Norton: Staying in touch with those who mean so much takes less effort than you think (column)
If we look back over the past several weeks, months or even years, I would bet that we could think of some people in our lives that we wish we would have stayed in touch with more often. Maybe it’s a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a sibling, a child, a friend or maybe even a co-worker; someone who we lost touch with and we realized that we could have done a better job of being the one to keep the connection going.
Maybe something got in the way. Perhaps it was distance, and the miles between the two of you just became a mile too far. Or maybe it was a disagreement or a simple difference of opinion that was never quite resolved. Here’s the one that might ring truer than the others: Maybe we just didn’t invest the time to make a call, send an email, stay in touch via text or even just stay connected through social media.
Now for me personally, my great aunt doesn’t have email, she doesn’t have a cellphone, and she is certainly not on social media of any kind. She lives in an assisted living residence now that my great uncle has passed away. The two of them were very good to my sister and I over the years. They never had children of their own, and I know they loved being there for us in so many ways. A painful confession for me is that there was a period of time where I lost touch with them, and it was all on me.
Each year they would send cards and call on birthdays and holidays, and in turn we would send a card back. Unfortunately, it became the accepted norm in the rush and crush of life as I was “busy” and was doing everything I could for my own family. I made the excuse that time was not my friend and just continued to accept that the occasional holiday card and seldom telephone call were OK.
Shame on me. These were two really important people in my life, and I needed to fix that. I wrote them a very heartfelt letter, as I knew my uncle enjoyed writing. It was probably that they were so awesome that they never made me feel bad about our lack of communication, instead just expressed extraordinary gratitude that we were talking again and writing.
They lived in Maine, and as I lived in Colorado, it wasn’t like I could just drive over for a Sunday dinner. So we agreed to talk each week and continue writing. I also added sending a postcard from wherever I happened to be traveling to that week.
Reading this column might seem like you are subjected to torture, like being forced to watch someone else’s home videos. My intent is not to torture you but to remind us all that there are people in our lives who are just too important to settle for a holiday card or seldom telephone call. And I really don’t care what the cause of the lack of connection or communication might be; all I do know is that one day we will all realize that all we did was make excuses for not staying in touch.
If it was a disagreement or fight, that’s OK, forgive them and reach out. If it is just too many miles apart, so what, they have telephone calls, texts, emails, letters, Facetime and Skype for that. If it is pride, have a good look in the mirror and talk with yourself. They were important to you and they are still important to you or you wouldn’t even be reading this far into my column. And lastly, if you think that they don’t want to hear from you, even if you were the one at fault, I promise you that they do.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? The person doesn’t respond? Well at least you put in the effort. What’s the best thing that could happen? You reconnected with people who have always meant something to you. These are the people we stay in touch with and who we hope to stay in touch with forever.
By the way, my great aunt is still alive. We stay in touch each week, and I send her flowers every month. Before moving into her assisted living apartment, she was quite the gardener, and she loves flowers so very much. It’s the best 30 to 60 minutes of my week and the best use of a little extra cash that I can think of.
So how about you? What are you waiting for? Is there someone you really need to re-connect with and make sure that they know how you feel about them? They are only a phone call, text, email, letter or postcard away. I would love to hear all about how you stay in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, and when we can put pride and excuses aside to reconnect with those who are most important to us, it really will be a better-than-good week.
Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.