You Don’t Have Time to Allow Frustrations to Foil Your Relationships
No one should ever have to get a phone call telling them that a loved one has passed away.
If you’ve been on the receiving end of one of those calls, you know the feeling of utter shock mixed with instant sadness. The feeling of the ground dissolving beneath your feet and the air in your lungs emptying without any sign of re-filling.
Those moments are almost other-worldly, and yet at the same time, they are some of the most real and relatable moments of our entire lives.
A few weeks ago now, I got a call from my mom telling me that one of my grandfathers had fallen, hit his head, and passed away. Completely unexpected. No one would have ever foreseen that that week, that day, would be his last.
It was and still is devastating.
Moments like this usher in a thick fog that coats nearly every aspect of daily life. Under this dense covering, we stumble through our waking hours, trying to in some way re-learn how to navigate our steps without being able to see our feet.
We’re told that, somehow, slowly, the fog will begin to lift and things will begin to take on their original colors again. People will become sharper and the pain will become more subtle. But standing within that swirling mist, it’s hard enough to hear reason and logic, let alone, somehow convince the words to travel the distance from our minds to hearts.
It’s grief. It’s frustration, sorrow, anger, and regret. If you have ever felt that fog, you know that it can be debilitating.
There are no words that make death more acceptable, more palatable to the human soul. If the sky was a scroll, you could fill the expanse from Earth to space with lamentation and it would still not be enough to contain or describe the damage in the innermost parts of the heart that happens when a loved one passes away.
I was recently reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Within the book, she told a story of going shopping with one of her best friends who was dying from terminal cancer.
While shopping, Anne remembers complaining about a series of little frustrations. The store was too crowded. The dress she tried on didn’t fit. Wrapped in her disappointments, Anne sat down with a huff, at which time her friend looked over and told her:
“I don’t really think you have that kind of time.”
When I came across that line, I paused and put the book down, tears coming to my eyes. Anyone who has walked within the fog of losing a loved one knows that sentiment to be true.
We don’t have the time to allow frustrations and disappointments to rule our lives, much less our relationships.
We don’t have the time to let anger occupy our hearts or to concede our kindness due to a menacing feeling of unforgiveness.
In the day-to-day, feelings like revenge, bitterness, anxiety, and fear all appear to be worthwhile. But in the greater context of a life lived, in light of the fragility that lies just below the surface of everything we know, we don’t have time for those types of feelings.
We’ll never get it fully right. We’ll still spend too much time embracing frustration or greed or jealousy or anger. At the end of the day, perfection isn’t really the goal.
If you can, aim instead to live a life where your love outweighs your frustration. Seek to cherish, celebrate, encourage, and lift up those around you before you get to the point where the fog is up to your waist and you regret not doing it sooner.
We tend to overcomplicate our affections, but if you truly want to make the most of your time with the people you love, here are three simple ways to do that.
When you think of someone, text them
When you ask people what they regret about life, one of the most common answers is “not staying in better touch with friends and family.”
Practically speaking, staying in touch isn’t hard. We’re more connected today than in any other generation.
But social norms and poor emotional intelligence often keep people from following through on this desire.
I know you’re not supposed to just text people out of the blue. What if they are in a meeting? What if they are busy? What if you texted them last week and they never answered?
I’ve gotten into a habit of trying to text people whenever they come to mind. Just to check in and touch base. I don’t expect a response. That’s not why I texted them in the first place. It was more meant for their encouragement than my validation.
When you see someone, hug them
Some people don’t enjoy a high level of physical touch and that’s okay. But a lot of people like being hugged more than they let on.
There is actually extraordinary power in a simple hug, so much so that Psychology Today says that a “hug provides complex responses that warm our heart and make us feel better.”
You will almost never regret showing a friend or loved one affection.
When you hear someone, listen to them
We live in a world that associates how loud you are with how right you are. Conversations have become increasingly rare. Most people spend the majority of their time trying to convince others of their opinions, leaving little room to adjust their views or intake new information.
You give so much value to someone when you actually listen to what they have to say. When you affirm that their ideas are worthwhile, even if you disagree with them.
One of the easiest ways that I try to be a better listener to those around me is to work on being a better question asker. If I am asking you a question, I’m not sharing my opinion. I’m showing that I want to value your thoughts.
If you lose someone close to you, there will be a thousand questions you wished you would have asked them. So check some of those off while you still have time.
We have such a short window of opportunity on this planet — why be content to waste a single minute of it mired in something that doesn’t make life more beautiful and worth living?
For most people, it takes feeling the fogginess of grief to convince them of the urgency of both life and love.
If you’re willing, take it from someone who has felt the fog. Embrace the urgency before you find yourself stumbling towards the conclusion that the people around you are to be cherished. Because ultimately, you don’t have the kind of time for anything less.