Monday, May 5, 2014

And We Connect

Lately I’ve been in a funk with my writing. It can feel like such a lonely business sometimes. You send things out; sometimes you hear back with a rejection, most times you hear nothing, and only rarely do you get the coveted acceptance. Even writing a blog post feels like an echo at times.

Most of the time, I don’t think or worry about it. I just write because I have something to say or a topic interests me-- and I happen to find it fun to manipulate words. But the other day, I received an email response to a post I wrote here about a woman who was born in 1774. The post was about Jane Lea Nixon, who had the unique distinction of being the first white woman born in the Chartiers Valley in Pittsburgh. If you read the post, you’ll note that very little is known about this woman outside her claim to being born white and a female at this point in history (and you might find a picture of an apparition I captured on film, but I make no official claim of this...)

Old St. Luke's-- the church associated with
Jane Lean Nixon.
A gentleman I’ve never met wrote to thank me for this short piece about this relatively unknown woman. She, along with the very old stone church she is associated with, captured my imagination, but for this man, there is a deeper significance. He is a direct descendant of Jane Lea Nixon. Her story was part of his childhood folklore as family members passed on her legend and significance to his family. He told me he can trace the story back to his great, great grandmother, but then there is a gap between her and Miss Jane Lea.

He even went on to mention a minister in an Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh we both know. He now resides in Arizona, and I in Colorado, but online, through a blog post and a church in Pennsylvania, our lives intersected. I was so touched that he contacted me and that something I wrote had special meaning for him.

My friends Jess and Sally write a blog (check it out here) about their travels around the world. Sometimes they share spectacular photos from the top of mountain peaks or from deep forests or sometimes the sweet faces of people around the world. Other times they share haunting stories of poverty, oppression, and abuse. Each installment of their blog invites me to share in the journey, not only visually and cerebrally, but more importantly, in my heart. From across the world, they reach out and share their story so that I can be a part of it. And we connect. Isn't that amazing?

Sorry Sally and Jess-- yes, I shamelessly lifted
this cute picture from your blog. 
Other blog friends share their writing, photos, spiritual journeys, and humor with readers.  The internet really is like a web--a very apt description--connecting us. 

Then I remember why I write. Truly, it’s not as isolated an activity as I'm sometimes tempted to feel like it is. And for this reminder—for the comments I receive here, for the emails I get, for the intersection of lives—I am incredibly grateful. Thanks for being a part of that connection. 

31 comments:

  1. I've been working (in my head) on a post about this subject too. I think we tend to downplay the importance of our online connections because they seem to come so easily. But I am noticing that the best ones took a bit more intentional friendship and action from the people involved. Know what I mean? Like our writing group...we have each stepped a little deeper into relationship by following up on requests for help and made ourselves vulnerable by asking for advice and help.
    Anyway, I am glad to have connected with you Julie. You inspire me continually. Susie

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    1. Susie, thank you for that sweet comment. It is very gratifying when something we write touches another's hearts, and yes, our writer's group (and all the silliness) is a source of joy to me. Thank you!

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  2. What a great post, Julie! Well said. That's such an amazing story! I've been surprised at the connections I've made with old and new friends through blog posts. The most touching connections for me were those after I wrote about my brother and hearing from others who have faced similar struggles. It's a very cool world we live in where we can connect with people on the other side of the globe :)

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    1. Kate, the post about your brother was very sweet and touching.I was so glad you shared your heart.

      When my son was going through cancer treatments, I was continually amazed by the response of people who didn't even know me. The world gets smaller.

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  3. Oh, I absolutely agree! Through blogging, I've been able to find some really amazing and like-minded souls. ;) My small and often times lonely world suddenly became anything but, and I was able to find a sense of community unlike I'd ever had before.

    And finally, what an awesome feeling to have received a touching letter from a stranger about a piece you wrote that directly connected with them! :)

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    1. Yes-- Anna, that was such a great note to receive, and of course it just kicked my imagination in gear again. I wish there was more to be known of this woman and her experiences. Even within this man's family, there is little known.

      I'm so glad for the connections (like you!).

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  4. The internet has shrunk the world in a good way. What a special connection you described in this post! You and the gentleman had a divine appointment, you know!

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    1. Yes, as others have mentioned on here-- probably both good and bad about the internet. It can be a "false" connection, but nice when lives intersect. :)

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  5. That's interesting that you bring this up, Julie, because I was thinking back to when I first began writing and had no connection with writers at all and very little sympathy or interest from non-writing friends and family. There was no computer and no internet....my submissions were typed on an Olympia electric and sent snail mail. The rejections came back the same way, many weeks later. My most joyful moments were handwritten, personal notes of encouragement at the bottom of those form rejections. I still have them....I think there were three. Aren't we lucky that we now have all these wonderful ways to connect with our friends who will truly share our pain?

