Long-distance friendships

Colonial Williamsburg writing desk, Nov 2004

A writing desk at Colonial Williamsburg reminds us that long-distance friendships,
always precious, once required even more time and patience.  November 2004

“There is magic in long-distance friendships. They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound.”
—  widely attributed Diana Cortes, about whom I could find no reliable information

One of the silver linings to the sorrow of having to leave friends every time we uproot and move, is the chance to have and maintain long-distance friendships.  It’s a skill not everyone has, and that’s okay.  But for those of us who enjoy such relationships (and it may be bound up, to a great extent, with a love of reading and writing), keeping in touch over years and distances can create a bond unlike those we share with local friends or co-workers, with whom we share only spoken exchanges.

There’s something deliberate and intentional about maintaining ties that go beyond physical proximity.  There has to be something extra to bridge the gap created by the miles.  Often it’s a shared faith, a life challenge we have in common, a compatible philosophy of life, or a deep interest in one or more activities or topics.  Sometimes, if we are really fortunate, it’s all of the above and more.

Today, time constraints are as great a challenge to friendship as distance.  I have dear friends who live relatively close by, yet we still stay in touch mainly by email or online.  The reality of our daily obligations makes it hard to carve out a chunk of time long enough to enable a good old face-to-face visit as often as we’d like.  I think blogging and Facebook and other social media have become popular because people value relationships and long for a way to maintain them despite the busyness of life.

I know that a lot of what happens on social media can be superficial, but it need not be.  Our online interactions can be a cozy salon rather than a vacuous cocktail party, as long as we stay authentic and don’t use it as a platform to impress, propagandize or vent (though a bit of all that happens even in genuine conversations).  I’m deeply grateful for this added venue for maintaining ties that cross geographic boundaries, even as I am determined not to abandon the good old-fashioned “snail mail” card or letter, or the face-to-face visit whenever we can manage one.

Do you have long-distance friends who are a daily comfort to you?  Why not take a moment today to drop a note, card or email to one of them, and let them know you are thinking of them?

One year ago today:

Stronger than a fortified city


  1. raynard

    Julia, I am also grateful for social media.Back in 2007, I joined a blogging ministry. My wife and I have become friends with several people some who live in another country. I believed last year when I joined U.R, I made several new connections and I pray that one of our”Smokey& the Bandit/Cannonball runs we can meet up with people not just to say hello, but how we appreciate them in our life.( BTW yes I am working on something for you and Jeff can’t you see me now in my kitchen”like that Swedish Chef” on The Muppets?( yes a know they have a movie coming out tomorrow. I just seen a Trailer for “A Charlie Brown 3D movie coming out next ( Youtube and Yahoo show movie trailers and BTW, next year’s theme for the Philly Flower show is “At the Movies”. I’m also staying in touch with a childhood friend who was a next door neighbor and my mom and his were good friends. He found me on FB and lives down in NC. Both our mother were from there and my wife just happen to be from there. Guess what I did last night/ Watch a old rerun of Quincy M.E and Dragnet( Jack Webb in his “skinny tie days) on youtube on my tablet..First day of spring, have some ice cream ( sugar free) on me.. I digress be blessed

    • raynard

      Oh, I think on the Cosby show his wife had a desk like that and I always wanted one but settled for a computer lol

      • My mother has one that I have always loved, but in reality it was mostly for looks. I never saw anybody sitting there writing, even in the days before writing was replaced by “keyboarding.” Oh well, it is pretty and I guess that’s the point for anyone who has one now.

    • Raynard, I think social media can be used for tremendous good; as with so many other inventions, it’s neutral in itself and can become either a force for good or evil – all the more reason for responsible people not to run from it, but embrace it and drown out the bad. WOW, I love the theme for next year’s flower show – maybe that will be the one Jeff and I get to go to. Matt would love it too since he is quite a fan of movies and knows some of the famous lines even from some he’s never seen. Speaking of which, I read that Joe Friday never really said “Just the facts, ma’am” but if he’d ever met me, he surely would have had to say it! 🙂

  2. What a lovely idea ~ you and I both know how we are fans of writing and sending cards! I’m off to send a card right now…thank you for the inspiration! ♥ May you have a joyful Spring filled with health, wealth, love and laughter for you and your sweet family!

    • Thank you Misifusa! It’s nice to keep the fun-mail-to-junk-mail ratio as favorable as we can! Some days it feels as if we are losing the battle, but there are lots of people out there who are doing their part to keep mailboxes from becoming something to totally dread. 🙂 Shine on my friend!

