In light of recent obituaries in the press, this old post came to mind.
I have been to too many funerals in the last few years than I would care to experience. They have been for family members; older friends and much younger friends; some children; colleagues and close friends; wives of church leaders and congregation members; parents of my friends, my own estranged dad – so so many than I would care to count.
I cry at weddings so it will be no surprise to discover that I weep at funerals whether I was close to the person or not. However, no matter the relationship I am always struck by two main things.
Whenever tributes are read I am sometimes struck by how little I knew about the person who I was weeping over. How is it that I never knew x,y and z about this person – especially if we were in close proximity? Like how didn’t I know they were so caring or so giving or so wise or so funny or so weird or so interesting? How is it that I spent so much time ‘around’ them but never know that?
Regrets. If I had known that would be the last time I saw that person, I would have called. I would have visited more. I would have gone to that party they invited me to but was too tired to make. I would have invited them to my home for dinner. I would have told her I loved her. I would have thanked them for being a great friend or supporting me through that tough period. I would have spoken more from the heart and not had superficial conversations. I would have found out how they were really doing. Were they happy? I would have made our last moment together count. I wouldn’t have spent so much time being upset about that time they spoke to me in a funny way or how I felt they had treated me. I would have kept in touch. I would have taken more of an interest in them. I would have ……..
Indeed death is very instructive. A funeral or a graveside is a great place to start if you want a reality check on how you are living your life. There were a few successive years when it seemed like the only social functions I was attending were funerals. I learnt a great deal about myself and the sort of person I wanted to be over those years.
Relationships are crucial to humanity. Even for introverts like mysel, I willingly admit that I need relationships to keep me alive. The tragedy of life is that we take people around us for granted. For some deluded reason we seem to think we will always be around; we will always have each other. We take life for granted, that its electrodes will always course through our veins. We all live in the eternal hope that we will be sustained with long life. And so we treat each other like we will always meet tomorrow. However the reality is you never know when good bye means see you on another shore. And so:
We talk to each other without listening because tomorrow we will talk again.
We go to bed angry, because tomorrow we will make up.
We are unkind to each other, because tomorrow we can make amends.
We withdraw our love from each other, because tomorrow they may hurt us again.
We do not sacrifice our time to spend it with someone because we can always go there tomorrow.
We do not pick up the phone to call because we will have more time to speak tomorrow.
We do not visit that person in hospital because tomorrow they’ll be out and we can go and see them at home.
We do not say sorry, because tomorrow we can be friends again.
We do not say thank you now because tomorrow ……………..
We do not say I love you, because they should know and tomorrow ………
I am not looking to score brownie points or fulfil some sort of sick righteousness, but because if, God forbid, I ever have to attend a funeral of someone I care for again, I do not want to regret not knowing them or experiencing a tangible relationship with them. And so I call or text when people come to mind. I ask if they are happy. I say thank you for being there for me. I laugh with them, cry with them. I listen even when I feel they have not even thought about how I’m doing – I listen. I travel longer distances now to share precious moments with them. I reach out even when they haven’t asked after me in ages. I bake them a cake to say I care. Just because – just because you never know if tomorrow will come, I’m trying to treat my relationships like there is no tomorrow. Trying – it is an ongoing personal challenge.
One trick I have learnt, particularly when I feel I have been wronged by someone; I think, what if you hear tomorrow that this person has died, how would you feel? If I feel remorse or regret and then I know, it’s not worth being upset over. Let it go.
I haven’t had a mid-week kick for a while. It started as a way of me kicking myself in the butt half-way through the week and helped me to regain focus. Cos you know …… life happens and we all need a kick from time to time.
My lesson for this week is pushing back when people want me to do their job or take responsibility for something that’s not mine to do.
This week I’ve had people place things in my diary that really shouldn’t be there. I wasn’t consulted before they were placed in there so I felt I had a right to push back and say no thank you. I felt a bit like a ninja- turtle pushing back but I refused to feel bad because they weren’t my responsibility. The only one in control of my time is me and if I let others tell me how to spend my own time, then guess what? I run out of time which is not a luxury I can afford.
Of course people aren’t happy about it, but it’s not my responsibility to make them happy. That’s on them. If they need help, they can ask nicely otherwise it’s not my baby to carry.
The other thing to learn when saying no (nicely) is learning not to feel bad or guilty about it. It’s your time after all.
When the news broke that Brad & Angelina got married, I remember reading a post online and you know how they like to put the age of the individual next to those things. So it read “Brad (50) and Angelina (38) ……”
I was on the phone to a friend at the time, and like a parrot I kept saying, Brad Pitt is 50, Brad Pitt is 50, Brad Pitt is 50. It would have been funny if I wasn’t genuinely shocked. She couldn’t get over how shocked I was but I really was.
