Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Only Until Forever...But After That...

“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.
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.

I panic.

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.


Sharon S said...

You ARE braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

Hugs & love,

AJ said...

Sweet you! Unfortunately it happens to us all. I have been writing erotic romance for five years. Many of the people who became "friends" online, readers, even authors just vanish. It's hard. You wonder what happened. Some give up, some move on, some actually die... but it's easy to disappear when you've invented a name, a persona...and you want to go back into your real life, or create another name. I'm much warier now and have a core group of people I have come to know personally and I trust them. I thank God for them every day. Just keep writing and keep the faith. The longer you are here the more you will find your inner circle. Did you ever see the dog again??

Sue Brown said...

I have not found that balance, my sweet so I truly understand that you need that support from others.

I find myself dependent on my online world to bolster my confidence, and hurt when it goes wrong. But I know people are there for me.

You will grow in confidence as time goes on. I have faith in you. You have the talent and you have our support.

Vastine Bondurant said...

Oh, Sharon, you are a dear, and I can very much say the same for you.
((((Hugs))) and love.

Vastine Bondurant said...

AJ, it does ache, doesn't it? You're right. We have to move on, find that new circle.

And I sure to thank God as well for that. And for the friends I've 'lost', I'm grateful. Never have regretted any friendships, I've cherished them all.


Vastine Bondurant said...

Thank you, sweet Sue. I'm glad I'm not the only one. I don't make a good maverick loner person. LOL...

Thank you for your love and support!

CR Guiliano said...

You are not the only one sweets. I understand the need to feel validated, the need to gather strength from friends, online and off. I am in the same boat, and yes, it aches (and hurts) when friends drift away, or we lose them.

I think, the proper word, would be encouragement. There is nothing wrong in seeking encouragement from friends and family. That is not dependency. I struggle to keep my self-confidence higher. And, like you, I know deep down, I'm a good writer. I want and need that validation, but know that it should come from me.

Touching blog Vastine, and I will always 'encourage' you to write and be happy. *hugs*

Jaime Samms said...

Hey, sweets. You know I think you hae the goods. I was just reading a blog this morning, forget who's or where, but they said something like we writers have an insatiable need for validation and attention, and then when we get it, we cringe and want to hide because we don't like to be the center of attention. It was meant to be a funny point, and I guess it is, but it's funny because it's sooo true.

We all want the accolades. People telling us we are awesome, we know what we are doing, we are great writers. But at the end of the day, when you turn off your computer and look up to find your entire family has long ago gone to bed without you, you realize: no one is going to make you keep going. No one is going to make you stop. It all has to be inside you, because nothing else will always be there.

When the computer is off and the house is dark and the cat is snoring, all you have is you. I think we writers know that more than others. It's learning to accept that is how it should be that is the hard part :)

AJ said...

Jaime those comments are so true. I've been so lucky to have had a journalistic background because it gave me discipline and yes, being acknowledged is nice but writing is a discipline. Does a dentist need ten assistants to surrounding him saying, "Nice bridgework, dude, keep going!"
No, he doesn't.
What it comes down to is this. We are emotional people and writing is a solitary life.
And you are right. We write because we have to.

Vastine Bondurant said...

Thanks, Carah. ((Hugs)))
I have to confess, in my case, it truly is dependencey...virtual freezing in my head when I can't get validation on what I write. I SO hate it, and need to have some form of dependency on my own instincts. Grrr...

Vastine Bondurant said...

Hey, Jaime. Boy, can I relate to the needing validation but hiding from the attention.

Why that is, I surely don't know. But it can be paralyzing.

And I certainly related to the part about turning off the computer and it being just yourself. Oh, boy, do I know that. The cat is not much help. LOL..

Thank you, my friend.

Vastine Bondurant said...

AJ...that word...discipline...hit the nail on the head.

I lack that, for sure. In time, I'll hopefully have it in check more so than now.

Thank you, my friend.

Z.A. Maxfield said...

All of this is so true, but it's equally important to note that sometimes the validation we get from socializing can take the place of the very much more needed validation we get from creating. shallow socialization is not a good enough substitute to last for long, but it can briefly blind us and make us lose our way.

Like junk food, junk friendships only serve to satisfy our hunger for the short term. Real community, family, true friends, and self-love satisfy over the long term.

The good part is true friends are still there, and you really can write, you know that, deep inside you.

(I sent my daughter to college with that Winnie the Pooh film -- Pooh's Grand Adventure -- tucked into her luggage just so she'd always have that very special scene between Christopher Robin and Pooh close by when she needed it.)

I remain -- and we will meet face to face someday so you know it's true -- your friend,


Vastine Bondurant said...