  3. Yes Julia, there is a good and bad side to all things. In the good we can maintain long time friendships, make new ones and as well, as in my case, reconnect with former students that would have been quite difficult to do so prior to a Facebook. On the bad side it gives a platform for the, not for family viewing, sensational exihibitoinists.-Alan

    • Alan, how true! All the more reason for us to use technology for good, and influence others to do so. As a librarian, I’ve never believed that censorship is the most effective answer; rather, we have to make sure that truth and goodness are out there for all who wish to find them. I really believe that truth and good are stronger than lies and evil, and people ultimately find what they seek. We can’t force people to choose what is best, but we can be there for those who are ready to do so. That’s why I appreciate all those who are using the amazing power of the internet to spread joy, hope, faith and humor. Thanks for being among them!

  4. Carolyn

    Yes, Julia it is great to have long-distance friends. You all are dear friends of mind. I enjoyed working with Jeff and getting to know his family, a long time ago. You all have a special place in my heart. I am looking forward to our meeting again in 2017. You all have a great day and hugs to all.

    • Thank you Carolyn, we feel the same! Love to you and Terry.

  5. I have really enjoyed social media for the same reasons you name and have established self-rules regarding it. Something my close circle does is quick text each other. We’ll message a video or picture. It seems the connection, whether through snail mail or keyboard, is key. Staying in touch. I confess I love it all! Just got a photo from a close friend traveling in London. 🙂

    • Yes, connection is important and even touching base quickly is better than no contact at all. Sometimes I have such good intentions about wanting to send a nice long letter or fancy card that I will go far too long without letting people hear from me. Social media make it easier and I love being able to share a funny video with someone whom I know would like it. Amazing we can stay in touch with friends traveling thousands of miles away, so quickly and easily!

  6. You’ve so beautifully articulated all I think and feel. For years I wrote letters with friends across the miles. I agree that social media has allowed us to maintain those friendships even more across the miles. Its fun sharing photos, experiences, memories with people you care about.

    My friend Nandini, who now lives in India is 13.5 hours ahead. We’ve figured out ways to Skype or use chat screens and it really enhances the intimacy. Of course I met Boomdee via our blogs, and now she is one of my closest friends. It’s remarkable.

    Thanks for this great post, Julia.

    • Hi Alys, I somehow felt you would understand this post. 🙂 Though I write far fewer letters than I used to (it’s so fun to send photos, hear voices and see faces talking!) I still treasure reading and writing old-fashioned letters, too. How wonderful that you can keep in touch with your friend in India! That’s a country that’s definitely on my “want to go there” list! It really is wonderful how we can visit with friends all over the world. Of all the things we have and do that would amaze our ancestors, perhaps that would be among the most incredible to them. So many of them were parted with family members for various reasons, and had no quick way of communicating.

      • You raise an excellent point. I don’t know how people coped with so much separation, all the while not knowing if someone died in the war or met a different fate. It’s amazing the wealth of letters that existed from our history.

        It is wonderful keeping in touch. I will always find a way to put pen to paper. It just takes me longer these days to get to it.

        • Yes, I love everything about handwritten letters. I like choosing the stationery, pens (I like colored ink) stamps, stickers, etc. Sometimes I chide myself that I am wasting too much time, but then I think it’s like a hobby, and if I enjoy it and don’t spent TOO much time on the details, is it really a waste?

          For so much of our country’s history, women were keeping things running at home while men were out at war, or on the frontier, or exploring, or traveling to distant places in search of income or sustenance for the family. There has never been any such thing as a “non-working” woman, it’s just that our roles, like those of men, have changed with the times. I think the biggest challenge to women of prior eras would have been that separation from loved ones, with no way to know how they were doing or sometimes even where they were. By the time a letter would arrive, the person who wrote it was possibly elsewhere and maybe not even alive anymore. Let’s hope that today’s generations have at least some of that strength and stamina shown by their ancestors.

  7. Sheila

    My family knows you as “my friend, Julia” because that’s how I refer to you. I really enjoy our friendship here so much. Thank you, again, for enriching my life. 🙂 Your friend, Sheila

    • Awww, I love that! You have definitely enriched my life also; I can’t imagine this blog without you! Thanks so much for your friendship – hope you, Bill and Walter have a wonderful weekend!

  8. I’m cheering from here, can you hear me? My first pen pal was my cousin Barbara in Chicago. They’d drive up every other summer to visit. She’s one year older so we always got on well. I had a box full of letters for years. All with naive hand writing. Some were to girlfriends away for the summer. All of them were so funny. How I wish I’d never thrown them out, silly me. After spending the night reading them and laughing, out they went.

    Like most things, I think social media is what you make of it. If I find something offensive, I ignore it and move on. It’s like Television, if it’s not up your alley, turn it off or change the channel. But then again, I’m an adult and have the maturity to judge content. Where underaged viewers are concerned, I think service providers must be vigilant about their standards.

