Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

God Speaking – Are You Listening?

Last week I read an article about a correlation between having more friends and social connections and living a long life. Part of me thought “but what if you are sort of stuck in one place and some of those relationships are toxic?” Doesn’t the nature of the relationship matter? But the study didn’t comment on unhealthy relationships, just that having long standing relationships with people you could go to and trust was a healthy thing.

Then I started to feel a little sad, thinking how many times I have moved and how hard it is to build long-lasting healthy relationships. I thought of how little I participate with the social networking sites, and how my preference for privacy impacts on my socializing. Would this have an impact on how long I will live?

Then, some surprising things started happening. One far-away friend called, just to hear my voice. She had broken her leg, just after unpacking from yet another move, and had been incapacitated. Very shortly, I got a call from another Doha friend, and a chatty e-mail from another. We all lead busy lives; how was it they all thought of me the same week?

My best friend from college e-mailed me, and a friend from long-ago times in Germany e-mailed me to set up a telephone date. A newer friend called to ask us if we’d like to hit the Shakespeare Fest with them. I started to realize that I DO have a lot of healthy, loving, long-term relationships, some with people a lot like me, who have moved a lot and not lived too long in any one spot, and some just the opposite, with people who have lived lives entirely unlike mine, in one spot most their lives.

It made me laugh. Sometimes, God answers prayers you don’t even know you’ve prayed. If you keep your eyes open, if you pay attention, you can see the pattern. It’s one good reason to keep a prayer journal, because so many times our prayers are answered and we forget even to say thank-you; once the prayer is answered, we move on, forgetting even how important our request once was. God spotted my little pity-party and gave me the gift of a little shift in perspective. Thanks be to God.

On a similar train of thought, as I read recently a book on Eleanor of Aquitaine, I think of how incredibly wealthy we all are, living in this day and age, and we live blithely on, unaware how very blessed we are. We worry about having ‘enough’ in terms of material comforts and goods, and never give a second thought to how good we have it.

I think of growing up in Alaska, where my Mother always had to order our annual snowsuits from the catalog so that they would arrive before the last boat could get through. I remember the pipes freezing up, and being sent to the creek to haul water into the house. I remember going with my Dad to the cold-storage locker, where they kept the frozen fish and meats from fishing and hunting season. (I also remember hating Moose-burgers, they were so game-y, but it was what was for dinner.)

AdventureMan laughs and says people were never intended to live in Florida, that Florida is a swamp, but with air-conditioning, it is bearable.

So you think of how the kings and emirs and caliphs and chieftans of old – even a hundred years ago – lived, and you look at how we live, and take it all the way down to border-line poverty. What I’m about to say does not apply to the homeless, or the transient homeless, sleeping in family basements or on friend’s couches. There is a strata of the poorest poor to whom this does not apply.

For the most part, we all have shelter, and most of it is climate controlled. We have some heat for when the temperatures are chilly, and some kind of fan or air conditioning to mitigate hot weather. We have windows with glass that can be opened and shut, and we have coverings for those windows. We have multiple changes of clothing that we can wear in various combinations.

We have toilets, and running water. We have ways to heat that water and to chill it. We have ways to heat food, and to keep it from spoiling. We have entertainment, books, televisions, phones and tablets to amuse us. We have exposure to places and ideas without ever leaving our homes. We can experience the athletes ordeals, frustrations and exaltations in London as they compete for medals. Ordinary people can train and compete on the world stage for these medals.

We have roads which stay stable in rain and heat, not bogging us down in mud and muck or snow, becoming impassable for months at a time. We can speak to friends and family anywhere in the world for a pittance. Anyone can; it’s affordable.

We have, most of us, enough to eat. Our problems are more those of excess than of want.

If Eleanor of Aquitaine were to come visit me, the Duchess of Aquitaine, the wife of the King of France and then wife of the King of England, she would be open-mouthed with astonishment at the luxury of our lives. She lived in palaces, places of great luxury for the times – for a very few. Even so, the palaces had no running water, nor bathrooms. No electricity, no heating other than fires in hearths or stoves. She would think our modest houses with our indoor bathrooms and cooking facilities and gathering spaces were miraculous, and she would be even more astonished that we common folk had such amenities. She would marvel at the privacy we have, rooms in which only one or two people sleep. She would look in our closets and be boggled at the amount of clothing we own which we never even wear, and the quality of the seams and stitching. She would look in wonder at our transport, and how the most common of people have cars, can fly to another city, or across the wide oceans.

She would be astonished that even the very poor and us commoners have rights, and judicial procedures protecting our rights against the rapacity of the nobles. She would marvel at our medical care, and that so many have access to it. I’m certain she would find us cheeky, and lacking in a humble acceptance of our station in life. I suspect she would be appalled at the idea of a person having the freedom to pursue an education and an idea, to create their own wealth by the work of their minds and hands.

She was an enormously capable and talented woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, but once married, while she maintained ownership of her lands, her husbands controlled their use and revenues. If she could see women today, able to choose their husbands, able to attain an education and earn a living wage, supporting children, sometimes parents, and saving for retirement, controlling their own wealth and choosing their own destiny, she would blink in disbelief.

I would enjoy showing her modern life, the bad along with the good, and telling her about our trips to Africa, and our life lived in many countries in the world. I would show her my treasures gathered from here and there (and everywhere! 😉 ) and maybe take her to Pier 1 or World Market where she could pick up a treasure or two for herself. I would show her my fabric collection and watch her swoon with pleasure, and some of my perfume bottle collection, collected with glee from tiny stores in the Middle East. I’d take her to church with me, and out to lunch at Five Sisters. She could sleep in the guest suite, in a great big bed with soft covers and a walk-in closet and her own private bathroom with hot and cold running water and a jacuzzi tub and a shower. I would show her how the refrigerator works, and the microwave, and the oven, and the outdoor sprinkling system. She would absorb it all, and be full of wonder.

And yet every day, we get up and we live our lives oblivious to our riches . . .

August 13, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Communication, Community, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual, Survival, Values, Women's Issues | 4 Comments