Alone, together

It is interesting to have children of varying ages under our care. My oldest daughter is 11, my youngest daughter is 9, and my son, the “baby,” will turn 4 next month.

There was a time when my daughters were inseparable. We have such sweet pictures of them playing together, laughing, having a great time. One favorite picture of my daughters has them asleep in one bed, one with an arm straggled across the other, sound asleep. It’s a lovely memory, and I’m happy we have it captured in digital preservation.

Of course, as they have gotten older, they have grown apart. The oldest daughter is expanding her social circle and learning to grow in a complicated world. The youngest daughter has ADHD, and her interactions with others can bring challenges with family and friends alike, and we’re constantly testing different strategies to help raise her in a manner where she can get along peacefully. The problem with a disorder like ADHD is that, unlike the afflicted who have a physical representation of an illness — crutches, wheelchairs, or obvious physical impairments — the lack of physical reminders can make it easy to forget that she has challenges that others simply do not face.

There’s a lot of tension between my two daughters. On the flip side, my son is still a ball of cuteness. He’s playful, he’s sweet, and even his tantrums can be funny to watch. Sure, he can be a handful at times, but most of his faults can be glossed over for a time because, like I mentioned before, he’s still the baby.

The more I observe the different dynamics between my children, the more I can’t help but think about the troubling adults of this world. We seem to be losing civility and the ability to embrace our differences at every angle. Venture online, and just about every comment section on any public forum devolves in a short amount of time to name calling and dismissiveness.

It appears to me that social media seems to be at the heart of all of this. We’ve grown apart physically as a people, and when the majority of discussion ends up happening online, it’s amazing how that feeds into a downward spiral of negativity. I’ve heard this called digital courage, where someone feels brave enough to engage in name calling and vitriol that ultimately leads to the disintegration of relationships. There are things we would never say to someone else face to face, but take it online, the outcome is different. We disagree, we fight for a few paragraphs, and poof — I guess we won’t be friends anymore. See you later, jerk.

But man, my latest photo looks like a million bucks. I’ve got eight likes already.

This isn’t limited to online interactions. There are family members and past acquaintances I haven’t talked to in years. I have tried to extend an olive branch, but when nothing is reciprocated, what can I do? In turn, I end up more bitter than before, and the wounds create a thicker scar. Nothing is resolved, and no healing ever comes.

I am easily as at much fault as anyone. I have online connections who are also within a reasonable geographical distance from me, but I’ve done nothing to attempt to get together and have in-person dialogue with most of them. In turn, I feel more isolated than ever before.

This isn’t how I thought adulthood would be. I envisioned I would have a group of regulars that I would interact with. Our families would get together and share dinners at each others’ homes. Our children would get to know their children. I would always have someone to go see a concert with. My wife would always have a close confidant to hang out with for a ladies’ night.

But, that’s not how this is all working out. And honestly, I’m not sure how to fix it.

Please don’t read this as some kind of sad pity party or anything like that. I live a happy life, and I’m excited for what the future holds. I just find it truly amazing how lonely and isolationist adulthood can be, even when you’re often surrounded by so many people. Perhaps the really sad thing about this is, I know for certain that I’m not alone in my thoughts on this.

I suppose what I long for, what truly aches at my core, is this sense of a loss of community. We’ve lost it in our neighborhoods, our friends, our families, and especially in the last frontier, online.

Maybe someday we’ll figure out how to live together and truly bond with others. But for now it seems we’ve learned to master how to live surrounded, but alone.

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