    Never in my craziest daydreams did I expect blogging would make these long distance relationships so important to me. Don’t you just feel so cool when you can tell someone you’re a blogger. Then before you know it you’re telling them about your friend in Edmonton. Then they say, “Edmonton? How on Earth did you meet her?” That’s when you say, “oh, we’ve never met, we just love each other”…LOL They won’t get it unless they too are part of this wonderful community. xoK

    • Yes, I hear you cheering! 🙂 And it definitely IS what we make of it. Part of it involved a certain amount of discipline to keep it to a set amount of time, which is the hardest part for me. There are so many fascinating and dear people out there! But you’re right, some people just don’t get it. I was telling a friend about my “Boom Box” and the lovely box of goodies from Jena and some other things people here have sent me, and I could tell she was just totally bewildered – “But these people who don’t know you are sending you things? Why? Doesn’t that feel strange?” I tried to explain to her that it didn’t feel strange because I do feel I know so many people whom I’ve never met, and in fact, my communication with many of them is far less superficial than with some people I see face-to-face. But this gal (who is very gregarious, a sweetheart and never met a stranger) doesn’t have much time for online stuff, so she finds it a bit hard to understand. That’s OK, if we were all online, who would run the world? 🙂 It’s interesting to wonder if women such as Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton and Sandra Day O’Connor etc. etc. etc. will ever get old enough to where they stay home and surf the web all the time…who knows, they may be out there under a screen name right now. 🙂 (NOT!) Ah, the perks of being an anonymous citizen…

      • LOL, who IS running the world? Maybe it SHOULD be Condoleezza, Hillary and Sandra. We had a female Premier for 18 months (like your Governor) and she just resigned 2 days ago. I think it set a poor example for young girls. I was pretty disappointed in her. First woman Premier in our history and she’s a quitter.

        I adore Hillary and would love it if she joined my BLOG…LOL

        • With no disrespect to Madam Secretary, I’ll bet if you two changed places, she would have a harder time using a die cutter or making paper flowers than you would have meeting with world leaders! She would be a good sport about it, though. I can just imagine a Boom Room Craft Summit with President Obama and Vladimir Putin trying to make cards for each other. “Madam Secretary Boomdee, where are the stickers of prisons and tanks and so forth? Flowers are not in my plans for the Ukraine…oh, yes, that’s right, you are of Ukrainian descent…oops, disregard…” Meanwhile the President would be muttering to himself “Michelle and the girls would be much better at this, maybe they should come to the next one…” The next time you looked up, Putin would be sitting in the corner with Petals on his lap, scratching her behind the ears and looking forlorn. The President would still be working on his first paper rose, determined to get it right…Hee-hee, who would have time for troop movements? 🙂

          • To Hillary’s credit, many of the ‘World Leaders’ she must carry on diplomatic relationships with are sociopaths in good suits. It’s easy to be a leader when you hold a gun to someones head. I really doubt that I could be as diplomatic or congenial to tyrannical dictators who have no love for westerners and only fake it for the millions of dollars poured into their economy by the west. They’d not enjoy my visit and most likely send me packing pretty darn quick, LOL

            Politics is such a thankless job, I bet she’d love a day of mindless crafting. Being that I don’t have to have anyone’s approval on what I want to do, I actually can get things done 😀

            • That would be so funny if they sent you packing. Can you imagine the headlines? “DRAMA-O-RAMA: CANADIAN OFFICIAL GIVEN THE BOOT FROM PEACE TALKS: ‘She just had this attitude problem’ say dictators.” People everywhere would scratch their heads and say “But aren’t Canadians supposed to be laid back and easy to get along with?” 🙂 I do think Hillary would love a day of mindless crafting. Or, as her hubby said recently, being a grandmother. I hope she will someday have the chance to do both; if she lives to be over 100, perhaps she will!

  9. I do still write letters occasionally, but it have never been a great corresponder. In fact I have two letters I have been meaning to write for the past two months, so perhaps this afternoon would be a good day to tackle at least one of them. I also use social media to keep in touch with friends who might otherwise have drifted away. But I hate all of this meme business.

    • I go around composing letters in my head and often don’t ever get around to putting them down on paper. I had a friend who used to carry letters around in her purse and add to them when she had a few minutes here or there. Then it would be fun to get a letter from her that was written in stages, so to speak. Maybe I should try that! One of the perils of social media or even email is the temptation many people have to send out tons of stuff to everybody at once. What’s really scary is how much of it is not even accurate or true. BUT, it is fun to share the truly funny things, especially when they are relevant to someone we know, or a real life conversation we recently had. Like everything else, it tends to be overdone and then we have way too much of a good thing.

  10. MaryAnn

    Staying connected to you through these continued uplifting words is a marvelous blessing to me! My “long-distant friend” greets me each day & brings joy!

    • Thank you Mary Ann! I appreciate your visits with us here!

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