This was from last year. Things have changed since then: one son gone to university, my husband away north where we'll join him. Holiday now, and I have found my own life on the internet. I have given up, as sometimes one has to, and so far am quite happy with it :) Sort of like "If you can't beat them, join them"
Somewhere I was reading about how I should be grateful for my family. Grateful. Nobody “gave” my family to me. I worked hard for it, I worked hard for every single relationship I have built inside. I have been talking with my children since they were little, paying attention to their needs, thoughts and desires.
I made my (sometimes stupid) decisions in life all thinking about them first: where to live, taking them out to walk, teaching them respect for animals.
Then, of course, as is natural, the family grows up. Increasingly the time to secure a relationship between life outside and among other people and my family diminished. I needed to work many many hours to make enough so that combined, my husband’s wages and mine were enough to pay the bills.
As a freelance translator, this meant spending many, way too many frustrating hours in front of the computer. Alone during the daytime, too exhausted during the evening to initiate proper conversations or any activities with my husband beyond watching films and TV shows. When the kids were around, I couldn’t encourage them to do anything beyond what they would naturally choose to do, as I myself was stuck on the computer.
As my mental health was of concern to me (mostly an increase of depression brought on by inactivity and lack of adventure, which my life has been choke-full of as I grew up), I thought it best to change my working arrangements. I got a full time job and indeed that allowed me to interact with other people and brought me out of my isolation-surrounded-by-people quite a bit. The downside was that I even less present for my kids, and eventually I had to change that too.
I spoke to my boss and was prepared to quit but she offered me a great deal on hours which allowed me to be more present for my kids who were in their last two very important years.
However, apart from the few things I wanted to be more present for, which worked, by then the “damage” had been done. Everybody’s favourite thing was to do internet-related stuff, be it gaming online, reading reddit, using social interaction websites.
Talking to anybody was soon subjected to first gaining their attention from whatever video support they were watching, then being effective in the conveyance of my thought: I got one, flimsy chance to make my point, and if it wasn’t conveyed properly and succinctly they would lose interest, contradict it, or just say “Ok I’ll do it later”, thus effectively conveying the remaining words “now let me get on with whatever it was I was doing” (on the internet).
Lately, everything has become forced. I have to have forceful reasoning (which easily make me seem “bossy”, as my daughter says) that will justify distracting any of them from their interaction with the web or their video games. The only one who never minds being spoken to and interacted with is my dog, he is always happy to go out into the fresh air.
As with most jobs (especially retail) you don’t have much of a say in how to approach things. Now that my family is made up by mostly adult-ish males and one very headstrong little girl, I don’t get to have much of a say here either. They have a right to choose how to spend their time, and if that time is spent happily doing their own thing on the web, then that’s what they’re entitled to do. Even losing my patience and asserting anything like “we could just sit here and talk” is cause for an argument. Usually, the argument goes, “You come and sit here and talk to me while I’m doing this, nobody’s stopping you”.
I have forgotten what it’s like to talk facing each other. The normal way to talk is now me looking at someone as they look in their video and perhaps, if you’re lucky to captivate their attention, having them face away from the screen and look towards me. How they talk to each other when and if they need to is by raising their voice and still have their eyes on their screen.
They have breaks, they say. Their breaks are usually timed quickly and sharply around whatever they were doing. My son waits for a break between games to do the dishes in that allotted time. My husband has his coffees and breakfast in front of the computer, I have no memory if not in my fantasy world of us having a cup of coffee sat on the couch chatting. My son upstairs is great in that usually, unless he is chatting to someone in America and it is unpolite to leave a conversation without at least half an hour’s warning, but unless he is doing that he will come when called, will do what he is asked to do, then go back upstairs. Like a rubber band you pull and then snaps back.
My daughter, who adores me, also has started to talk to me whilst facing the screen, playing Minecraft (which, don’t get me wrong, is awesome, like Lego but on video, creativity and all that stuff). When I ask to use my computer (it used to be my computer, now even I make the mistake of calling it “her” computer) or watching videos about people doing stuff in Minecraft, she will immediately howl an annoyed “OOOhhhh!! For how long!!!??”, and that’s regardless of how many hours she has already had on them.
I am not one of those people who claim that they are “wasting their time”. I am well aware that every single game they are playing, every interaction they are having, is just the result of modern evolution, it stimulates creativity, and dialogue (with people on the other side of the screen). My sons develop real friendships with their interactions, and they occasionally still interact with friends in their flesh and blood. My husband has his battles in space and arguments on reddit which could easily be equated to, say, football games with his mates or stimulating conversations with his friends down the pub. I have no problem admitting that the only one for whom this is an issue is me.
However, there is a feeling of “Well, I built that house, to your taste as much as possible. Where’s my hut?”.
I want my hut. I want to stop feeling like I’m forced to hang around this house where everyone has their own room and I am left standing awkwardly in the middle, ready to do this or that, adjusting to whatever space and attention is needed from me. I want a place and a moment where I start doing something and I finish it when I want to, in the way I choose to.
True we all compromise to some extent in here to that respect. But I can’t help feeling that I have less of a luxury to do my thing than the others.
My husband would say: that’s not up to us, do it. He helped me get all the stuff for the jewellery making, it is there, unused. I don’t know if it was the location and the lack of proper set up, I feel very guilty about the money spent for it and my lack of ability to get going on it.
I have decided to let go of the guilt and try and accommodate myself better. To try and find a place for myself.
I sometimes metaphorically stand and look around myself and think that awful thought: “There is no longer any need for me here”. This is soon swept away, as I know there are friends who still relate to me as a person, and I know that my internet family needs me, even though I am not so sure what it is about me that they actually need. I believe it is more of a passive awareness of my existence and my importance, but what I have always fought for, which was that people should be lived passionately, intensely, as in one moment they could go, and that seems to be slipping away from me.
I have always been the one to say to others: “DO what you believe in. Cherish yourself. BE what you want to be because this is the only chance you get. Live YOUR life. Have courage.” And so on. I have been hoping and wishing for someone to say that to me for a while now, and am beginning to wonder whether, while they’re distracted with their games online, I might just start telling that to myself.