Demonic Exercises in Emotional Bonding
I have a confession. A dark and terrifying one that I am going to reveal to the world: I am a terrible friend.
Ok, not really. I’m actually a pretty awesome friend. Unfortunately, I’d also be perfectly happy to never speak to another human being as long as I live. It’s not something I seek out, friendship. And, while I love Twitter and Facebook and MySpace before them, this brave new social media world has made it easier and easier to become, if not a terrible friend, an extremely lazy one. And it suits my personality a little too well.
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I think they’re stupid. If you want to do something, then do it. Don’t use the planet’s annual cycle around the sun as an excuse. But I made one this year. A simple one. I am going to reconnect with friends that I’ve allowed social media to be the substitution for real contact and [gulp] reconnect with friends with whom I’ve had no contact for years.
It was scary. I’m not going to lie. But, as the saying goes, I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer.
And I can’t take credit for the idea. I “friended” an actual old friend last summer on Facebook and he immediately sent me his phone number so that we could actually talk. I’d lost him after Katrina. I couldn’t find him. I worried about him for years and then there I was on my lunch break, listening to his voice and geeking about gear and hearing about his grandbabies. It was wonderful.
And then, another marvelous, deliciously delightful human being who I get to call my friend did the same thing. He called me. Just to talk. Just to catch up. Two hours later, we were still talking.
And I decided I was going to follow their lead. I was going to make an effort. I was going to be the one to reach out first.
So, Step One: when wonderful, beautiful friend sends her annual text message wishing me a happy birthday, make a real, actionable plan to go to lunch on a specific date and then drive that paltry one hour and change to go see her. And it was so simple.
We do this all the time, in our modern culture. We say “we never see each other; we should really get together soon,” and we never follow it up with “when is a good time for us to do that?”
And it’s not because the desire isn’t there. It’s because saying “we should” is easier than saying “let’s.” When did that happen?
And since step one and the subsequent lunch with my dear and fabulous friend was amazing and within five minutes we were back to talking as if five years hadn’t passed between us, I did it again.
I had dinner two nights ago with another beautiful, strong woman that I am lucky enough to call my friend...after seven years of not seeing each other. Again, ten minutes in and we’re sharing our struggles with motherhood and relationships, and we’re right back to where we were. A little older, but just the same.
And I get to do this again on Saturday with another dear friend, and I can’t wait. Although, I can’t take the credit for this one since he’s making the effort to drive all the way out to visit me at the convention I’m attending at the moment.
What friends I have, right?
Ok, so that was fun. I’m now back in touch with a handful of people who I adore and who amaze me. Time to strap my courage to the sticking place for Step Two and reach out to those that I’ve truly neglected. Like the ones I haven’t seen or spoken to or about for a decade.
So, I send a very short note to another friend on social media, and he replies back with a very non-committal message with subtle undertones of “why the fuck are you messaging me?”
I did actually have a reason for wanting to contact him. You see, Q’s penchant for wearing t-shirts with [insert metal band logo here] on the front, periodically provides me with the opportunity to give a shout out to bands that I love or bands with members I know. His is one of the latter, and I wanted to tell him because I thought he might get a kick out of it. So, I send a screenshot of the paragraph in Chasing Those Devil Bones in question and tell him about my new status as a published author and done. Right?
Now, it becomes abundantly clear from his response that he has absolutely no clue who I am and thinks some crazy woman is stalking him online. He’s flattered, but confused (and who could blame him).
And here comes the rub of it. That moment when you have the full and very realization that you are not as memorable as you think you are.
This man was an important part of my life. He inspired me with his drive and ambition and generosity and kindness, and I was fortunate enough to count him as a member of my social circle.
And I what did I do? I walked away from it. I got lazy. I used MySpace updates (that’s how long ago this started) as actual contact. I used mutual acquaintances as go-betweens.
But you know what? “Tell so-and-so, I said ‘hi.’” is not telling so-and-so you said anything.
Pick up a phone and tell them.
I’ve just sent an overly long message to this person to tell him how we knew each other and to apologize for not getting in touch sooner and to let him off the hook if he doesn’t want to resume contact. And I don’t know how he’ll respond.
I know I deserve for him to tell me to fuck right off. But, he’s a musician, and we all live on tour time, so these lapses in contact don’t seem to impact us emotionally as much as it does civilians. But still, I know that option is rightly on the table for him, and I won’t hold it against him if he chooses to take it.
It’s a blessing and a curse. I’ve often wondered if this is something unique to the music industry. We see each other for these brief and intense interactions: recording a record, playing a gig, and then nothing. For months. Because we’re off having intense interactions with other people we know and will not see again for months or years.
I’m at one of those intense interactive experiences right now. The NAMM convention is an annual pilgrimage a good portion of gear nerds and music enthusiasts make to Anaheim, California every January. It’s where music manufacturers show off all their new wares and try to sell said wares to music merchants (the MM in NAMM). I write technical articles and documentation for one such music manufacturer, and we are here, right now, having a demonic bonding experience for the next four days.
And this reconnecting that I’ve been actively working on with those who used to be closest to me is constant. I walked into the hotel from dinner last night and saw a colleague and his wife who I haven’t seen since June at another tradeshow and we’re screaming and hugging and talking like we saw each other last weekend. And it’s like that every year.
Even if you meet someone for the first time at one of these crazy events, it’s like you are instantly bonded for life. At that same tradeshow I attended in June, I met a colleague from another music manufacturer for the very first time. We were booth neighbors. I saw him yesterday and we were asking about each other’s kids and talking about our health like we’ve known each other for years. When, in actuality, we’ve only known each other for three days.
I only see some of my friends when they’re on tour in my state and we hardly talk in between. I only see some of my most favorite colleagues once a year. But you’d never know it when if you saw us together.
For my friends who’ve never experienced tour time (and none of the people mentioned so far can be counted within this group), it’s not a part of my personality they enjoy. They don’t like the long silences followed by bursts of intense emotional contact. It makes them uncomfortable. It makes them angry.
But I can’t explain how this works to them. It’s just something that I’ve learned to live with. That I’ve adapted to, because being a musician means being away from people you love. A lot. It also means isolating yourself so that you can create what you love. A lot.
It’s the bargain. It’s the trade-off. And we all understand that about each other. I think it’s why musicians and music makers travel together in packs. We’re a herding species of humans. Nobody understands us, but our own.
But even in this lifestyle, you can’t lose that one critical element. You can be absent for months or years with minimal contact, but to maintain that bond, that chain of connection, you need those intense bursts of emotional intimacy.
And emotional intimacy has never been something that I’ve been particularly good at. But, thankfully, Ben and Sanger are wonderful at it. And they’ve taught me how. So, during this, my first year of following through with a New Year’s resolution, I’m going to practice what they’ve taught me.
To all my friends waiting for me to reach out; I’m working my way to you, don’t you worry. But if you’re tired of waiting, give a yell because I’m likely dying to hear from you. And if you’ve given up on me entirely and never want to hear from me again, that’s alright, too.
This is me: flashing one of Sanger’s patented easy smiles at you. We’re all good, you and me.
And if you're one of the crazy herd living on tour time and swarming on this poor California town, you know where to find me.