A few days ago I got a text from an old coworker. I felt pretty close to her but for one reason or another, as time and place would have it, once the job ended, we went our separate ways. We hadn’t spoken in a long time and the message she sent was to a large group of our other coworkers. It said how much she missed, appreciated, and loved us. That even though we were all busy in our own lives she genuinely hoped the best for us. I know I should be grateful to get a text like this, one that after all seems “genuine” in its nature. She hadn’t aimed to upset anyone and I am pretty sure she didn’t even need a reply. It was a message she sent from her heart but I couldn’t get it out of my head that she hadn’t reached out to say any of these things beforehand. It was also sent to a group of us so I guess it felt a little less personal. To give some more context, I had tried to hang out with her before. In the past, our plans fell through and I left it up to her to let me know when she was next available. She never hit me up so her words felt like fluff, full of empty promises. I read the message with a sense of detachment. The idea that someone gets too busy is so normalized. We justify most our absence in other peoples’ lives due to our own personal affairs
I am guilty of doing this, probably to numerous people that I don’t even realize. Maybe I did it to her. I don’t mean to dip outdo any of us really? Sometimes it just happens. I don’t know why I am so caught up in her text when I do the same exact thing. I guess in some ways it’s harder for us to accept where disappointment is coming from. I have received similar endearing messages from friends who I easily let back into my life. In those scenarios, I pick up where we left off so to speak. Perhaps it’s easier to give a little slack to those who we have built some sort of affection for. Maybe we love them so much that it’s okay if they mess up. It’s okay if they aren’t always there. We understand when they get busy. For others, we can’t accept it as easily because we carry a subconscious expectation that they would not dare leave us or ditch us in our time of need the way that we feel that they may have. In my life, I have experienced elements of dysfunction in my family and consequently my capacity for emotionally attaching and expressing myself has been warped. I mostly over- communicate. I rather say:
“I am so caught up with everything & I’m sorry but I can’t be there for you, I hope you understand…”
Then not say anything at all. I don’t always do this but I try to. I understand not everyone has the same style. I can’t carry around the expectation that people are going to be there all the time or that they are going to communicate about their lives and all of its context. No one is capable of making everyone happy. No matter what we do: whether we overly communicate or seldom vocalize our struggles. It’s a good lesson to learn how to be there for yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have standards for your loved ones. You shouldn’t let people walk all over you. If you constantly credit others the craziness of their personal life, you’ll be putting your own feelings aside for someone else that really isn’t giving you the time of day. If and when you realize that this is the case, it’s a good start to make boundaries. You shouldn’t invest in those who are unwilling to invest in you. It’s a powerful practice. Not an easy one, but life-changing. Trying not to get caught up in the idea of potential has been a struggle for me. I fall for the one-liners:
- I was going to get a hold of you
- I meant to call you
- I have been thinking about you
As sad as it is to admit, these unspoken, never executed behaviors are useless. The proverb, “Actions speak louder than words,” couldn’t be any closer to the truth. It’s part of the reason I have realized the value of a compliment. Whether it’s as simple as ” I like your shoes,” or as contemplative as, “You are a great mom.” Unless the words come out, who is to know what’s going on in that brain of yours? Full circle back: I am grateful to be seen and appreciated after reading that text. To be alive and well is a gift.