This got me to thinking about something that has been rolling around in my mind for a few years now. Something about getting older, that most young people probably don’t know at all. I know I didn't when I was younger.
It is how we fade away or disappear while we’re still here.
I’ll back up a bit and see if I can clarify what I mean.
5 years ago, we moved to a new city and state after living in California for over 30 years. We came here for several reasons, and one was to help a particular group that is close to our heart. So, we knew a few people, some from So Cal, others as friends of friends, but no one here really knew our history, our story.
Then a few years ago, I started to lose some friends, meaning that they passed away. One in particular was someone we’d known for nearly 30 years. He was part of a couple who have been long time friends of ours. The effect this had on me was pretty profound. It was as though a piece of me was gone.
Am I making sense? Does anyone else understand this?
There’s a tradition in some cultures that I really like, but it has become a lost art form in most places. It is how one introduces oneself to new people. You are asked to tell your story. This is so people get a good understanding of who you are and then know who they are speaking to or dealing with. You don’t tell a made up story, you tell the real one. Your lineage, your accomplishments, where you've been and what you've done, as a person. Its not just a resume, it is the story of who you are and how you got here. Of course the older you are, the longer the story.
When my husband and I were speaking with this young man the other day, there was a lot of assumption about who we are, and a lot of missing information about our story. We had assumed he knew more about us, and he had assumed he knew all about us. We were all wrong in our assumptions, and we were all a bit surprised by what we discovered. Since we were discussing the possibility of a working relationship on a project, it was important to me that he know a bit more about us than he thought he already knew, more than just the tiny corner that gets exposed in purely social encounters.
I think it is one of the things I treasure most about long term relationships whether marital/ personal or friendship. They KNOW your history, your story, the good, the bad, the ugly and the wonderful. There’s a lot less explaining to do, because they already know most of it. They "get it", because they were there at the time. They played a part in your play in some way so usually know the overall script.
In this modern era of social networking, instant information, Facebook, tweets and texts, it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we know all about someone or something when we really don’t. I've made this mistake many times myself. There’s no substitute for one on one conversation, in long letters or emails, over coffee, over dinner, on a trip together, recreating together, and just listening. There’s no substitute for hearing someone out fully, no substitute for a hug or a touch.
So what am I trying to say?
To younger people out there, I suggest you take the time to really get to know some older folks in your lives. Get their whole story, go beyond the wrinkles, gray hairs, or eccentricities to find what lights up their eyes, and don’t let them fade away or disappear before they are actually gone. Don’t be so impatient, there might actually be more to them than you can currently see.
To those who are my age or older, don’t stop broadcasting your story to people, especially to those who actually care and might be interested. Your story is important to someone, including you, but it’s up to you to make it known. Return the favor by really getting to know the younger people in your lives, be patient, listen, they do not have the hindsight of years that we do. Validate their energy, hopes and dreams even if they sometimes remind you of your own lost dreams.
To everyone, including myself, I suggest we tell people now and regularly how much you love and appreciate them both young and old. Don’t wait. Too often we do and end up sharing our accolades at a memorial service where the one person who needed it most is no longer there. Just don’t wait, do it now, do it publicly, lovingly and lavishly, do it personally, pick up the phone, invite them to dinner, to tea, to a picnic, or write them a long letter. Tell them what you like about them, what you appreciate about them, what you love laughing about with them. Be interested in their whole story.
We are all pieces of the puzzle of each other’s lives in some way. Any piece that goes missing leaves a hole in the picture for both parties. As in a puzzle, the piece on its own isn't as easily understood, but when you understand how it fits into the wider picture, its unique purpose, contribution, value and beauty can then be fully seen and appreciated.