Almost exactly one year ago, I lost a friend.
I lost this friend because new motherhood had caused me to be neglectful of the relationship. The phone calls were fewer, the visits were fewer; the friendship, all told, was left to languish in the dustheap of obligations from my previous, childless life. My friend – a longtime friend, a best friend – felt that neglect. She knew that I couldn’t help that my attention was diverted by an infant, and that my head was clouded by depression, but she felt, still, that the neglect was something that she couldn’t tolerate. So she left me.
This in itself would be unremarkable – every parent has a story about how some childless friend drifted away, uninterested in the constant baby-prattle, unimpressed by such accomplishments as good latches and regular shits – but that the gap that opened up between me and this particular friend wasn’t a gap created entirely by new parenthood. This gap was created, in part, by blogging.
That I was unable to make sufficient time for the friendship was a problem for my friend, but it was not the entirety of the problem. More serious, from her perspective, was the fact that while I did not have time to go for coffee or spend leisurely evenings chatting over a bottle of really good Syrah, I did have time to blog. You make time, she said to me in her ‘Dear John’ e-mail, for what matters.
She was right. I was making time for what mattered. I needed blogging. In the midst of all of the confusion and isolation and – yes – depression that I was feeling as a new mother, blogging gave me something to cling to. It gave me something to do. It provided me with a means of opening up, of finding my voice and giving voice to the feelings that were threatening to overwhelm me. And it helped me to rediscover myself as a writer.
These were all things that I couldn’t do with her, that I couldn’t do with anyone in the lived space of real life. These were things that I had discover for myself, in the shadowy company of virtual peers. I needed other parents, other writers, other friends who I could speak to, confess to, through the curtain of virtual space. I needed to do this from the security of my sofa, in the dark of night, in the grey hours before dawn, as I sorted my thoughts alongside freshly laundered onesies. I needed to do it in the company of sympathetic strangers.
I can understand why she felt hurt by my self-imposed isolation. And I can certainly see why she felt hurt by the fact that I had gathered strangers around me, behind my closed doors. But I was angry, last year, when she accused me of neglect, of not caring, of thrusting her into the role of, as she put it, window-licker. I am still, sometimes, angry. But that anger, when it comes, comes mostly from frustration and regret. I regret that the friendship ended. I regret that she’ll never know Wonderbaby. I regret that this friendship couldn’t survive my motherhood. The loss of this friendship was just that, a loss. I have formed some very, very special friendships in the blogosphere – incalculably special friendships – but this friendship was important, and can’t be replaced.
But it’s done. I can’t do the calculus on gains and losses here – I would no sooner give up what I’ve gained from my friendships in the blogosphere, and from the rediscovery of my voice and my (figurative) pen, than give up my motherhood. These are among the most precious things – after WonderBaby – that this new life has given me. To say that I’ve been empowered as a woman and as a mother doesn’t even begin to adequately describe what I’ve gained from this community, this experience. From blogging.
But there has been – rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly – some cost, some loss. I suppose that with every new stage in life, every new road travelled, there is something lost, something left behind. Does it mitigate the quote-unquote empowerment that I’ve discovered on this journey? No.
But it does make it somewhat bittersweet.
Posted as part of MBT’s BlogHer or Bust Round Up. There’s still time for you to participate: sometime before midnight tonight (Friday), write a post about blogging and the empowerment of women and link to MBT. Not only will you feel really, really good about yourself, you’ll be eligible to win a two-day registration to BlogHer. Or candy. Your pick. And your post will be linked up here, and at MBT, and at BlogRhet, where the brightest minds in the blogosphere will immediately set about deconstructing it and identifying its greater meaning. An offer you can’t refuse, no?