Intellectually, we all know our lives have a path along which we must travel. The length of that path is undetermined, and often we’re not sure where it leads. There are many inflection points, opportunities to course correct, and fellow travelers to influence and to be influenced by. Perhaps most profoundly, though, is the thought that we travel these paths without knowing how the journey will end.
Perhaps it comes via our choice of direction, perhaps just by circumstance, or it’s set in motion the day we’re born. Perhaps it’s that lack of knowledge that allows most of us to continue along our way, blissfully unaware where and when our travel ends, when we become one with time.
The longer I’m on my journey, the more comfortable I am with the idea that it’s short and by necessity the closer I am to its end. By saying I’m more comfortable I am decidedly not saying that I am comfortable, just moreso. I get it intellectually and I resolve to do better to reach the end without regrets…but yet I continue to do things and fail to do things that would help me come to a place without regret.
I don’t tell the people I love how I feel nearly enough. I don’t make the time to connect with the people in my life often enough. I allow grievances and irritations to get in the way and let myself more fully express negative emotions rather than more fully expressing positive ones. It becomes so easy to let the time pass instead of doing the work of maintaining those relationships.
Today, I mourn the loss of a colleague and friend. Some weeks ago she had a cold or the flu that she just couldn’t shake, only to find she had Leukemia. Where only a few months ago, she was watching her young daughter grow up, mourning the loss of a beloved dog, basically living her life, today we’re mourning her passing on. Never in her wildest imagination did she even for a second consider that anything other than a particularly virulent strain of the flu was causing it to linger.
I’m of course sad for her family, especially “her little” who will now grow up with only memories of her mom – a truly sad proposition on its face, made even moreso knowing what a wonderful person her mom was – but I’m sad for my loss of opportunity to check in with her just to say “hi” and “you’re on my mind today.”
I just started to write that it’s almost as if we (I) have become emotionally lazy, making friends and just assuming they’re always there. There’s no work at all in curating a Facebook feed. Everyone you meet is now your “friend,” all with the same relative ranking of “friend.” But it’s not “almost as if.” Lazy is exactly what it is. I know I have become increasingly lazy about putting in the work of maintaining my friendships and other relationships. It occurs to me that I’m rarely the one who reaches out at some random point and time to make a call.
So while I’ve become much better at setting goals, it’s now completely clear to me that I’ve neglected to make developing, enhancing, maintaining friendships/relationships a goal. I’ve not demonstrated to the people in my life that they’re important to me, and thus making it increasingly likely that someone will come to the end of their path with regrets. If I were to reach my journey’s end today, there wold be plenty of regret to be had. I’m not willing to let that go unchecked; I have to do better.
Today, Shannon’s family replete with grief sets forth to plan the details of saying goodbye, something just a few short weeks ago would have been unthinkable. I’m sorry I didn’t make more time to give her a call. We just don’t know how long or short that path is, yet we pretend it goes as far as the eye can see and allow ourselves to be lazy about the things that matter most.
She made the world a better place, I want to be sure to honor that memory by letting other people know that my world is a better place because they’re a part of it. This should be a simple goal, but I suspect it’s going to take a lot more work than anything else I’ve set forth to do yet. Simple is not always easy. That’s why it’s important to keep working toward it.