A friend and I have a favorite bar. When we go out on a girls night, it’s our go-to spot. Truffle fries to die for. Planned to met there for drinks last week. Googled to check specials. The site read: Location Permanently Closed. Huh???
Watched a sequel to a mini-series I’d enjoyed. Discovered the majority of leading roles had been recast. Spent most of the premiere episode on-line trying to figure out what the hell happened to the original cast. No answer to be found.
I hate that. Not change. That’s expected. It’s the not knowing that gets to me. The unexplained closing. The recasting of roles. The friend who fades from my life with little more than a text. The silence from people, apparently offended or upset but perhaps just busy, without knowing what I did or could do to salvage or strengthen the relationship. The emails or requests that go unanswered. The messages left with no returned call.
I’m a curious sort, I’ll admit. And a Type A — okay AAA — organizer. I like things tidy. I follow-up with thank you notes. I save photos and memorabilia. I keep connected to the people I care for. I even write letters, stamping them with a 49.5 cent stamp and sending them out in the mail. I enjoy closure when a project is finished and ticking off tasks when it is in process. I don’t leave anything hanging …
I did poorly in my Chem class in high school because the experiments didn’t do what they were supposed to do. I ended up with 102% error — which is highly unlikely but I did it anyway — and my Chem teacher Todd Bennethum just shook his head at my results. Even he was stymied. Why? No one could tell me. Gotta say, I didn’t love that class.
We all form expectations, relying on a logical flow. We press a button, the TV turns on. We log into an app, certain info pops onto our screens. We nurture our kids, we anticipate love, listening and respect in return. We form a connection with special people, we expect kindness, caring and authenticity and we give it. Oh, we run into problems with all of the above at times. But we keep Tech Support on speed dial and talk through things with people important to us.
I once read that to maintain a successful relationship, three things are key.
- Unconditional Acceptance
- Rose-Colored Glasses
- Lowered Expectations
In other words, accepting the people and situations in our lives for who they are and what they offer without going all cray-cray. Looking at the people and seeing the best in them, not creating glaring issues or dwelling on flaws or slights (imagined or otherwise). And lowering our expectations and avoiding unattainable ideals to set up people and relationships for success.
Okay. Gotta be honest. When it comes to people, I do have expectations. But I keep them simple. Perhaps asking for kindness, communication, a call back, a timely (doesn’t have to be immediate) response to a text, invitation or message, a “touch” or face to face time every now and then is unrealistic and places too high a demand on them. Sorry. I ask no less of myself! But … since I am that Type A — okay, AAA — person, perhaps it could be suggested that what seems simple, common courtesy to me is a demand to others. But dammit, when I care, I care deeply and I want to spend time with the people who matter most. If they choose to be my friend, I’d expect nothing less. And if they need something from me, I hope they know I’m here for them as well. But, the not knowing when people drift away leaves me wondering what I did and if I could have done something differently.
I find myself reviewing conversations and moments. Did the words I said register the way I meant them? Did the letter I wrote make sense? Did something I do offend? Did I misunderstand something? And, did all those times we spent together, sharing laughter and making memories resonate somewhere to remind my kids, my family, my friends and those who’ve chosen different paths that don’t include me that I cared … that I still do? Did they know how I felt? And, did I even matter to them?
And then there comes a time when you get an answer. And you know.
Last weekend, I attended the wedding of a very dear friend. She played my daughter on-stage twice and a piano student of mine another time. We had many stage moments and backstage fun. I watched her grow up to become a beautiful woman. We wrote letters. I sent her care packages and notes when she went to college. And we connect every now and then face to face.
I’m close to her whole family. Her sisters were also in shows with me and played very special roles in my life onstage and off. And her parents were in those same shows, sharing fun and laughter, climbs up the mountain, post-show Labatt’s Blue Light, and even 6am tequilla shots after a really long cast party complete with the hair of the dog morning after walking tacos. Too many memories and times to list. They warm my heart whenever I think of them.
But, many of those memories were made nearly 20 years ago. Time passes. You wonder if all those warm fuzzy thoughts that you found so significant were only special to you. And then, you are standing at a wedding reception watching the Father Daughter Dance when you recognize the music playing is a song from Music Man and that the voice singing is your own. This song plays for all to hear from a show you shared with the bride — her voice joining in for the final duet — and her dad once upon a footbridge. A song that connects you forever and reminds you they they love you and treasure those memories from River City, Iowa too. That you mattered and still matter. And you have your answer. Your heart grows two sizes in that moment. And all else fades away.
So I don’t know why The Pour House closed. Or why they recast The White Princess. I don’t know why my Chem experiments were riddled with errors or where that radio DJ I liked so much went.
I don’t know why some relationships get severed or fade out and others stay strong with minimal maintenance. Once in a while, you realize you did “touch” someone out there. It can happen at a wedding reception in a completely unexpected moment. Or, you reconnect with friends from Cooks Corners who message you on Facebook. You reminisce about times past with people not seen face to face for years. And then there’s that priceless moment when you find an answer to a question that’s been driving you crazy about handling and paying college invoices thanks to a little help …. ahhhhh! Bliss.
So that’s life, I guess. The not knowing why or how far your presence has seeped into the corners of another. The not knowing why you didn’t get the part or why you don’t get a reply or phone call from people you once thought of fondly. The not knowing why some friends move away yet still shine a true light reflecting a continued presence in your life while others you thought were strong sputter out in the non-nurtured darkness. The not knowing if all the lessons taught, adventures shared, trips to Barnes & Noble and outings with your kids — and the time spent talking and discovering together — ever resonated with them and or will guide and support them as they step out the door on their way to college.
The not knowing … I struggle with it. Not sure how to deal with it. Still figuring that out.