For 2024, I want more lifelines and fewer deadlines
“So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment.” Brian Doyle
Live life is raw improv. It’s “dirty”, unpolished, with no chance to say things differently. No chance to mechanise the lines in the Italian way as you walk along. No chance to speak on the spot, no chance to look at the camera. But like good actors, you can fill it with truth, with yourself, without layers, without armour. And delight. With time that flows and is tasted. With light, with laughter, with hugs, with playfulness. With authentic conversations about deep subjects that touch us all. About love, death, the creative process, relationships, and daring to show the truth of your feelings. About secrets told in the intimacy of the night that reveal your vulnerability. About good connection and good vibes. About taking care of the details and committing to beauty. Without interruptions, without mobiles, and without AI so that every connection with the outside world is something meaningful, sought after, and miraculous.
I miss phone calls. I don’t like audios, so transactional and so efficient, so one-way, so unempathetic. They seem to tell us: I’m not interested in what you have to tell me, I don’t have time for you. I miss those endless teenage phone calls just to hear the sound of the voice from the guy you liked, without really anything to say. No, you hang up… come on, you hang up… My mother could tell her friends about an outing hanging on the phone for hours. We no longer know how to tell stories that way.
It is terrible how hyperconnectivity masks loneliness. We seek to be visible in hyperspace, sharing our intimacy all the time, but we struggle to find a shoulder to cry on or to share joy. We relate to fewer and fewer people. The circle narrows to close family and very few close friends. But we humans need more, at least up to the 150 people of the Dunbar number.
For my part, I am grateful to be part of the community of morning dog walkers in my neighbourhood. Our names don’t matter in that context. The spotlight is always on our pets. Sancha’s “mum” gave me a very nice hug when I told her how ill was our Pati, Piña’s daughter dog, who passed away last November 30th. The saddest thing of the year. My dear chubby. What a pity.
In theory, I have many friends. My phone book is endless and I have thousands of contacts in the networks. But in practice, I have no one close by whom I can ask for a favour or to whom I can offer it.
When you interact with people, friction and misunderstandings inevitably arise. There is no such thing as “one-click” friendship. We are forgetting about how to treat people and how complex we are. Friendships are made of friction. Helping, listening, admitting we need help, asking for it. One day you’re angry and the next you’re making up. Acknowledge that we are not superheroes, and we need each other. Even in countries like ours, the social muscle is atrophying, right when we are going to need it the most.
We lack the energy for the small, for the mundane. To drop by someone’s house unannounced and invite them for a coffee. To phone (no, it’s not intrusive or annoying – …. I love it when you call, please just do it!). Secretly we all wish we could celebrate every birthday again, meet up for a simple chat, or watch a movie together over tea. For no apparent reason. No transaction involved.
There have been periods in my life when I met new people every week. People with whom I barely shared a coffee or a beer. But they gave me their attention because I listened to their story with interest. Most of them I don’t even remember their names but I’m sure that if we met again, the conversation would flow. Brand the Gap, the visits to Plázida, the Guiri Drink, our Mastermind for nomads. There were countless links with people outside my circles with whom I have never met again.
Working from home has made me miss the daily interactions with my colleagues or coworkers. I even created a Facebook group to unite all the lonely hearts who go through life one by one, the Independent Companions. As I couldn’t find my tribe, I created them. And in the process, I opened myself up to meeting people from other cultures, from other life situations, from other contexts.
As Brian Doyle reminds us, no matter how small and insignificant,
“no living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside. So much held in a heart in a lifetime.” And he reminds us that “all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall.”
So…fragile hearts…by 2024…let’s chase fewer deadlines and more lifelines, for obvious reasons and because we will be happier.