All relationships go through peaks and troughs. It’s one of the constant cycles of life that we can bank on. We’ll sometimes fight with our friends, and sometimes things will be perfect.
I think one of the hardest things to deal with is where the personal and professional intersect. I know I certainly encounter that potential conflict of interest in my own life, and have built some walls to protect myself from it. Not because I even doubt my own ability to be impartial, but because the appearance of impartiality can compromise the merit of the achievements of others if I don’t have those boundaries in place. Take the cozy noir contest with Spinetingler. I had to send out multiple emails yesterday, telling some people good news, telling a lot more people unhappy news. There were people I knew on both lists, and I felt it when I sent out those notices.
Especially the ones to people who didn’t place.
As I explained to someone else, having the boundaries enables me to approach my role pragmatically. I mean, it’s all good and fine to be personal and fun when the news is good, but it’s far from that when the news isn’t what the recipient hopes to hear.
This isn’t on my mind so much because of Spinetingler today, but because of other things, and it’s going to get pretty personal after my initial comments, because I’ve been working through a lot of stuff lately. I had a high school friend visiting last week, and it had been years… I think five years, since I’d seen her last. A lot has changed in my life in that time. A lot has happened in her life. It isn’t always as though you can just pick up where you left off, especially when she’s meeting my husband for the first time, and for the first time since high school she’s seeing where I live. There are growing pains that go with the territory.
And that’s one of the strongest friendships in my life. We’ve literally been friends for 20 years, and the ties that bind us have survived time, distance, marriage and divorce, kids, career changes, sickness etc. Peak or trough, we’re always friends.
It can be trickier to know that about people you build friendships with as an adult. You don’t have a shared history, a track record. In my experience, a lot of people have been users. They come along for a time and take what they can get and move on.
There are those you’ll try to befriend, but there’s something that keeps you from building the bridge. It can be nebulous, elusive, hard to define. It might be that their quota is full – they have a full stable of friends and don’t feel the need for more. Or they’ve been burned and aren’t sure if they want to risk opening up to you, because they fear they might be hurt. Or they have their own reasons to doubt your motives.
I worry about stuff like this a lot. I know, I worry too much sometimes. But when I first started meeting people in the writing business, I used my married name, didn’t mention Spinetingler and approached people strictly as a fan.
And I watched.
I’ve seen aspiring authors try to work an introduction to people in the business from successful authors. I’ve seen the guard go up as authors are asked for favours. I’ve seen that invisible yet tangible shield go up around editors, agents and publishers when they see a writer charging a path toward them.
You know, in some ways, it sucks to be successful. Think about it. If you were a millionaire, would you ever really trust that someone loves you for you, or would you wonder if they loved you for your money? I mean, come on, surely that must occur to everyone.
I worried about all of this as I was getting into the business. I worried about it because I feared I’d be viewed like so many others out there, looking for a hand out. Willing to step on anyone if it would help them get to the top.
That’s why there are some people I’ve been extra enthusiastic about. They’re the people who never graded me with a checklist before they decided if I was worthy of being acknowledged or not. They also happen to be great writers, authors who top my list for must-reads.
I still don’t like where friendships and the business side of this industry collide. Some people thought I was nuts to not ask Michael Connelly to blurb my book last week, but as far as I’m concerned, if Michael Connelly reads it, what an honour. I decided that, since Stuart helped me so much this past year, I didn’t want to impose on him for a blurb. I know he said he would, and he’s sweet and all, but it just didn’t seem fair to ask for more of his time. The book is stronger because of the counsel he gave me, and for that, I’m permanently in his debt. If I’m a better writer now than I was four months ago, you can credit Stuart for that as well.
I didn’t want to ask Mark for a blurb either. I know he’s a friend, and I’ve asked other friends… it’s hard to explain. Mark is one of the people in this business I’ve known longest, and the kind of friend I’d take any problem to. This past year, at a few of my lowest points I’ve had a ‘virtual’ cry on Mark’s shoulder. Lucky for him he hasn’t had to deal with me actually blubbering in person. He’s gone way beyond the realm of acquaintance and has become one of the people I trust most in this business. If there’s one thing I know about him, it’s that he won’t feed me any bullshit, and boy, do I ever appreciate people who’ll be straight with me and not change their tune depending on who they’re trying to impress from one day to the next.
