Friday, July 18, 2014

Virtual Reality As I Know It

So I’m sitting here sucking down a boxed pot pie and extracting missed bits of potting soil from my talons. It’s not even 8:00 am yet and already I’ve showered, made coffee, done a sink full of dishes and attempted to rescue some sad flowers from my front yard. In my domain, much like the rest of life it’s either flood or scorch and most things can’t survive the wild pendulum swings. Those that do are usually toxic, prickly and invasive.
It’s been a gnarly couple of weeks, culminating in a girly meltdown yesterday at work, complete with sobbing and apologies for my lapse in self-control. Today I’m paying for it with the inevitable pug face and that perpetual gnaw of self-loathing even though I know I am a human and therefore flawed. When a cohort queried “what else is going on” I refrained and blamed the chaos of the moment. Twenty four hours later and distanced from specific responsibilities I can consider the dancing plethora of “what elses” and obsess over one or two specifically acid producing issues.
I have this dear friend I’ve known since 2006 and although we’ve never actually chatted face to face over coffee, I’ve grown accustomed to her internet presence in my life. I suppose I’ve waxed complacent. So when she did that thing that so many do and proclaimed a modicum of personal control over her very real existence by stepping away from bandwidth drama it didn’t immediately register that I was mixed in with the internet flotsam and jetsam she was dismissing from her daily routine in favor of communing with humans on a tangible level. Oops. All it takes is a nano-second to be emotionally eviscerated when you drop your mental shield.
So here I am, scraping my guts into a shabby pile and attempting to stuff them back into a gaping hole again. Admittedly this war wound is totally expected considering the gargantuan character flaw I carry like a bulls eye emblazoned adjacent to my soft underparts. Because the internet by nature is impersonal, mutable and easily dismissed for better pursuits, those who frequent it take on its characteristics. We develop platforms, personas, identities that we slough off when we return to “real life” as though all this interaction is some giant role play game. Oops part two.
Truth is, I don’t own a persona. I don’t have a platform or a big chalk line between what I do here and what I do there. I am one awkward, generic person face to face or keyboard to keyboard. If I say it on Facebook, I’ll say it to your face. My only real weapon in this fight is a little thing called transparency. I don’t differentiate in my interactions whether I’m chatting with my adopted “son” from India or trading barbs with my first born over a Starbucks in rush hour traffic. I don’t own a cloaking device and those filters between mind and fingers and mouth are intermittent. If I hate cats, I hate them on my couch and on my PC screen. If I adore your smile I adore it on your page and on your face next to me at church. I don’t run and I don’t hide. I don’t shut down and I don’t seem to possess an “off” button. I also lack the capacity to grasp that most of the world doesn’t roll the way this Tammy rolls and therein lies one socially limiting flaw. (I have multitudinous flaws but we’ll stick to this one for the sake of limiting your exposure to skull numbing boredom) And so it often leaves me a bit unhinged when those I care for enforce that boundary between the real life outside their office doors and the fiction of social networking. Suddenly my entire existence is equivalent to text in a book one can close and forget on a shelf. And I thought I was a real girl too….
Whether here in the land of memes and lolcats or in your real world off screen it is always your choice to walk away. And it is always my choice to miss you when you do. Even if you’ve spun your entire existence as one big cyber telenovela – I still found something amidst the ones and zeroes that resonated as relevant.  Reciprocity is not required and that is the takeaway here. I have to come to the personal peace that it should never be expected. That is where I am twisted the tightest. I stopped expecting in my interactions “off the screen” and transferred that crave to those writers and friends and cousins with whom I socialize on the bandwidth. Oops number three. That means I’m out.
I don’t do casual. I’m not a stalker – but test the theory and drop out of sight. I’ll seek you out again because you matter. Even if our friendship is “virtual” – you aren’t. I know you’re a real human on the other side of that screen. Even if you’ve lied to me about everything  - you still possess a beating heart, firing dendrites and a soul. You therefore deserve and will always receive my transparency because at the end of the day – who I am is really all I have. And as for your persona – as a writer I know that all fiction contains an element of truth – or the reader wouldn’t engage. That is my goal as a human – to fully engage.

Peace. I suppose my own “real life” needs my attention. I have floors to scrub, and laundry to do. And three hundred hints on ancestry.com to check out. Wait. Are deceased relatives not real because they exist as shaky green leaves on the bandwidth? Perhaps I need more coffee and another girly cry. Got tissue?