else along the line we “friended” one another on Facebook. I’ve learned to become fairly protective of the line between Mary Tyler Mom, the blogger and Sheila, the woman. I stopped accepting personal friend requests from readers. I stopped posting photos of Mary Tyler Son on my blog page. The walls went up as the numbers did. Mary made it through though, and damn, I am glad of that.
When you blog on this here Internet, you “meet” a lot of folks. Thousands of new folks. It messes with you a bit. People, strangers on the Internet, know things about you. Deep and personal things that you willingly put out there and then just go about your day. And then they want to know more and you, again willingly, tell them more. And more. And more. Lines blur, judgment blurs, you trust openly and then you regret it. It happens, if you’re lucky enough to have folks read your words. Thanks to the help of fellow bloggers, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.
But it is the Internet, so not all things are as they seem. Scams become exposed, hard luck stories (just like the one that gave me my own Internet street cred) abound, and requests start pouring in. It’s an odd and heartbreaking phenomenon. How do you say yes to them? How do you say no to them? I still struggle with it. Most of the time, I just keep my head down and write. It’s what I do and it’s one of the few things that helps me grieve and regain a sense of control in my life, however false it may be.
But wait, we’re talking about Mary here!
That Mary had plum insinuated herself into my life. I found myself looking forward to her comments. Thrilled to see photos of her little ones, eek out little glimpses of the Mary behind the keyboard. She is protective herself, though, so we took our friendship nice and slow — just my pace. Life circumstances had her move to Europe in the middle of our friendship. I started to miss Mary, this gal I had never even met before. How is that even possible? Yet I was so happy for the adventure she and her family were having. I lived vicariously through her Facebook photos. Did I mention what a gifted photographer she is? Ridiculously gifted.
When I learned that Mary and her family were returning to the states, I made the decision to go and meet her. With fair warning, before she even stepped foot back on American soil, I popped the question — “Can I come visit you when you return?”
It was time.
At Donna’s memorial service, her amazing dance teacher, Miss Shawn, talked about saying “yes.” Donna said yes to her life challenges and adventures. More often than not, I have said no. Shawn and Donna inspired me to say yes to this burgeoning virtual friendship, to test it out, see if it had merit in the real world. I am so glad I did.
Sure, I joked online that I might end up in a thousand pieces in a Hefty bag on the side of some dusty road somewhere, but deep down I never felt scared. Deep down, Mary felt like a friend, good and close, who I had just never happened to meet in person before. So much of our virtual life is easy to dismiss by folks who prefer to communicate the old fashioned way. I reject that, in part. My virtual life, my Facebook life, is very real to me and completely valued. Meaningful communication is entirely possible via “virtual” means. My friendship with Mary is evidence of that.
Our visit confirmed my suspicions. Mary is my friend. One I had never met before, but no less a relationship for that, and now only the richer after our visit. I look forward to being life long friends with this lady. We’ve already matched two of our kids together in an arranged marriage, so, all in good time, we will be in-laws. And her husband doesn’t even seem to mind my politics. Virtual my a$$.
I love you, Lady! And am so very glad to know you. xox