According to a few people in my life I have a whole lot of imaginary friends. These aren’t imaginary in the sense of that they only exist in my head and that no-one else can see them or talk to them. They are imaginary in the sense that most I have never met and they live in my computer! These are people that I consider some of my dearest friends and yet we have in many cases never met in real life and may never (though I would dearly love to one day.) Too be totally honest many of my local in real life friends live in my computer these days too, one of the biggest barriers I have at the moment is with my anxieties, I get anxious when going out and about. This means that for me to see people they need to come to me and let’s face it between life, work, kids, family, self and proper friends who can meet you places and you know be “normal!” it can be hard to schedule visiting the mate who doesn’t leave the house if she can help it when she is home (most of the time during school hours) and when you can (after work!) So the main way I keep in touch with my local mates is via Facebook too!
My first experience with imaginary computer friends was many years ago after Zac was born and I was looking for support and information about being a mum to a prem baby. I was a member of the Austprem Forum for quite a long time. Then I had the shock of my life having the girls (our super delicious and identical twins!!) It was late one night when I was struggling and searching for something, anything that I discovered the AMBA Forum and it changed my life! Some of my AMBA mates I have known for as long as I have been a member of the AMBA Forum*, which is longer than 10 years now. They have walked some incredibly challenging walks with me when I struggled with twins, older siblings, depression, the boredom of being at home with small children, grief, major illness, you name it. They have held me up through some really incredible moments in my life over the last few years. I have also had the incredible privilege of walking the journey with some of these beautiful souls of their pregnancies and subsequent baby loss, devastating cancer journeys, depression, anxiety, trials and tribulations of parenting and the loss of sense of self.
It hasn’t been all bad we have celebrated rainbow babies, marriages, the joys of babies, the joy of friendship, the incredible joy of motherhood. We have celebrated birthdays together including traveling interstate, we have holidayed together as families, celebrated milestones that we thought might never come in fact there is a lot to be celebrated with my imaginary Forum pals! Ultimately we have been there for each other through thick and thin. In a way that I could never have ever imagined would be possible especially given I grew up with no internet and friends were people you met through school, work, sport etc.
Initially these friendships grew through the bubble of the forum itself which is a private space unlike Facebook so we have bared our souls in ways we would never have done in a public space like Facebook. Which probably really helped to solidify these friendships.
With the growth of Facebook we are now in so many ways entrenched in each others daily lives it feels strange to not say hi everyday. Over time and with the help of Facebook and digital storytellers (mummy bloggers) I have found an amazing tribe that I love and feel a sense of peace when I am interacting with it and sort of like I have forgotten to get dressed for the day when I don’t check in with my imaginary friends.
My journal tells me that a few weeks ago we were without internet for a few days and I know I would have gotten teased a bit from some people close to me in real life who think that I spend faaaaarrrr too much time on Facebook or looking at my phone. I am the first to admit my phone is rarely very far away from me and I certainly do spend a lot of time looking at it.
I kind of feel like I need to defend myself a bit here. Inside my phone or my computer is where my friends live! In exactly the same way others might pick up the phone and organise a coffee date I jump on and catch up with the comings and goings through Facebook and the daily regaling of something that has or is happening in their lives at that time. So being without the internet for a few days was like loosing my link to the outside world.
It is amazing the more and more I connect with people the less and less isolated I feel and I realise that in everyone’s own way we are all carrying our own crappy baggage and head games, that we are all trying to escape. I love hearing about the funny stories of the accidental brazilian wax and ageing vaginas (I know who gets a brazilian by accident but truly she managed it!) Or the beautiful story of a pal who has managed to be able escape reality and run off to Hawaii for a writers retreat and a few days off all to herself (read seething with jealousy right here!) A dear mate who wanted to have a casual just because party that actually ended up being bigger than Ben Hur. The hilarious stories about Huffy Puffy, yelling at cars for sounding like they are speeding (when they actually aren’t) while walking a designer dog on a diamonte leash (intervention required stat!) Amazing recipes, and homes that are straight out of Country Life (seriously!!) and some serious renovation envy from me.
Of course amongst all of these are the stories of heartache, the death of good friends, sadness of life, challenges of depression or anxiety or both at the same time! Beautiful stories of strength and courage, anger at government policies, the helplessness of life and as an amazing community supporting each other through the most difficult of times like cancer or loved ones near death illnesses. Mixed with the occasional story or two about the challenges of parenting, marriage, separation, divorce, co-parenting as friends after a divorce and the perils (and the occasional hilarity) of internet dating as a middle aged mum with kids!
Some of my most fav writers (in no particular order and not at all limited to!!) are:
- Life, Love and Hiccups
- Life & Other Crises
- The Sharpest Pencil
- The Builder’s Wife
- Miss Chardy
- She’s Got You Sorted
- The Fifo Wife
- Adjust Remembered
- BIG FAMILY little income
- Five Fairies and a Fella
- Calm to Conniption
- The Annoyed Thyroid
- Champagne Cartel
- The Mummy and the Minx
- The Trail We Leave Behind
Each and every one of these writers are amazing storytellers, sometimes they share the mundane, sometimes it is raw and will touch you in a way you can’t even begin to imagine, sometimes it can brighten a dark day, but always they are my tribe. So this is why I love my internet, it is my link to the outside world, it is where I know I can find a friend anytime of the day or night and am lost without it. There are so many amazing people who support each other and also hold each other to account. It is an incredible tribe and I love that somewhere amongst that I have found a few that want me to be part of their tribe which is so cool and I thank them so much for that. They will never truly know how much it means to the little girl in the school playground all alone to have a tribe all of her own!
Hope you are having a great weekend.
PS The other best part about having friends that live in the computer is that I can be in my pjs and they will never know!
* If you are parent or carer of multiples and are looking for some support try out the AMBA Forum www.amba.org.au/forum