Zam...everything you said is validation of why YOU are such a beautiful writer.

All very true, so very true.

And, dear one, I have to say...you are one of those who has been there from the very, very beginning for me and you've been true and so supportive.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Julie Lynn Hayes said...

Vastine, you are definitely not alone in this. The words of Kenny Rogers comes to mind:

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Friendships are like that - some friends are there for a reason, some for a season. The hard point is knowing which is which and when to let go. This is exacerbated by another fact - so many of the people you will meet and befriend are not who or what they appear to be. Falseness is rampant on the internet because it is so easy to manipulate a fake persona, up to and including crocodile tears.

It's both sad and scary how tightly such people cling to their illusions, as if afraid that without them they do not exist. Well, with them, they do not exist either.

I am honored to know you, and to count you among my true friends. It's not the number of your friends that counts, it's the quality.

Stay classy, my friend.

Vastine Bondurant said...

Truer words, Julie, truer words. And it sure is hard to know.

The real ones remain, that's for sure.

Thank you, my dear, for being a true friend!

Love and hugs!

Lex Valentine said...

We all need our friends. Some of us are just too stubborn to admit it and never try to reclaim a closeness when it drifts away. And as for your writing, everyone is motivated differently. I don't see it as you needing to be prodded to write. I see it as you needing the muse, the motivation. Your motivation may be the words and encouragement of friends and other authors while someone else's motivation might be...Michael Phelps. ;)

*Hugs* to you darlin!

Cassie Exline said...

Sorry to be late, these random storms are horrible and must keep off the computer, but great post. When I first started writing, I belonged to a group. We were close, we chatted online, we chatted on the phone, and sent tons of emails. Always working on stories, submitting to different sites, to contests. Little by little, my dear friends faded away, stopped chatting, stopped writing. The camaraderie does help to keep us writing and busy, more on target. Perhaps it's the competition of keeping up or it's nothing more than wanting to have a story to share, I don't know which, but I do miss them. Fortunately I've made new friends and have learned to work more on my own. But I appreciate all of the friends I have and I'm here for you, Vastine. Hugs

Janie Emaus said...

Good face -to-face friends last forever. And those are the ones that matter.

Vastine Bondurant said...

Hey, there, Lex!
Motivation. Yes! That sure is a necessity for me.
Hugs back to you, sweetie.

Vastine Bondurant said...

Cassie, you are so right.
That camaraderie, for me, is crucial. Just that connection of someone doing the same thing I'm doing. It just does make a difference, it just does.

I'm here for you, too, sweetie.

Vastine Bondurant said...

Janie, yes! Nothing at all can replace those face-to-face friends!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I would have ended up taking the dog home where my 6 stray cats would have taken one look at us and thrown up their paws in disgust.

Your posts always make me cry. Always? Yup, pretty well. Why? I have no idea. Okay, maybe I do and refuse to go deeper because finding the answer might lead to more tears.

Somewhere somebody told you you were dumb or without talent, or too stupid to get it, and now I wish I could find that someone and punch them upside the head. And then well they're down, I'd kick them in the groin.

Yes, spewing violence is my answer to almost everything. Might be why I write suspense thrillers with lots of darkness, death, pain. Haha. Goodness, look at me now, Mum!

Read these comments again, Carol. See how your words affected all of us? That's because you're so gifted.

Write that down somewhere: I am a gifted writer who can move readers with my prose.

I think you were connected to those gone-friends for a season and now that season's over.

Cherie Noel said...

You know just how to touch my heart. I have to agree with the general consensus on your giftedness as a writer... and what's more, I see very clearly how deeply and quickly your words affect us all. I hope you know how often I think of you when I'm struggling with my own writing, and how very hard I cheer at each of your successes. I'm not around that much lately... life is honestly been a bit heavy lately, and my family in the here and nowish actually sitting in my living room way very needy... but if you ever find yourself in need of encouragement, you know how to reach me. I will try to comment on your blog when I stop by... and remember to tag you now and again in my FB posts... but if I don't, know I'm writing, and imagining you sitting somewhere nearby, perhaps in an adjacent Writing Cave, sipping tea or coffee or even wine, and smiling at the antics of your characters...

Vastine Bondurant said...

Oh, Joylene. You just...know. Don't you? Maybe, my friend, that's what makes you cry. Because although we're so vastly different in some ways, we're alike in so many others.

And you're one of those who has always been there for me. I know you get tired of hearing it, but you were one of my very first mentors.

I'll always cherish you, my friend.

Vastine Bondurant said...

Cherie! There are just some friend that---even when space and life part us---they are still there, and you just know they are. And you have always been one of those.
And I love you for that.

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