Catching Hearts

cc Flickr shared by WolfS♡ul

I often say that when you become a parent you should just stamp the word “guilt” on your forehead and be done with it.

At the end of the day I look back and often feel regret.  I could’ve done better.  I could’ve loved more, could’ve been more present.  I lectured that boy too harshly, I didn’t respond to the request to play because I had to do dishes and pack lunches, I cut short bedtime reading because I had work to complete, I listened with only half an ear to the ‘who did what’ in the latest fight.  And that’s when I’m home.  Not to mention the guilt of missing a championship soccer game because I’m in the pharmacy…that was last week.

I read this exquisite post by Ann Voskamp, appropriately called “How to Make Any Relationship Better.”  In it she says:

Everyone is always saying only one thing: “I just want you to love me.”  But this is what I do.  I get caught up in tone and semantics, when I could just catch hearts.

Isn’t that the truth.  Adults and children alike look for the reassurance that we are loved.  Indirectly with our words and actions we say it over and over again but don’t recognize the root of it in each other.  In our impatience, our disagreements, our queries and requests of each other, the underlining current is “I need you to love me.”  But instead of recognizing the vulnerability behind our daily interactions with those we love, we focus on the minutiae, the unimportant, when really we could just catch hearts.

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You Never Get it Back

When we arrived, we knew it was bad.  We had rented a cabin site unseen (before the days of the internet) upon the glowing recommendation of the owner.  The water was pungent and yellow, the cleanliness was questionable and the furniture falling apart.  But we gathered as a family around the tree we had hauled up with us.   Mother and father, sister and brothers and in-laws, nine of us, and as the new year turned over we went through the following exercise.

Each person was given the task of writing down on a slip of paper the gifts and talents of the family member next to them.  A father wrote about his son, sharing with everyone things the son had never heard from his father.  A sister shared about her brother, sister-in-law about sister-in-law….and what started as a simple exercise turned into an emotional experience of connection.

Today, two of those family members are gone.  A brother lost to cancer at 40, a father to kidney failure.  How important those words are now.

The family gathered again this past weekend, this time in the mountains.  We laughed about our unfortunate accommodations 13 years ago, but remembered what a powerful moment that was for each of us and how we were so glad we had been deliberate about expressing our thanks and love for each other.  Without that planned exercise, we wouldn’t have had that time or the words from those we deeply miss today.

You never get it back.  That’s what I was thinking as we drove home today.

There is no second chance, no “later” or next year.    All you have is right now.  We need to treasure those we care about, gift them with our time, our words and our presence.  This is my personal challenge, and I share it with you.

Give the gift of time.  Time is extremely precious to each of us.  There is only so much of it in a day and our day is full before we even start.  For many people it is often easier to give money than time.  Set aside time for those you care about.  Be deliberate about it.  Pencil it in.

Give the gift of words.  It is so rare that we tell someone why we appreciate them.  We sign a card with our name but neglect to write in our own hand a few lines about why that person is important to us.  We say “I love you” but forget to tell that person what it is about them that we love.  Write it down.  The words are precious and one day may be even more so.

Give the gift of presence.  Sometimes all another person needs is for you to be there.  Not to say anything, just be present.  Human contact and connection.  Relationship and link.

Take the time, be deliberate. All you have is today…and you never get it back.

Face to Face

I love technology.  Facebook, Twitter, texting, Skype…..  All these tools have improved my professional networking and kept me in contact with friends and family that I otherwise easily lose touch with.

As with most people, I get busy with my family and work and can easily lapse into not really knowing what is going on in the lives of those I care about.  Since I started texting and using social networking sites I can make quick contact with friends while I’m standing in line at the grocery store or sitting in a hockey rink.

Despite this great advancement in quantity of contact, I have come to realize that the quality of contact when using technology needs to be balanced with the convenience.

Texting or messaging over Facebook and Twitter, while quick and convenient, cannot match the connection of face to face contact.

When I am talking with a friend face to face there are elements to the communication that are intangible but so essential to connection.

When we laugh together, grasp each other’s hands, share a meal or simply sit in each other’s presence we bond on a primal level that electronic communication cannot replace.  All of our senses are engaged, we read each other’s body language, facial expression and tone of voice.  We connect on a level that is intangible yet essential to our human nature.

Even when I use Skype to “see” a friend while I talk with them, there are elements missing in this form of communication.  While I can hear the tone of their voice or interpret a look or gesture onscreen, neither can replace the warmth and bonding of in-person communication.

What I have come to realize is that I need to be deliberate in maintaining my relationships.  I need to choose the giving of time to maintain relationship with those whom I value and keep in my inner circle. When weekends role around or weeknights when I am feeling “done” with the day, I realize that I can’t just rely on social media and texting for catching up with those I care about.  That the giving of time to an important friendship can actually “recharge” my batteries, keep me engaged with the world of another and balance my preoccupation with my own life and work.  And when it comes to time, I am learning that what can take a half hour of back and forth by text because I am distracted by other things, can take a mere 5 minutes over coffee.

When face to face we understand each other more clearly and receive a deeper sense of who the other person really is.  And only in face to face time can we really show that we are listening to each other.

I love the relationships that I’m able to build using technology but nothing beats real life face-to-face.