“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.
Even longer,' Pooh answered.” -- A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Even longer,' Pooh answered.” -- A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
One morning before daylight, I pulled into the parking lot at my office and there---curled in a ball against the gate----lay a dog.
I got out of the car to open the gate and the timid critter only ventured away from that spot long enough for me to unlock and open the gate. I noticed, as soon as I passed through the entrance, he returned to his spot and curled back into his little cocoon---only now, with the gate open, he was all balled up in the middle of the driveway. Worried for his safety in that dangerous spot, I tried to shoo him away. He would forfeit his little nesting area; but, no sooner had I turned my back, he went right back.
I worried about the little canine all morning and kept checking out the window to monitor his whereabouts. Sure enough, he remained close to that spot. For at least four hours. An example of dogged determination if I ever saw one.
One of my co-workers, watching him with me, commented, "Someone has dumped him off here. He's sitting there, waiting for them to come back for him."
My heart broke.
I realized my co-worker was right. Loyal and trusting---and knowing no better---the pup knew nothing more than to wait for masters who were never coming to get him. At the spot where they left him so they wouldn't miss him when they returned.
Finally, later in the day, a pang of sadness---empty, strange and inexplicable---surged through me when I realized the abandoned dog had finally vacated his station at the gate. He had finally realized no one was going to come back for him and he had moved on. He was now thrown into the population of strays whose owners had decided there was no place for him any longer in their lives.
This week, it occurred to me just why this scenario troubled me so.
In the time I decided to pursue my writing professionally, I've made many friends---most of them on the Internet.
As a child reared in a close-knit unit, surrounded by a small but loving circles of friends and family, I only knew one kind of friendship: the forever, through-thick-and-thin, come-hell-or-high-water, we're-in-this-together kind. And, to date, most of these relationships have endured everything life has thrown at them.
But I'm naive, I wrap myself around what feels good and hold on like a tree branch in a raging rapids. Such has been the way with my Internet friendships.
I'd never allowed myself to think, even for a second, that they could actually pull loose and drift away in that rapids. One for all and all for one, right? Forever, sisters, brothers, friends. Bonds made.
I was wrong.
Fortunately, I don't suppose I can say I've had any traumatic partings from friends. I see it happen all the time in cyber space; but I've been lucky enough to just have soft 'driftings' apart. And I've also been lucky that most of the bonds formed are still there. Kind of invisible now, but still there.
But loss is loss. I've---oh, I'm embarrassed to admit this---for the longest time, was like that dog. I saw friends fading away, sort of grasped that the friendships had run their cyber courses; but still waited at that proverbial gate for them to come back and re-ignite that spark. They didn't. We've all been there---where we try to keep the ember fanned, we email, we post on Facebook to hold on to them, we just doggedly try.
Before you say it, let me assure you that I have been on the other end of it all. I've found myself floating away on a broken-off hunk of iceberg, father and farther from some friends. There were times it was ME who cut off the connection or allowed it to disintegrate. Never intentionally, it just happened.
And, yes, I'm a big girl. Get over it, right? Right. Life does indeed move on. New friendships have formed, and they are just as good, just as important, just as rewarding and fulfilling.
True, true. But my problem? Just as in my cozy youth, I somehow allowed myself to depend on the circle of friendship as a sort of fortress for confidence in my writing. I'd become used to this little unit to bolster my courage, to mentor, to cheer me on. And that, my friend, is good and well. But, when the time does come for that support to collapse, what's left? A scared, terribly insecure writer who's standing---trembling---under this fallen structure without the confidence to get out from under the rubble and make it on her own.
I see now that I've maybe relied too heavily on that support and not enough on my own strengths. I see now that the ropes holding that little support raft can come quickly unraveled on the business of the cyber rapids. And, hell, this writer needs to learn to swim!
Hey, it's not the friends who are to blame. They've done what friends do. Befriended. Supported. Cheered. Taught. But life is life, and all good things really can come to an end. And when that end rolls around, I find myself lost and looking for those outside voices---not my own internal voices---to tell me I can do this. That I can write.
A fellow author told me once that I seemed to need that outside support, that I did not seem to have the confidence to just...write...without someone egging me on, assuring me. And he was right, I see that now. In some ways, my cyber socializing has crippled more than it has bolstered. And it has been my fault for depending (hate to overuse that word, but it is so fitting) so much on outside validation instead of on my own.
I freeze when plotting, when assigning traits to characters. Instead of listening to the characters as I should, instead of trusting my own judgement with plotting, I must confer with author friends to confirm my ideas are on the right track. Without that feedback, I can't seem to move on my own.
Deep down inside myself, I think I'm a good writer, I have potential talent. But the sooner I learn that for myself and learn to build it---brick by brick---on my own, I'll be better off.
I need to be like the dog at the gate. I need to realize, Okay, I'm on my own. I need to fend for myself. The puppy, by nature, will be able to forge his own new path. His support factor has left him and is not coming back. He has no choice but to go it alone.
I'm not built to be in complete solitude, I need friends. But I CANNOT depend completely on them for my own confidence.
So maybe, just maybe, I can keep a proper perspective on just how much to lean on friendships for support, but not as a replacement for self-confidence. Maybe just enough for them to gently nudge me and say---as I try to navigate on my own raft---as Milne also said in Winnie-the-Pooh, Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.