I recently received an invitation to connect with someone on LinkedIn. It came as something of a surprise given our 30-year friendship had come to a silent end several years prior. Nothing had happened (as far as I know)—communication just ceased. Invitations to connect socially went answered. Death of a member of our family was acknowledged by email. Birth of a grandchild was announced on Facebook. I’ve grown a lot in the last five decades and am able to process life’s happenings with less pain and angst. I can sit with questions that have no answers. I can acknowledge losses, some of which make no sense and move forward. Midlife in all its awesomeness has proved to be something of a miracle in this arena.
Acceptance has become more than a word—it’s a daily practice that can sometimes be excruciatingly painful. In midlife we undoubtedly have to come to terms with aging and death, both our own and our parents. We are often weighed down by health problems (theirs and our own) along with the angst of our children who are trying to make their way in an ever-more complicated world. Friendships end as we become more and more aware of our needs and changing priorities. Time is more valuable now—we know this. The little voice inside, the steady tap on the shoulder that says “get on with it” can be a welcome reminder of what is and isn’t important now.
And so the invitation presented itself without words and I had to make a decision. I’ve been mulling it over these last few days. I can’t help but wonder why a person who stopped communicating now wants me as a Facebook friend. It seems a little harsh to ignore the invitation and yet I couldn’t get myself to press the button “Confirm.” More mulling. My natural urge was to send an email and ask where the sudden impulse to connect is coming from? But what would I want from that? What would anyone want from a relationship that can be “confirmed” with a press of a button? And yet we live here in this cyber-world making wonderful connections over the Internet, finding old friends and new ones. I found my best summer camp friend through Facebook and it was sweet and exciting. We lost contact when we were 13. That re-connection makes sense to me. The ones that come out of the blue— cyber, mechanical invitations that tiptoe into our email box after an apparent and non-discussed disappearance—not so much.
Social media is great and certainly can’t be ignored. In this time-limited world we have ways to stay in touch when face-to-face time can’t be scheduled. Relationships near and far can be sustained with greater ease. Even my husband just learned about the miracle of Face Time while traveling overseas. We now get to see each other’s faces, smile, even kiss goodnight across continents. But if you have no urge to see me, or hear my voice, I’ve decided while writing this piece, I’m tapping the word “Ignore.”