You may be familiar with the “missed connections” that Craig’s List has as one of their listings; the listing where someone can post that they thought that they saw a special someone on the train, but the doors closed at the last minute, and they didn’t have enough gumption to speak up and ask that special someone out, or they saw an old flame in a restaurant with a new flame, still convinced that their flame had extinguished too early and so now they put all their business out there into a public ad in hopes that special someone or old flame perhaps might see it and also agree, that yes, that was indeed a missed connection, an opportunity for love to blossom. So, this post is not about that. But it is about our obsession with missed connections, missed opportunities, with missing out, or craving that next best thing.
When I was little, my cousins all learned to water ski way before I did. This frustrated me to no end. I was bound and determined to get up on those wooden skis, to skirt around that lake effortlessly, looking like I belonged no those skis. It didn’t matter that there were most likely plenty of kids my age out there that hadn’t even learned how to swim yet, but I was focused on those around me who had learned, who confidently got up on those skis summer after summer, while my uncle still circled the boat around me, bobbing along in the water, my 12th attempt that day to last just 10 seconds on my wobbly, 11-year old legs. It wasn’t fair, I complained. Why was it so easy for everyone else? Why did I have to have so much trouble with it? When I finally did get up on those skis, the victorious moment lasted about one summer. And then everyone moved onto knee-boarding, the next coolest thing to accomplish. Thankfully, that was easier than water skiing for me, but the novelty of water skiing faded. Onto the next.
When I hit high school – how can I put this – my bra didn’t fill out like all the other girls’ bras. Let’s just say that. Because I wasn’t filling out a sweater Kardashian-style, I felt less-grown up, unappreciated and ignored. I still felt like that wobbly little kid trying to get up on skis. My girlfriends were way ahead of me when it came to that, and once again, I felt left behind. It wasn’t fair, I told my Mom. Why couldn’t I look like everyone else? Why did I have to look like I was still 11-years old?
After college, my friends started getting married. Once again, I was in a race against the clock; that feeling of being left behind in the wake came up once again, and I was eager to see what lay beyond for me. It wasn’t fair, I would say. Why wasn’t I finding anyone? Why didn’t anyone want to marry me? What was I doing that was so wrong?
Well, I know that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. In any of those circumstances. It just wasn’t the time for me yet. No one tells us in the beginning that we are deserving of any of these things; to be an avid skier, to have big boobs, to get married. It is what it is.
Have you ever been to a party and you show up and an old friend is the first person you see? So you start talking to them, yet find yourself after awhile looking over their shoulder, inquisitive as to who else is in the room..checking out the place, thinking “who else can I talk to who here? who else do I need to see?” and then you suddenly find yourself not focusing at all on the conversation between you and the old friend, and now only obsessed with who else is at that party. You think, “what am I missing out on that I should pay attention to?” And then, after the party, have you ever had that feeling of “I wish I spent more time talking to that old friend” or “that party went by way too fast! I didn’t have enough time to talk to everyone there.” The party went by way too fast because you were so busy thinking beyond the conversation you were actually having to be present with the friend that you were talking with in the first place. I am convinced that much of our regrets of life passing us by is due to the fact that we spend much of our time obsessing over what we are missing and/or have yet to experience and not enough time of enjoying life in the moment. We are all guilty of it. But we are all capable of getting beyond it.
Now that I’m married, know how to ski, and my bras fit just fine, thank you…I’m of course worried about what’s next. I’m focused on what I haven’t done yet, instead of reflecting on what I have accomplished. How foolish of me. Marriage itself — in all my knowledge of three months of it! — has been full of learning opportunities every day for me, yet it’s only recently that it has all started to add up into a big fat wake-up call. When Good Will Green Eyes (Jeff) and I became serious, I was onto being obsessed with “when he’s going to pop the question?” and then when he did ask me to marry him, I was already onto “what venue will we choose? Can we get married in the fall?” and now that we are married, I’m onto paying attention to my ticking biological clock. Shamefully, I spent little time on being present in those moments of actually being with Jeff compared to the amount of time that I worried about where our life would take us next. This realization hit me like a big brick aside my face as we sat at dinner the other night. I looked at him, really looked at him, as he cut into the dry chicken I had made, eating it with gusto, talking away about his day. I thought to myself, I married this man for a reason, as a life partner, and have I ever really looked at him in the moment, at us in the moment, gratefully considering our here and now, rather than worrying about how we are going to overcome that next “accomplishment” that, in all honesty, we never have been promised in the first place? Honestly, not enough.
Here is my reflection. Whether you are married or not, our obsession with the missed connections of life should really turn into our obsessions with our love for the here and now. Our desire to achieve that next best thing, or to keep up with people whom we believe have better lives, better loves, better boobs…should be replaced by the desire of those who have been placed into our lives for a reason. For the choices that we have made for a reason. To celebrate all that it is, for what it’s worth. I wish I could go back to those times on the lake – not to take another stab at skiing, but to spend more time with my grandparents (who have since passed) my cousins, to enjoy being a kid lucky as all get out to grow up on in one of the most beautiful regions in the country, eating fistfuls of barbecue potato chips like they were going out of style and playing Jarts (now illegal) in the backyard with my cousins.
People often lament they did not have enough time with loved ones once they pass away, or if they are on their deathbed, how quickly life passed them by, how they wished they worried less, worked less, and spent more time “in the moment”. Here’s your chance. Do it now. No one promises us anything when we start out. But what we can promise ourselves is that we can only do our best to do well by what has been given so generously to us.
Copyright 2014, Leah Flynn Gallant