Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Regret

Last night Bil called me from work with some terrible news. He had contacted his old friend from college and found out that Richard's wife had died. While Bil was in college he spent a great deal of time with Richard. They were in most classes together and collaborated on many projects, including their very ambitious senior project and their movie for film class. They really enjoyed working together and shared a similar sense of humor, which is pretty amazing since Bil's humor is pretty quirky.

Eventually, the two of us couples started hanging out. Every so often we would meet for dinner, and Juliana even spent some time trying to teach me how to knit. We had a lot of fun together, even though we never could find enough time to hang out as much as we would have liked. And that was before kids, so you can imagine what happened after Danny was born.

Then, we moved from Chicago to the town we live in, and I gradually lost touch with Juliana. The thing is, even after they moved to Scotland to be closer to her family in Germany, she tried to keep in touch, but I was so overwhelmed with motherhood and daily life, I never made the time to email her. I have been thinking about her and wanting to get back in touch for months now. I even have their change of address sitting on my desk waiting for me to get off my duff and do something about it.

Now it is too late and I will never again have the opportunity to talk to her. At least not in this lifetime.

I feel so bad for Richard and their one-year-old son. I cannot imagine losing a spouse at such a young age. I wish I could do something for them. But, most of all, I am consumed with a tremendous regret at my own inaction. I am so sorry that I let a friendship die out of laziness on my side. I just kept thinking that I had all the time in the world to reconnect. And I guess I am angry with myself that I didn't prioritize better. It would have taken just a couple of minutes to write a letter or email. I'm sure there were thousands of moments over the last few years which I squandered and could have put to better use.

I know there isn't much I can do now. Juliana is gone and I hope she understands that I am truly sorry for losing touch. I liked and admired her so much; I just didn't make the time to keep our friendship going.

I want to remember this, though. I want to start living my life differently, start focusing on the things that are most important to me: my relationships. In a church meeting last week, a leader said that we are the most at peace when our daily actions reflect our governing beliefs and values. I don't think mine do. Unless my governing values have much to do with laundry and cooking and cleaning. I know some of those things are important, but I want to make sure I really pay attention to the people I love and give them my time and focus. Because I do not want to feel this kind of regret again when I lose someone I care about.

I wonder if you have any suggestions on how you prioritize your relationships. What do you do to make sure you are focusing on important things rather than letting trivial things monopolize your time? I could use the suggestions.

11 comments:

susan said...

One relationship that suffered was the one with my DH- we walk through life and do what needs to get done. So now whenever I walk past him I try to make a point to hug/kiss or touch him.
As for friends I have found using Facebook has brought me together with people I haven't talked to in years. Get the people you know on there-
Remember my mom's friend Patty- we use to play with her kids all the time. Then life separated us- just yesterday we were talking about a TV show we liked. It took like two minutes to write it-
Facebook I designate as a Friends and Family space only.

Amy Jane said...

Patty - What a well-written, heartbreaking post. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. Do you mind if I ask how she died? Of course, I'm curious - I'm only human. It breaks my heart to think of her husband and child left behind. But I do believe with all my heart that she knows that you're sorry and that you didn't deliberately lose touch with her. And if you talk to her, either out loud or silently, I believe she will hear you. So, tell her everything you just said - tell her how you feel and how sorry you are. I think it might bring you some small meausure of peace.

And after you have told her you're sorry, then you must stop feeling regret and saying "If only", and you must move forward in your life with the lessons you have learned. Vow to no longer take your relationships for granted, and realize that it doesn't take a lot of time to stay in touch. I totally agree with Susan about FB -even though it's not "deep", it really is a wonderful way to stay connected and it makes me feel like I'm surrounded by my friends. I think that people sometimes feel like it's no good to send an email or a letter unless it's a really long, involved thing, but that's not true! Even just a couple of sentences lets someone know that you've been thinking about them, and it's certainly better than nothing to tide you over until you DO have time for a phone convo or a longer email. It doesn't have to be "all or nothing."

I'm so glad that we have kept in touch, Patty, and I miss you every day!

goodfountain said...

It is hard to keep in touch with everyone that you want to. At least for me it is. and it really makes me sad, too.

And as my friends kids are getting older and everyone is school age- it's becoming even harder. Maybe it will be easier once all the kids are in school 6 hours a day. That should free up some time. LOL But that's a few years away!!

One good friend and I have mainly a texting relationship now. If it wasn't for texting, I don't know that we'd ever "talk." L

Facebook works for quite a few friends. I echo that recommendation if you're not already on there.

I have no idea how to prioritize friendships. I guess I just sort of let things happen naturally. And try not to place too much pressure on myself that it's up to me to keep things going.

Kim said...

So sorry for the loss of not just your friend but the opportunity to connect.

I believe I will call some friends I haven't spoken to for awhile today!

a Tonggu Momma said...

Oh, Patty... I am so sorry. Having lost a friend just last year - a mom with young children - I know. I just... I know.

As for keeping in touch - I guess my best advice is just to pick up the phone every once in awhile. Just a quick message to say "I'm thinking of you" can mean the world.

(((hugs)))

beckbot said...

Patty, I am really sorry to hear about your friend. It's weird how we take it for granted that people will just be around us forever. That said, I think you already spend a great deal of time working on the relationships that matter to you. I've been thinking about this lately also and I've decided to work harder at being organized so when those I love are around and available, I can focus on them.

Sarah said...

While your regret comes from a place of pain, use it to inspire you. It is so easy to get consumed and drown in the trivial---but I am quite confident that you will take this lesson and embrace all those in your life even closer. I am grateful that we have reconnected again.

I am so sorry for your loss.

Sarah

Shellie said...

I've done that too and lost the chance to talk to someone I loved very much just one more time... I'm sorry for your loss. It is so hard. I like that you see the positive side, not beating yourself up but inspiring yourself to do better. This is really a hard subject for me because I am terrible with time and sorting through what to do when, but I know it is never bad to get distracted by paying attention to others or changing plans for them. I try to keep love at the forefront and work on specific ways to develop and share it more. I just noticed the other day, you know that scripture in Matthew 5 that says be ye therefore perfect?, right before it, it is talking about love. Just love and the rest will follow or won't matter. I still have yet to figure out the balance though. I mean, if we do what's important, we will never do the laundry, but if we never do the laundry, we will be leaving out something important. I need some help on that one too.

Mrsbear said...

What a bad feeling that is. I had a similar reaction when my husband's aunt passed away a few years back. My older son was young, I'd just started staying home with him, and for months I thought about visiting her so she could meet him. She only lived about five minutes from my mom's house who I visited two or three times a month. When she died I felt an enormous sinking guilt. It's something that can't be changed or taken back though. I'm sorry to hear about your friend passing, forgive yourself for the time lost and let it serve as a reminder to put effort in to your most important relationships. I know for me, it's difficult to balance. I'm one of those people who rarely calls others, I usually wait for them to call me since I tend to be on the reclusive side. But I think dedicating just a few minutes a week to writing a letter or making a phone call will go really far. Hope your guilt is lifted soon.

Bil said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bil said...

Thanks for the post, Patty. I've been feeling a bit of emptiness over this the past few days, thinking of how Richard might be feeling right now...He is just an amazing person I feel so lucky to have connected with--a man who's soul is going through a painful withdrawl that I can't even fathom. Somehow, I feel selfish, even imagining his pain. If it were me, I don't know which I would want more: to be with friends, or to be alone in silence?