Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Expiration Dates

A while ago, a few years ago by now I should think, I read this article and it made me wonder about myself.
In case you don't feel like clicking the link, it's a series entitled "Lies MKs Believe" by Michele Phoenix. This particular post is called "Everybody Always Leaves" and addresses the transiency of relationships for TCKs such as myself. I could take a long time to explain this, but a lot of you who read my blog probably already understand. If you move a lot, live in a culture that's not "your own" for most of your life, and then move some more, stuff happens to your relationships. If that doesn't make sense to you, leave me a comment with a question. Or read the article I linked to that I am now trying to summarize.
The article finishes with this truth, "the benefits of relationship are worth the risk of loss." And I believe that. I really do. I pour myself into people. I love. I fight distance. My prayers are aimed at targets sprinkled the world over.
But I still see relationships as having an expiration date.
I think part of the problem is that 95% (disclaimer: that's a random percentage that just feels true) of the people I love the most are TCKs like me, or other people who live transient lives.
When one of my friends marveled a little at the nonchalant way I treat the spans of time between seeing my family I looked at her and thought, "What did you think I thought would happen? What do you think two-year-old Kathryn thought when the teens she looked up to graduated high school, packed their bags, and left for America?" I just knew. I've always known. One day that would be me. And now it is.
(Don't read this wrong. I love my parents. They are fantastic. I'm so proud of them for where they are and what they do. They talk to me all the time. I wouldn't change one second of life the way we have it. Dear Mom, Dad, and Hannah, you are the greatest.)
One of my best friends in high school barely saw her family three or four times a year, between boarding school and working at camp in the summer. We were sixteen. How could I not have the strength to leave people after watching her be so brave? How could I ever hope to survive if I didn't suit up and cope?

I love you. Thank you for doing life with me, with your whole hearts.

So we love faster. We squeeze the marrow out of the life we have together now. We write our memories and the things we love about each other. We take too many pictures. We sing and do crazy things. We know that one day we'll be gone.
Then we'll only have Skype and 2am phone calls and the craziest alumni network you can possibly imagine (you can't even imagine.) We'll have visits and snatches and new friends in new places who don't always understand right away why we are rushing to squeeze the marrow out of life.
So no, I don't see distance as the death of all my relationships. I do know that it breaks some. There are friends I don't have anymore. There are new friends that I have now. I do know that when you do life together, side by side everyday, eeking it out together on days when you just want basketball practice to be over, walking over high hills, laughing and crying over life, it makes a difference.
So here are my questions, because sadly this isn't a post full of answers. This is a big issue in my life and right now I'm looking for clarity. I may be looking for clarity in this area for my entire life.
Isn't that not a lie? As in: doesn't everybody always leave? Isn't there always a move, a falling-out, a new schedule, and that greatest separator of all, death? I still think that these shouldn't keep us from loving, but aren't they still reality?
Next question, how do we love each other well when we're all protecting ourselves? I can see you friends. I can see me too. Our walls are going up, because it hurts. We've been apart over a year and it's stretching thin. I don't even need to phrase this as a question: we all know it hurts to keep caring and investing. So what do we do? When do we give in to other people's self-protection and let them go? Sure that would hurt, but isn't that what their self-protection implies they expect? Would giving up be weakness or wisdom? Cruelty or kindness? When is it ok to build our own? Is it ever? I talked about this a little a few weeks ago. I just want to expand. And I think the answer is maybe a little obvious, but that doesn't mean the questions don't toss in my head.

I know this isn't a blog where people always leave a lot of comments, but I'd appreciate a little coming together today. So leave me a comment if you have a thought. You can leave your name if you'd like (I'd like that but you don't have to.)


  1. Just reading Michele's post made me start tearing up thinking about our grad goodbyes (the most painful tears I've ever shed). Even though I don't make friends very easily, I feel like I do try to go deeper faster than other people. I know the value in relationships and now I'm scared of saying (a temporary) goodbye to my friends here. These transitions leave marks on my heart that help me remember where I am and where I came from.

  2. I agree that either everyone leaves us or we leave them at some point, both for TCKs and non-TCKs. Some people just have this happen less regularly than others. However, most of my high school classmates have left home and hometown to forge new lives elsewhere, so this concept of leaving is not isolated to TCKs.
    I think there's a difference, too, between building walls and simply not maintaining relationships. Being apart for a year can stretch relationships not necessarily because we build up walls, but because we simply don't work to keep the relationship going. To build up a wall is to actively deter a relationship, not passively let it slide, in my mind, and I've done both.
    In the case of someone building up a wall, we need to try and understand why. I have built up walls for two main reasons that I can think of:
    1) I literally do not want to have a relationship with a person. There have been times where moving made me glad to get away from someone who managed to really rub me the wrong way, so I made sure to keep in minimal contact with them. Also, I have actively deterred people who desire a deeper friendship with me than I know I can give them. This is easily disguised as passively not maintaining a relationship.
    2) I have built walls to see if anyone will tear them down. Being a guy, I am told often that I need to pursue, and that girls are the ones who are pursued. But at times, I still want to be pursued. I certainly know this is the case in my relationship with God, and I cherish the times where he has pursued me. In cases like this, building up a wall is a sign that someone wants attention--that they desire relationship but do not feel bold enough to seek it out themselves.
    I'm not sure if this is what you mean. It is slightly different from growing calloused to losing people over and over. But even in situations like that… I thin my response, in this moment, would be to pursue as you can. The phenomenon of Skype and Facebook allows us to maintain far more relationship than we normally could, and this makes it more difficult. We cannot be expected to be intensely emotionally involved with everyone we know. So we need to weigh how much we can actually give a person, and determine our level of interaction with them accordingly.
    Of course, this is assuming we are up to giving of ourselves. But you mention building our own walls. That one is harder for me to answer. One part of me wants to label the building of walls as a defence mechanism that we need to actively overcome--that we must always be reaching out to others, being authentic and transparent in all of our relationships. Another part of me says that is too much for one person to do. Another part of me says we can do that with God's help. Another part of me says God never wanted us to do that, and that Jesus never did that. He was not perfectly transparent with everyone. He let people leave if they weren't willing to commit to him after hearing some very cryptic messages. He only revealed his glory on the mountain to three men.
    So we all have levels of commitment that we bring to any relationship. Is it alright to have less intimacy with some people? Yes. Is it alright to push people away? I think in such instances we need to understand our motives for doing so. Can you build a wall between yourself and this person and honour God at the same time, loving him and loving them?
    I'm being very speculative here, of course. I hesitate to state truth so much as opinion. So this is what I think in the fifteen minutes or so that I've been writing.

  3. This post almost made me cry. The way time pulls us all apart hurts, but it's healthy too. Doesn't make it any less painful though :(

  4. I miss you so much. You speak the words I can't express. Love you.


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