Message in a Bottle

6 Jun

A small blonde boy sits on the path in front of Ocracoke Coffee Company patting Clarence. Both are perfectly content just sitting on roughened planks covering pebbles and sand. The boy slowly strokes the dog’s back. Clarence then moves into his familiar spaniel position, the backward lean. It’s his comfort move.And whether my dog knows it or not it is the position which relays the most love to the person doing the patting.

It says, I trust you. You can bear a bit of my weight.

I don’t mind leaning on you for a bit.

As much comfort as my quiet presence gives to you, I am grateful for the affection and attention you are bestowing upon me.

Clarence is wise, for during this weekend back in my favorite place, I’m thinking about the delicate balance of friendship and connection. As I sit in familiar places here on the island again, people I have come to know recognize my face.

They ask,  “How’s the writing going?”

“Ok,” I say.  But at this point, two years into this blog, I’m not so sure.

Yesterday, standing in line at the coffee shop, an older gentleman and I struck up a conversation. As we slowly began to become acquainted, my travels, occupation, and story rolled out.  And of course the question always arrives,

“What do you write?”

But these days, I hesitate to answer.

Because looking back over this enormous amount of processed experience, I have no idea what to call this type of writing. It’s not a blog…each piece is too long. It’s not memoir, the experiences too new and my perspective too close. It’s not what I had originally intended to do, review the road. For the writing became personal, and intimate. Sometimes too personal. It made me uneasy this veiled honesty. My feelings on love and loss, forgiveness and connection eventually erupted into the process.

I’ve been told — Just tell a story. Narrative keeps distance between you and the reader and people come to their own conclusions.

I’ve been told — Keep it personal; that makes it more true and real, cathartic even.

I’ve been told — Shorten it up; no one wants to read 1500 word essays online.

I’ve been told — Don’t omit the details…tell the story as long as it takes.

I’ve been told — Love the rich description. My language, lyrical and poetic, is the hallmark of my style.

I’ve been told — Make it plainer for everyday folks. No one wants to think that deeply over a blog post.

All I know is this…somehow I just needed to tell my story. Somehow, making my journey visible to others whether happy or sad made it more bearable. And bit by bit, there was healing. Becuase in some strange sense the whole thing felt seen. . .witnessed. And isn’t that the only thing people can do in a recovery? What is this power of acquiring witness?

However…the doubts feel creeping shame; have I opened myself too much?

The Internet is a strange filter, through which nothing is entirely anonymous. I’m a real woman living in a real town, living a real life that has its happiness and it’s challenge, more challenge it seems than not. But still, it wouldn’t take much for anyone to find me and know quite clearly what’s happened both in my inner life and outer life in the last two years.

And now I wonder… Is it too much?

When a person asks me,  “So… What’s the name of your blog?”

And I cringe a bit and say, “Ummm… It’s not really a blog”  or ” it’s kind of a record of my journey or it’s sort of like a journal”… and then I change the subject. That’s when it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe I’ve opened up my life too much. Someone once told me revealing too much at the beginning of a relationship is like getting naked on the first date… you just don’t do that. And maybe. . .I have, a little.

And maybe for someone who meets me in person, or someone who already knows me, or more importantly someone who wants to get to know me, reading personal introspection about this journey of mine may elicit a bit of discomfort… a hesitation. Maybe it creates a sense of voyeurism that feels like walking in on someone while in the bathroom… That “Oops” feeling. That, “I’m not so sure I know you well enough to know you that well” evasiveness.

I’ll never forget sitting at one of my favorite restaurants at home last year. A young lady approached my table and asked,

“Are you the Wayfarinlass?”

“Yeeeaahhh?” I  hesitantly replied.

“I read your blog”, she said slowly. “I’m a biiigggg fan.”

Uh Oh

“Uhhh…ok?”  I started to get a little frightened. Thoughts of stalkers and just how public my small missive actually was suddenly became apparent as she plunked down at my table and ordered exactly what I had.

As the conversation ensued, the young woman revealed her purpose in approaching me. Was I dating her ex boyfriend who had referred her to the blog? Horrified, I didn’t even know whom she meant until well into our hour and half long discussion. During this confession of sorts, she revealed to me everything about her prior relationship, even details one might save for a long trusted friend. I struggled between trying to extract myself and counseling her.

Now that I look back on the event, I see it all too plainly. When you do not have a sufficient network of caring friendships and connections that provide mutual love and support, you grab on to the first compassionate ear and hang on for dear life. Because in a world which isolates us in its enormity, a world which cannot focus on anything immediate and real, being heard affirms and assures us that indeed everything will be alright. How sad, but how necessary, it is that sometimes a stranger is the only one who brings us the wisdom and comfort of the Universe. Or at least a mirror in which we see what is already there to heal us within ourselves.

We are social creatures. We need each other whether it is comfortable or not. Just looking at Clarence and the way strangers interact with him shows me that. But there is a difference in live presence and mental construct. In this digital space, I haven’t named names, for the most part, nor been explicit. But I have written about my own vulnerability, revealed details that take off the mask of a human woman struggling to navigate a single life. It strikes me that someone could meet me and know much more about me than I him or her and now and that gives me pause.

There’s a mystery to live connection, a slow revealing that builds trust as the foundation upon which the house of relationship stands. That foundation cannot be ignored, because without it, connection is nothing more than an illusion. A safe, but lonesome one at that.

In watching this little boy, I can see it. He and Clarence begin the slow creating of a moment. They get comfortable after the initial greeting. Commitment to stay for a while happens and then they settle into a quiet paring. Each tentative touch increases the trust; each stroke assures the next will be gentle and giving. Clarence gets affirming touch, the boy gets emotional comfort and peacefulness. But the key is this…

It’s present.

It’s real.

It’s not words on a page.

It’s not an illusion created by photos and status posts.

It’s not an Internet dating profile or Facebook space spread out for voyeuristic view.

It’s not a bevy of texts and emails.

It’s real.

I tire of digital connection. Like smoke signals in the distance it lets you know you aren’t alone, but it doesn’t feed the real needs of the human soul. And perhaps if we spent more time listening to each other’s stories in person, giving each other the benefit of the doubt enough to believe, trust, and walk in compassion rather than hiding behind a digital wall built of our p.e.d.’s, we might just find the beauty of our own human natures. We might ultimately find what we are looking for. For if we are at all honest, all anyone wants is love and understanding. A moment of “You too? I thought I was the only one.”

So perhaps this space has been my message in a bottle. My casting out a line into dark water, so that eventually I might find my way back to civilization, to my real home.

 

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