Brad Pitt, who sprung to our TV screens in that infamous Levi jeans ad, is FIFTY!!!! Looking all like the epitome of youth is 50. If he is 50 then that makes me ******-******.
Then the following week, I watched a documentary about Prince Harry turning 30. And like a lot of people that image of him and Prince William in the water raft at Thorpe park with their mum is indelibly etched on my brain.
Where have the days gone? Teach me Lord to number my days. 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏
When I was younger I always thought I didn’t have enough time for anything. So I never did that Masters or started that business because I was too busy working. Boy was I naive! Having children was my unsolicited augury; my alert that I will never have enough time to do all the things I want to do; never ever again.
Instead I’m going to have to prioritise my time and my options. Invest in what is useful to me. I have studied more, volunteered more and even started businesses after being a mother. Yet to do the Masters but you never know. I often wonder where this vigour was when I was younger as I wish I had made better use of my time in my ‘youth’. However I also wonder if that would have been the case. The younger me wasn’t as focused as the older me. I would probably have spent it doing a lot of things -a lot of them wrong for me- so perhaps it’s all well and good.
I only have here and now. I’m living the life I want to the best of my ability. However, I would still urge any young person to make the most of NOW!
The other day I overheard a mother at the school gate thanking another for inviting her son to a play date. I must admit that up till then I have been quite content being a working mum but that got me thinking. Was my son missing out on things because I’m not able to form relationships with other mums at the school gate?
When my son started pre-school, my first instinct was to try and be the perfect mum; doing the school run and rushing off to a meeting immediately after and rushing back to pick him. That was much more stressful that starting a new business.
The reality is I have a business to run that is just over 18 months old. It requires time to nurture and grow it. On the other hand I have a young family with a four year old and a two year old. Whilst I’m realistic and know I can’t have it all, I also don’t want to miss out on being a part of my children’s lives because of work.
So in a bid to gain some sort of control, I have adopted the following measures to help me keep my sanity and balance working life and the school gate. 1. Explore Alternatives
When my son started pre-school I used to drop him off every morning but the mad-rush was simply unhealthy. Fortunately I have a friend whose son attends the same school and made arrangements for her to do the morning school run for me. This allows me to start my day earlier and come home earlier (more days than less) to be with my family. 2. Your Child is Number One
Having delegated the role of the school run, it’s very important that my son doesn’t feel abandoned or that he’s missing out on something. So our walk to the bus-stop is all about whatever he wants to chat about and when he gets on the bus I make sure he sees me waving until I’m out of sight. Apparently this makes his friend jealous as he also wants someone to bid him farewell at the bus stop. Mission accomplished. 3. Make Friends
It seems obvious but it helps to know one or two people who will keep you abreast of anything you might have missed and who you can also call from time to time to ask when show ‘n’ tell is or when International day is, etc. I was mortified once to find out that I wasn’t aware it was Spanish day and everyone in school was to wear yellow or red. Although he wasn’t the only one in uniform all fingers are crossed that there won’t be any emotional scars as a result. 4. School Bag
Following on from my Spanish day fiasco I now check his bag every night, MYSELF. I don’t pick up my son from school so I don’t get the school notes at the gate. So it’s imperative that I check his bag daily for newsletters, notes, birthday invitations, etc. 5. Join the PTA
I know this sounds crazy as it could mean more work but if you plan things well you can volunteer to do something that doesn’t require you to attend long meetings. No matter how small it is getting involved always helps. You may not be able to bake for the bake sale but you could certainly buy a cake or two to contribute. 6. After School Club
After school clubs are a brilliant help as they give a day or so each week where you have an extra hour or more before he’s home from school. A day or two a week enables you to get work done without feeling guilty about not being there for him. 7. School Gate Time
If you are able to, set aside a least one day a week or every other week to start work an hour or so later. It’ll give you a chance to take your child to school as well as the opportunity to interact with some parents in the morning instead of rushing off to work. This allows me to repay the favour of doing the morning run to my friend. 8. Bed Time
As much as is physically possible, be there for bed-time. Read a story or sing songs. The key is to spend some quality time and bond with your child on a regular basis. 9. Party Time
Try and attend some of the parties your child is invited to. It’s an excellent way to meet other parents and see some of the children your child talks incessantly about. You can also take turns with other parents to take a couple of children to the parties which means you can rest on the weekend when it’s another parent’s turn. 10. Play Date
From time to time, invite your child’s friend(s) over for a play date. It helps to create a larger pool of friends you will know at the school gate and more importantly your child is not left out.
*This is a post I wrote ages ago for Women Unlimited. As I’m embarking on a new business, I’ve found it helpful to revisit some of my previous business posts and will be sharing the rest as time goes by.