Things we say and do not say.
We have a rule, in my house: Nobody leaves, goes to bed, or ends a phone call without saying, “I love you.” Life is short and fragile. I’ve had to perform mouth-to-mouth on my mom twice, and one morning when I was 23, I woke up to her screaming and ran downstairs in any icy panic to find my grandmother wasn’t breathing. I performed CPR, and I could taste death, felt her ribs crack, but I had to keep going until the EMTs arrived.
Life is short, and it is so terribly fragile. It’s just me and mum now. My stepmum and brothers are in Florida, my dad’s side of the family are in Melbourne, Australia. It’s complicated. My relationship with my mum is complicated. Being a caregiver for a parent is fraught.
But we have our rule.
You never know when you’ve had your last chance to tell someone what they mean to you, your last chance to be kind, your last chance to tell them you love them, until it’s too late.
I try to risk more, now. The way I communicate with people has changed, because I don’t ever want someone I care about to not know it. We are so connected and isolated at the same time. We get wrapped up in complex lives and the struggle to make them work without compromising our dreams and becoming people we don’t want to be.
We want to be seen and valued, we want to do work that reflects who we are and supports the integrity we strive for. It isn’t easy. I see people I care for walking the same wire I am, and I know how much work it takes.
So, I extend my rule to them. It isn’t much, and it doesn’t come with anything shiny, wrapped in a bow. It’s more than a thing. I unbrick the walls, and I take off the armor, and I send all the love and respect, all the wishes for happiness and dreams fulfilled that I have, out to them.
Out to you, really. Because I know what it is, to not feel loved or valued, I know what it is to not have that chance to say goodbye or to tell someone what they meant to me.
I know those things too well.
And all of this is simply to say: don’t regret what you haven’t done and don’t be afraid to tell people they matter because it feels weird. Weird is easy.