No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Monday, November 15, 2010

9-hour Phone Calls and Friendship Appreciation

Earlier tonight I was feeling tired and got a quick phone call and then suddenly remembered a moment I'd had with an old boyfriend about 9 or 10 years ago.

I had moved back to Alaska for a year and a half, but my boyfriend at the time was living in Colorado. Neither of us had cell phones. It was actually difficult to have one in Alaska at the time, and in general fewer people had them outside of places like California and New York. Instead, I simply had my own land line phone number. In Alaska there was a long distance system where you could pay a flat amount of $15 and then have unlimited long distance calling within the United States. With the remoteness of the place, sanity depended on being able to call out to family members and friends that lived elsewhere.

As a result, my boyfriend and I would talk at least daily. We'd often talk at night, after a long day of work when we were both tired. It was nice to close the day with him that way. I'd get ready for bed. It was Alaska so it was always dark, and then one of us would call the other and we'd talk until we were both too tired to stay up any longer. It really was incredibly sweet and it made both of us feel quite close to each other despite the physical distance. More often than not though I'd wake up the next morning with the portable phone next to me and a bit of drool on the pillow.

At the end of the first month I checked my phone bill and scrolling through the long distance calls I found a nine hour phone call. What the hell? It turned out he and I had both fallen asleep on the phone while talking to each other. Neither of us ever hung up the phone. Thanks to the monthly flat rate long distance plan the call didn't cost any more. It was just hilarious to know we'd literally slept together via phone. It turned out he was able to get back up to Alaska after only two months, so the long distance part of the relationship didn't last too long. As a result, long distance night time sleep fests via phone only happened a couple more times too. 10 hours was our record call.

Growing up in Alaska I got used to keeping various sorts of relationship connections going over the phone. My dad, for example, started working on the North Slope of Alaska when I was 2 years old. As a result he'd be gone at work for a week at a time, and then home not working for every other week. That meant while he was gone to stay connected to him we'd talk on the phone, even if sometimes only for a few minutes. As far as I remember, he called everyday. He always talked to my mom, and some days to either of my sisters or me too.

In the summers my whole family migrated to the Western coast of the state for commercial salmon fishing. By the time I was in high school I'd developed close friendships, that at the time I imagined as more intimate than the relationships I had with my family members. To keep in contact with them I wrote letters regularly, and also would call once a week or so to play catch up over the phone. It was mostly me listening to their summer run around stories since my side of the update was largely the same--"no, no sleep. yeah, lots of fish. tired. oh yeah!? you hiked Flat Top? oh. awesome. who else was there? no. no mountains to hike out here." etc.

As a result of this kind of life I got used to the idea that I can be close to people that don't live near me. In adulthood I've moved all over the place too, and have consistently stayed in contact with friends that now live all over the continent, and a few on other continents too. I feel fortunate to know people so well that way--to get to know the amazing changes and growth processes people go through in their lives over years, even when I don't always see them in person.

Really, the thing I count myself luckiest for in my life is the relationships I have with my various loved ones. It is such a blessing for me to come to know people closely over time. To know how a person has overcome struggles, faced obstacles, loved deeply, dealt with their own fears, enjoyed goofiness, explored their own creativity--these things are incredible sources of inspiration and joy to me. I draw heavily on knowledge of such intimacy when I find myself struggling in my own life.

This kind of attitude has rolled over into my view of romantic relationships too. I've never been afraid of long distance relationships, and even have joked that if I added "lack of physical proximity" to my list of reasons not to date a guy I'd NEVER fall in love. Honestly though some of my dearest relationships have been kept going for at least a time over the phone.

Living in a new place now I'm fortunate to have a number of friends I keep in close contact with via email, and phone. It's kept me going here while I feel semi-reclusive in person around the idea of getting to know new people. Still, it admittedly doesn't replace in person contact. I got to speak with a good friend of mine back in Flagstaff via phone today. It was nice to hear how he's doing, and to catch up with a few town updates too. It felt good to remember that Flagstaff is a place I really have such connections in, and that if I want to return there I have friendships to root down with there.

In the meantime, dear friends, keep staying in contact--even those of you less used to phone calls. Email, and letters are good forms of communication too. It's wonderful to be in each other's lives. Lots of love!

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