I know something. I learned it a long time ago, and I have never, ever, forgotten it. It is one of those truths that can be applied throughout my life... a rule to live by.
There are people in my life that I know, without a doubt, would drop everything, at any moment, and come help me when I am in need. Illogically. Impractically. They would just leave what they are doing behind and make it happen. Big problem, small problem, it does not matter. They know the opportunity has risen that they can help you, and show you how important you are to them. I want to be one of those people for others. For everyone.
When I was dating, I referred to what I called the "furniture effect". You see, in time, people tend to begin thinking of those close to them, well, as furniture. They are there... just there. Near you. They can go about their business and expect you to, well, just be. We don't care when a coffee table is in a room... until we need to set something on it, or we bang our knee into the corner. We don't care if a lamp is there, unless we need to turn it on or off. Once it's on, it needs no attention. So, what a waste to give it some. That older couple that manages to go out to eat without speaking, or even looking at each other? They might as well be sitting across from an ottoman.
I never applied my "furniture effect" of relationships to my hope to be a reliable, and unwavering, friend... or to my deep appreciation for those friends and family members who love, without limits, or rules, or logic. Lately, I have connected the dots.
We all know that children develop their identities, their self-worth, from our interactions with them. Is it worth it to look them in the eye when they speak? Is it worth the time to put down the laundry and put together a puzzle? If the little ones kept you up all night long, does that give you the right to snap at them during the day? Of course, I know the answers to these questions. And yet, each and every day I know that I could do better.
I have always believed that our actions tell the truth about how we feel. Funny enough, I base my belief regarding illogical, passionate emotion... in logic. We can think that someone is important to us, but if we choose not to listen to them speak, then that person is not as important as the alternative that is capturing our attention. If someone needs a ride, but it is inconvenient for us, then that person is not as important as our convenience. Daily actions or inactions, all of them, show how we truly value those around us. If someone isn't worth the energy that it would take to speak to them, if you do not crave their interaction, then they are furniture to you. There is no love.
With this said, I believe that most people live in denial of the truth. Someone can honestly believe that they love someone, but their actions can completely contradict that idea. What is the truth? The truth is in the action. We live lives of pros and cons, risks and benefits. If I drive by a homeless man and do not stop, then the risk to myself or my children does not outweigh the benefit of helping him. It hurts to lay it out there, to spell it out. But, if we feel something and do not show it, then that feeling is perceived by no one other than ourselves. It's funny. I cannot put my opinions on human behavior into a predefined argument on realism. I have a conflict in my reasoning. If a feeling exists with no one else receiving it, does it actually exist? I have always believed that if it is not worth expressing, if the pros do not outweigh the cons, then it is not really there, after all. If we have love, we will choose to show love. If we care, we will choose to express care. It will matter to us to do so.
But, as far as the "furniture effect" goes, does a person only exist, feel, need, when we choose to look up at them? I'm with Einstein on this one. The moon does exist when we are not looking. What arrogance it takes to think that our gaze causes the moon to shine. What arrogance to think that our children, our friends, our spouse, ceases to need us when we are not around. Ceases to think or feel when we are preoccupied. With this, I am a realist. Sorry, quantum physics (that I don't really even understand).
Our children, our friends, our neighbors, our parents, our families, our spouses... everyone around us can sense, DAILY, how we truly feel about them. If someone we know is terrified of crickets, and screams out from the next room... you could go in, point to it, and explain all of the logical reasons not to fear crickets. All they would hear is that you don't care that they feel fear, and that you don't think it's important enough to help.
Do we care enough to listen when people speak, or is something more important to us? Do we respect the cashier enough to put the phone down and make eye contact? Do we even realize she is a person? People have feelings. All of them. Nothing can be assumed, we should show it, we should want to show it, as often as we can. I want to be someone whose actions speak love and respect.
Which means more hugs.
More conversation and less nodding.
Less technology and more playing, snuggling, laughing, singing.
We all have chores to be done, jobs to go to, and decisions to be made.
That "dishes will keep" poem can only be abided by so long... after
that, the ants and flies show up. But, we can do our chores, jobs, and
all of the many responsibilities that we have without giving them a
higher rank and more importance than love, or respect.
In our family, we often look at big projects. We renovate houses, we battle infertility, we educate, we plan to build a home, a farm... Our eyes look ahead, we live a no-regrets policy, and we try to make the most of the life we are given. However, our lives do not have to look at those big life-changing decisions in order to live without regrets. I want to look back and know that I focused my emotional and mental energy on those aspects of my life that matter the most... and not on photos of stars without makeup or Facebook statuses about what Mexican dish someone is consuming.
I want people to know I love them, not because I told them so, but because I lived and breathed my love for them with every phone call, or visit, or grilled cheese sandwich, or smiley face note, or goodnight story, or kiss, or walk in the yard, or unsolicited favor, or well thought card, or paintbrush that was rinsed out for the forty-second time in an hour. Even if they don't notice.
I fall short. Even though I have felt for myself the disconnect between what people believe they feel, and what they feel enough to incorporate into their lives.
But tomorrow is a brand new day.