This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned trusted friends and the people I’m thankful for, but it’s on my mind today because I’ve been struggling with a situation that has me wondering. It’s a situation where I’ve been feeling betrayed.
The truth is, the past few months have been very stressful. When I talk about being down, people sometimes express surprise, that I don’t sound like I have been, but I tend to let things build up to the point where I can’t cope anymore. Then everything simply adds to the stress, and I don’t handle anything particularly well. It affects my personal life, it affects my concentration, it affects my health...
And when things get like that, I do vent. And when I vent, I say, I’m not thinking clearly. I can’t really explain it all. My judgment is clouded. When I’m talking like that, I’m not looking for answers. I’m looking for ears and shoulders.
The trouble is, I said that recently to someone, and instead of being an ear and a shoulder, they relayed stuff I’d told them to someone else. Someone I don’t really know.
I’m not going to take the situation any further than that here on my blog, but this is where I’m at with it. It’s made an already stressful time in my life feel unbearable. Instead of just dealing with the things that were already weighing on me, now it’s been compounded by external pressure... Pressures that involve commitments I’ve made, finances, my publishing contract, everything. There are some things I’ve been actively involved in that I think people want me out of and I’ve had almost a week to think about it. I can’t shake that suspicion.
Of course, it goes back to what I already said. When I’m stressed, my judgment isn’t the best. And so it doesn’t necessarily matter if I’m right or if I’m wrong. What does matter is that someone I trusted to talk to about my feelings has made me question if I was wrong to confide in them.
To be brutally honest, I can’t remember a more difficult week in my life in quite a while, and I have had some rough spots recently. I didn’t think it could get much worse, but it has. And I’m not interested in pity. 100% not. The truth of the matter is, I’m left questioning a lot of things right now, and first and foremost, I’m questioning my judgment.
I’m going to be rather selfish and say that it sucks Mark is still on tour, because if there was one person I would talk to about absolutely everything, it would be him. But then, that’s hardly fair of me. He’s given me advice and support on more than one tough situation this year.
Unfortunately, we all like to turn to the people we’ve found reliable in the past. The people who’ve already proven that they will keep our confidences and give us space to say a few things we don’t mean and retract them later, because they know we’re blowing off steam. I mean, if there’s one thing I know this year it’s that I’ve struggled with some situations that prompted snap judgments. And I’ve had to consciously choose to step back and force myself to keep an open mind while I got all the facts. There were people I thought were responsible for some problems I was having, and when I looked into the whole situation, I found out they were just the people who actually brought it to me – that the problems didn’t start with them but others.
I believe in forgiveness. I just don’t believe in laying back down to be a doormat again and again for the same people, so if you believe someone is just going to keep kicking you, you don’t get down for them. You steer clear.
There are things I’ve been told this year that I feel the weight of knowing. Things I’ve experienced that automatically set me apart from some others. There have been a few times I’ve wondered why a person told me what they did, and hoped to hell everyone else they told has tight lips because I don’t even want to deal with being suspected of betraying their confidence.
And there are times I’ve had to make choices to break confidences in the past. When I believe that someone might actually be hurt, for example. Or when the situation is having a direct impact on me and I’ve been pressured to keep an unreasonable confidence. Those are painful situations to be in. And I'm not perfect. I've shown errors in judgment in the past, and there have been times I've had to own that. I'm not saying I'm faultless, not by a long shot.
Where I go from here in this situation is completely up in the air. I have resolved only one thing, and that’s to do nothing about it right now. Usually, I like to clean things up and move on, but not this time. This is one of those times I feel the need to emotionally withdraw and protect myself first. It may well be the only way to avoid making a snap decision that wouldn’t be wise and could have a negative impact on a lot of people.
It means leaving a few things hanging for now, but this is one time where I can’t worry about that. I have my priority list for this week, and those are the only things I’m dealing with right now and until I’m emotionally ready to address this problem, it’s going to have to wait.
It does leave me wondering how you guys decide if trust can be repaired or if it’s been completely destroyed.