John works out of the country most months of the year…at least…he has since I’ve known him.
The first country he was in when we began hanging out digitally was Honduras. I only know this because I’d see his status updates on Facebook. We communicated occasionally but never with any consistency or frequency. Nonetheless, he was definitely on my radar. After all, he’s the total package: good-looking, emotionally available, funny, employed, absolutely crazy about me, among other things. After Honduras, he did a stint in Vietnam, and that’s where things began to gel for us. We began to Skype on a regular basis. By Thanksgiving, he was announcing he would come to see me at Christmas. Of course, I didn’t believe him until after less than 24-hours back in the states, he had his flight booked to see me.
Yes, we hit it off.
Yes, he left and came back three weeks later, just before heading to Bangkok and we had just as much fun then.
But…when he got on the flight to head to Thailand…everything went silent.
For 21 hours, nearly an entire day, I heard nothing from a man who is generally very connected. I wasn’t worried about our relationship. I had no worries about him going silent or disappearing and conveniently blaming the time and distance between us, but I was surprised at how lost I felt during these 21 hours. I was surprised at how accustomed I’d become to our regular conversations via Facebook Messenger or Skype. When he finally touched down in Thailand, he messaged me immediately. The relief that washed over me surprised me. I’m not given to this kind of thing at all. I can move on through life pretty seamlessly. No big deal.
Or so I thought.
I have come to realize that it wasn’t so much the fact that he was out of touch, but that I’d become so used to the daily, regular contact that we shared. Though not face-to-face, the digital communication definitely served to move our relationship forward. It was how we connected, exchanged information and affection daily. I’d made a place in my life for this person and now, due to time, distance, and technology, our budding interactions were silenced. It felt strange to me. It should have. We both lost an entire day of interaction and relationship. No small thing when you’ve finally met someone who “gets” you. I don’t “need” to be in contact with John daily, but I want to be. When he has to shut off the technology that keeps us connected even though we are on opposite ends of the Earth, I now notice the vacancy in my days. I am surprised that it could be this way. I blame Skype and I also thank my lucky stars for Skype.
Today, after two and a half months in Bangkok, John boarded a plane for Doha, Qatar. He’s in airplane mode again. He won’t sleep the entire flight. Of course, this one is during his daytime, so he wouldn’t anyway, but he never does. He can’t message me on Facebook. I won’t be able to Skype him before bedtime. We won’t be able to share about our days like we normally do. We’ll lose another day, because there’s really no way you can ever make any of that experience up, no matter how you try.
That’s just the thing. Relationship requires people to be present. Whether it be Skype, Messenger, email or phone, or (preferably) face-to-face, relationship requires consistent, positive connection in order for it to flourish.
I have come to hate Airplane Mode.
I have also come to love Airplane Mode. The silence brings to the surface everything that is. What’s floating up these days is a whole lot of trust, hope, joy, and awe.
I can’t wait till we are in Airplane Mode, and I’m in the seat next to him.