For many years, I could not imagine Sawyer functioning in the world outside of our house without this kind of support. There were days after I had reminded him to brush his teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast, go to the bathroom, come inside, put on his shoes, stay on the sidewalk, lower his voice that it seemed a wonder that he knew to breathe without me reminding him to. It can be a little exhausting sheepherding your son through life, but it also left me feeling needed and with the vague illusion that I was maintaining some control over a situation that frequently seemed teetering on the brink of chaos.
As a writing teacher and coach, students and clients come to me also looking for support. Facing a blank page and finding the story you most want to tell can feel like a lonely and frightening and chaotic journey. How does one know which is the right word or idea or character? Writing a story is a journey I have taken often enough now to know that I am never taking it alone. I may be the only one at my desk, but writing has always felt like a conversation, like a relationship, and as long as I remember to treat it as such, the answer to the question, “What should come next?” is always answered by and by.
This is the support I aim to offer my students and clients, to remind them that they already have everything they need to answer all their creative questions. I could never take the place of that friend we call our imagination, our muse, our guide. All I can do is remind them that such a friend exists.
So too with Sawyer. That friend to whom I turn in my creative life does not head home once I am done writing. He does not differentiate between the question, “How best should I describe this scene?” and, “What do I want for dinner?” It is all the same to him. It is easy to think that because Sawyer has appeared lost in the world that the same friend that has guided me through books and love affairs and careers has for some reason been mute in his life. It is easy to think I must be that friend.
But I cannot, and the friendliest thing I could do is to somehow remind him to listen to that which is already speaking to him, to remind him that he is fully equipped for is journey. Once he understands how supportive and loyal that friend is, he is going to leave. That is the direction of his life. A part of me can already feel how I will miss the unique intimacy this kind of parent-child relationship, but in truth he will not be taking with him on his journey anything I do not already possess. To believe otherwise is to believe we are all incomplete and unsupported, a lost herd of lonely sheep, set astray in a world in which freedom equals isolation.