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    1. Thank goodness for the notes that encourage us along the way. The path is strewn with lots of those envelopes.

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  6. Awesome. I believe in serendipity and somehow on this planet, we will find our connections somewhere particularly with the internet and technology. A journalist acquaintance was questioning me and another friend who blogs who we are targeting as our readers when we write. Thanks Julie for your article, another nice piece. Keep writing and continue to feel inspired. Cheers! leehong http://thebooksaddict.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I'm looking forward to checking out your blog.

      Yes, I too believe in serendipity and purpose. Very much so.

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  7. Love how you touched his life, Julie. Your writing has definitely touched ours. The blogging, Facebook, and emails have been important ways we stay grounded with our friends and culture and in some cases, deepen our relationships. I realize that the Internet can keep people apart, alone, isolated. But it also has the power to foster self expression and bring people together.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your journey through Facebook and your blog-- it truly touches me.

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  8. One more way that writing is a dichotomy. We are isolated, yet we get to meet (and maybe influence) people through our writing that we would never have met otherwise. Good luck, and know you're not alone!

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    1. Thanks-- I do value the writing friendships I've made and the blogs (like yours) I get to read.

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  9. People may complain about how impersonal the net has made us, but stories like this show we've become more connected now than ever. The choice is ours. We can be faceless and unapproachable with mean tweets and rants, or we can use the web to turn the world into one big harmonious family. I'm glad your (lovely) stories reached someone on a more personal and relevant level.

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    1. The internet is probably a two-edged sword. Sometimes I think it can be a false connection since it's easy to feel social while being totally alone. I think face-to-face has a lot of merit. However, having acknowledged that, I so appreciate how it's brought me new wonderful friends in my life (like you).

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    2. Yes, I do miss the face-to-face connections I used to have before the net, but at least it came at a time when I couldn't make those connections as much as I used to, so they became my support system. It is double-edged, though. It's easier for me to isolate. Sometimes I like that, but sometimes it's the worst thing for me. I'm so grateful for folks like you. :)

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  10. I was thinking earlier this week how I'm now able to connect/chat with people in Europe, Africa, Australia, India, Jamaica and so many other places all because I started blogging and writing. It's amazing to me and has enriched my life in so many ways. This post is a great reminder of how rewarding our online connections can be.

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    1. It is amazing, isn't it? Glad I'm part of your connections.

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  11. I too am glad for the internet. Having left my family and home for sometimes while very young (my father was granted a scholarship in Spain when I was in elementary school) I know what it was like to be alone. Truly alone. Letters just don't cover the space that internet does. Now, moving through Canada and the US, my family still lives in Mexico but I feel like I can have them with me all the time. And as a blogger I've been lucky to strike friendships with people from the UK, Australia, Egypt, Canada, and so many other places. Now when I think of moving once more, my heart rests with the thought that my blogging life will remain constant through it all. Thanks to the web, that's a group of friends I won't have to miss.

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    1. You know, that's such a great point. There was a time when moving or living far away from a friend was a real disconnect. I think about how my college gal-pals and I have reconnected and stay in better communication because of the internet. I can watch, via photos easily displayed, their kids grow up and get married (yes, I'm at that age) and zip off little quickie notes when I'm thinking about them. :)

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  12. I devoured every book I could get my hands on about frontier life during the colonization of America back when I was in elementary and junior high school.

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    1. A favorite subject of mine as well.

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  13. When something happens in my life I want to share and I think of the friends I need to share it with, it amazes me that there are some I've never met. They're simply blog friends. With the emphasis on friends.

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    1. I think the same thing-- there are some writer friends on line I am really close to and yet we've never met. Amazing!

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  14. I too feel SO lonely sometimes through this process---but not just when I write, just carrying the emotional burden of it all. But then I realize how alone I'm NOT. I'm really not---I just have to step outside of myself and see what's really in front of me. :)

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    1. Morgan, I think you hit a key for me: Stepping outside myself. Yes ma'am. Good to know we're not alone.

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  15. One of my favorite writers, Dani Shapiro, said something like, "We write to know our minds." That's not an exact quote. Anyway, it is lonely at times, but we're getting to know ourselves better in the process.

    Don't stop! :)

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  16. I started blogging on MySpace, where you saw immediate responses to your posts. It was a nice feeling. Even once you have a book published, you really have no idea how people are responding to it except for the isolated emails and social media comments you get from fans. Every now and then, though, you get a message that says that your writing made a difference in someone's life and that reminds you it's all worth it. It does make you wonder about the times you touch lives and don't know about it, though...

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