I went sailing this weekend. I’m not fortunate enough to have my own boat; however, my parents are; I went with them. Just them and me; it was nice, albeit a little odd and stressful.
Nice because I don’t get to spend all that much time with them by myself, notwithstanding the fact that they live in the same town. I see my mom a couple of times a week – we work out together – and my dad at family get togethers – once a month usually – or if I have something that I need help fixing. But just sitting and chatting time, not so much.
Odd because I struggled to be present. It occurred to me while doing so that I’ve spent a great deal of my life doing the same thing. I’ve tried so hard to stay calm and controlled, to not let my eating disorder take over, and to do everything right, that I’ve missed a lot of moments. I’ve been there but not there. Present but absent.
I regret that.
I had a talk with a friend recently. She said she would be okay with it if, for some reason, she died or found out she only had a short time to live. She is content with how she’s lived her life so far. She has no regrets.
I agreed I’d be okay with it – dying now, that is – for many of the same reasons and a few of my own as well. Illnesses and neuroses aside, I’ve done quite a few things. I’ve had and raised children. I’ve been fortunate enough to have opportunities for higher education. I’ve travelled. I’m able to live in a nice home. I can support myself (mostly). However, I’m not as content as she is with the “hows” of my life.
The sea was a little rough yesterday and I wanted to help out more while I was on the boat but I didn’t really know the right things to do. I was more hindrance than help when I made suggestions so I stopped, recognizing that I was out of my lane. My parents have done a lot of sailing. They’re experts in the art. They know their boat. I could’ve learned but I didn’t take advantage of the various opportunities I had to do so. I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t learn how things work. I didn’t even try to learn the lingo; I know “port” and “starboard”; that’s basically it. I was too busy being neurotic and bulimic. It takes up a lot of time.
We have a general tendency to spend our time unwisely, I think. I’ve tended to think of time as an inexhaustible well. Everything would always be there. I would always be the same. Time would have no impact on my life. This has proven to be an inaccurate assumption.
I think I should do some cost-benefit analyses. Start examining the ways I spend my time, the things I’m doing. Does spending time on this thing or that advance me in anyway? Does it help me grow? Is it nurturing? Is it making me a better person or letting me be a better person? Or does an analysis show I’m remaining as selfish as I’ve been over most of my life?
Because I have been selfish. I’m not unique in that – I think it’s another tendency of the species, one we have to guard against.
I have been wholly focused on myself and my issues a great deal of the time. I’ve been focused to the exclusion of a great many other interesting things. I participated in life but peripherally rather than by engaging. I’ve done a lot but I could have done more and I could have done it better.
I haven’t asked enough questions. I haven’t been concerned enough about the details of other people’s lives. My own issues seemed all-important. I didn’t have the time to spend on others, or so it seemed. The truth is, I didn’t have the inclination.
It would be easy to take this conclusion, that I’ve spent too much of my life navel gazing and focusing on myself, and beat myself up some. Making it once more about me. There’s a better way to use my time.
I could, for instance, try to do it differently from this point on.
However much we might wish it, we cannot change the past. We can only adjust how we act in the present.
I have a tendency to withdraw. To isolate and wallow in my issues. I bring the bare minimum to my relationships. I regret that. I regret the things I don’t know, the areas I haven’t helped in, the bits and pieces of my friends’ and family’s history I’ve ignored.
I want to be more engaged and more connected to this world. I always have; I just haven’t acted in ways that would ensure it. I resent the demands made on me by the people in my life when in fact, the only thing that’s worth anything is the relationships we have and develop.
I have connections in sufficient number. I need to work on depth.
Are you satisfied with the quality of your relationships?