Lately I’ve been contacted by people I haven’t heard from in ages. Last week out of nowhere I got a pleasant email from BH, whom I hadn’t heard from in about 6 months. I swear there’s still a cosmic connection there.
Then on Saturday, I got a call from my friend Neil, one of the first friends I made in Las Vegas and who makes a cameo appearance in my book as a fellow germ-a-phobic. Neil moved to Oregon a few years ago and the last time I tried his number it was no longer in service. I’ve been thinking about him lately and was feeling sad that maybe we’d lost touch for good, so I was psyched to hear his voice.
We could have talked for hours, but after a good 45 minutes I had to run to meet my cousin Johnny, who’s in town for a conference. The last time I saw Johnny was at my aunt’s funeral. I had a great time laughing with him and his wife, Pam, over lunch at the Venetian. He’s a freakin’ riot (everyone in my family is a comedian).
When I got home, I got a call from a friend from my writers’ group—another person I haven’t seen in ages, and I swear I have talked to him on the phone maybe one other time in the years that I’ve known him. Then later that evening, I got a text from my old friend (and star of what I think is probably the best chapter in my book), “Vietnam Paul.” He wanted to know if I was up for a drink that night, but I was on my way to a friend’s house up in North Las Vegas. I haven’t seen Paul in years, and I do hope we can get together soon because he is one of my favorite—and most entertaining—friends on earth.
So weird that I should have so many blasts from the past, first BH and then the other four in a single day. You have to wonder about the cosmic energy of the universe.
Anyway, these are all people I was more than happy to hear from. I’m so lucky to have so many friends, and I’m usually pretty good at maintaining friendships. Sometimes, though, I think you can hang on to people out of habit, and sometimes it’s best to let them go.
I remember one Sunday night several years ago. I met a friend for a beer and boy, was I ready for one. I'd just come off three exhilarating, though exhausting, days at the Las Vegas Writer's Conference and was still bubbling with excitement. This was back when I was pitching Bastard Husband: A Love Story.
"I connected with two agents and an acquisitions editor who are interested in my book," I gushed. "They all want to see the first 50 pages, and two of them want an annotated table of contents. Isn't that great?"
My friend politely let me continue.
"Plus I taught four sessions during the conference—I got some really nice feedback—and…"
At that point he cut me off. "Wait a minute," he said, shaking his head. "Let me ask you, what have you published?" Before I could say a word, he added, "And I don't mean…"
What he didn't mean, and the answer I was poised to respond with, was the excerpt from my book that was published in an anthology of Las Vegas Valley writers. I could tell such a minor publication didn't count in his eyes.
And what he did mean--what he really wanted to say--was, Who are you to be teaching anyone anything? You're not even published.
I took a breath and swallowed the venom on the tip of my tongue.
"I know where you're going that question," I calmly replied. "The sessions were on technical writing, how to track your agent queries, and how to get the most out of the conference. I actually know a little something about those topics." My answer satisfied him, but I seethed for quite a while longer.
I can't think of another time when I went from elation to deflation in such a flash, though I'm reminded of a boyfriend I once had who, whenever I mentioned any glimmer of optimism surrounding my book, would invariably respond with, "I hate to see you get your hopes up." He hated to see me get my hopes up? What is an artist without hope??? Needless to say, he wasn't my boyfriend for long.
There's a lesson here for all of us who are writers, artists, musicians, or other creative types: We have to be careful who we hang out with. We face enough rejection in our artistic pursuits; we sure as hell don't need our friends (or relatives) tainting our energy fields with doubt and negativity. I'm not saying they're bad people; they just don't understand. And I'm willing to bet they either have no artistic inclination themselves, or just as likely, they did at one time and someone (probably their parents) rewarded them the same skepticism they're now passing on to us.
The point is, we can't expect these people to be a source of encouragement. Rather than risk having to defend our dreams, it's best to not even bring them up. Restrict the conversation to the weather. Better to identify your kindred spirits and share your successes and challenges with them instead.
Sometimes it’s in your best interest to let some relationships fizzle out.