Stephen Mosher On Being Supportive
I have this group of friends. We have known each other a really long time. In our past, we were inseparable. In our present, we are a distant memory. Over the years we have grown apart, though we say we love one another. I daresay we always will. It does not, though, mean we have been especially supportive of each other – at least to the point of being present in one another’s lives. I have always prided myself on being a supportive friend. I have flown across country to see them in plays. I have traveled out of town for their weddings. I have made it a point to see them when I am in the same city as them. However, it bothered me for years that none of them flew in for the release of The Sweater Book or Married and Counting. Only one of them made a point of buying my book Lived In Crazy. And when I asked all of them to be in one of my weddings, they were all too busy. And, for years, it hurt me so badly that I lost sleep and shed tears over it.
And then one day I had a stunning realization.
You can’t blame people for not loving you more than they can. You can’t blame people for not being better friends than they are. You can’t blame people for not caring as much as you would like them too.
We are an insular race. Oh, we need each other. That is when we become less insular. When we have no needs, we stand alone. We are a selfish, self-centered, self-involved group and getting more so with the passage of technology charged days. Everything we need, except food and toilet paper, can be found on our computer or our phone. We neither need nor care for our fellow man – unless it is make a good showing on our social media. Our thoughts and prayers go no further for the victims of the world than they do for the people in our lives whom we ignore on a daily basis.
I used to get so angry when I would learn which friends didn’t attend one of Pat’s plays – people that we gave up hard to come by money and even more valuable time to see in their shows who did not reciprocate when it came time to for a show, a pretense of support for my husband. Or the times I went to see Jen sing her songs to an audience of ten people, five of which were her family members who came to see every show. Where was the support? It upset me so to see the people I love, people who are always there for everyone else, go ignored. I have a friend in Texas who always chides people, via Facebook, for not coming to see their shows. Our mutual friend once said to me, while discussing this person, “my friendships are not based on whether or not people support my work”; and I totally got it. I found the Facebook tantrums of the sensitive actor in Texas to be a turn off and assumed it would cost that person friendships. Yet, I understood the need to feel supported. There had to be a way to balance it out.
Meditating on it, I realized I had been wrong to be hurt because my close friends wouldn’t attend my wedding. It was a mistake to be upset because they didn’t buy my book, see my film or stay in touch. The onus belongs to me to be supportive. The energy requiring my concern had to be the energy focused outward. Yes, it is nice when there is some kind of balance in friendships; but it rarely exists. And if we, as people, place our emphasis on the kind of friend we are going to be, rather than the kind of friend we are going to have, the focus is in the right place. Of course there will be situations when friendships die because one member of the relationship isn’t tending their garden – but that happens organically in life, anyway. The wind changes and people fly away. Personalities evolve and loved ones fade into the background.
But if you are focused on being the most supportive friend you can be, in the cool grey of the dawn, you will know that the relationship didn’t die because of you. And you won’t have the negativity of focusing on the wrong thing – only the positive energy of being the best person you can be.
You will have had the clear conscience and you will be able to sleep, undisturbed by regret and untethered by the dead weight of people who do not deserve you.