Taking People for Granted, Still! (Part Two)

Oh, how we take the people in our lives for granted! I wrote about this topic a few weeks ago and was instantly flooded with your tales of whoops and woe.

I touched a nerve and now I want to do it all over again—not entirely because I’m a horrible human, but because it’s helpful to hear about Real People’s Stories that can positively influence our own behavior. Oh, and misery loves company—and it’s my job to help make us miserable live like we mean it, while we cringe together.

Here are 10 actual examples—from the likes of you all—of taking (or almost taking) people (and pets) for granted:

Skully!I had a boss that I really loved who retired about six years ago. I’ve kept in contact with Sandy periodically, but not for maybe close to a year. At the end of September I reached out to her at 9:40 on a Sunday night. She crossed my mind and I thought twice because that really is kind of late to text but then I thought JUST DO IT.
I am so glad I did.
We texted back-and-forth and she told me she had pancreatic cancer. She was going for chemo the next week and we had emailed back-and-forth that month.
Because she was getting chemo, I mistakenly thought that meant she had some time but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
She died 35 days after my initial email.
Initially, I was gutted and felt so terrible about this but then when I thought about it, I am so glad I had the opportunity to connect with her before she passed. I’m glad for me because I got to tell her what she meant to me, but then a colleague said you gave her a gift as well because she had that knowledge when she was going through the worst to know how much she was loved.
This is probably the best ending I could’ve gotten. If I had not emailed at 9:40 that Sunday night life would’ve gotten busy and I’m quite certain I would’ve missed out all together and then just found out through a death notification at work.
I have taken this to heart, and even though I’m not really a touchy-feely person I make a more genuine effort to let the people in my life that I really care about know how I feel. It’s important for you and that other person.

Skully!My brother died in a car accident three weeks I was supposed to have gone home to visit my whole family. I was buried with starting my new business around that time, and I cancelled the trip back to Boston because I needed time to recoup that weekend. I respect what I did in retrospect, because I was thoughtful about prioritizing my self-care in that crazy time, but it taught me to still make time for people we care about. I hadn’t been home in almost a year and I missed a lot of time with them anyways because of Covid. I wish I’d have made more regular visits before I launched the business. Now I plan trips every four months or so, even for a day or two, just to stay connected.

Skully!

I used to live with a roommate who was a blast. We’d go clubbing in our younger days (I am dating myself here!) and started practicing yoga together. We ended up getting our own places and fell out of step with our dinners and workouts, always saying “we have to get together!” but never actually making it happen. She got married to a guy from Australia and she moved there this year, which puts an end to the easy outings we could have/ should have planned when we both lived here in Portland. We still text from time to time, sure, but nothing compares to a fun in-person outing with a true friend.

Skully!

The accounting team used to go out together every Friday for lunch. It was a highlight of the week because we’d talk a bit of work but it was mostly just social fun. When the pandemic hit, I realized how much I took those times for granted. Now that we’re back a few days a week in the office, we aren’t in on Fridays and we struggle to get whoever’s in the office out on a Thursday because of our hybrid schedules. I miss those lunches and I realize I underestimated how important they were for my own sense of joy on the job.

Skully!My daughter went away to college this fall. Why didn’t I savor more of the precious time I had with her while she was here? I know even the boring moments counted, like picking up groceries or getting her skates sharpened, but man, we could’ve had more memorable times together like going to concerts or taking hikes. I miss her so much it hurts.

Skully!I had the smartest manager when I was in my 30s. She was just a little bit older than me and had achieved so much. I learned a lot from her in the year I reported to her, but then she was recruited out of the company to a position in Germany and I lost the chance to be mentored by her. I always wanted to have a more formal mentor relationship with her, to learn more, but I just assumed we’d work together “forever” and so I didn’t act with any urgency. Now my boss is a jerk and I don’t want to learn from him, but the next good boss I get I’ll make sure to not take them for granted!!

Skully!My dog died fast and I wish I had walked and brushed and loved him more. It might sound corny but it’s true.

Skully!I move a lot because of my partner’s job. I used to make friends, move, and feel badly because I didn’t see enough of them when I was living in that city. It really taught me to zero in on the friends I like and prioritize them. Now I take out my calendar when I’m with them and set up our next date, even if it’s like a month away. The last few places I’ve lived I haven’t had that feeling of missing out on quality time, because I created the quality time.

Skully!I’m now amicably divorced and see how I took my ex-husband for granted when we were married. I stopped caring about one on one time with him and our relationship overall, because I figured we’d work things out sooner or later and that we’d always be together. We both contributed to the demise of the marriage but I see how I could have spent more meaningful time with him, like on special evenings or trips.

Skully!My mother died when I was 35 and busy with my kids and being back in school to finish my degree. I passed up so many chances to have a coffee with her, or lunch at her favorite place, or even a “power walk” as she used to call it, because I was busy. Even if I had had one more outing with her a month it would have made a difference.

Are any of these stories stirring for you? Do they highlight some of your taking-for-granted behavior(s)? Do they make you think of a specific person/ people/ pet you want to make sure to prioritize more of before they/ you move/ leave the company/ die?

We lead busy lives and we have multiple priorities—many of which compete with one another. We love accomplishing big stuff at work, for example, but it can get in the way of spending time with friends or family. Trade-offs must be made, and sometimes the trades don’t feel as balanced as we’d like in retrospect. It’s okay. That’s what it means to be alive, right—to constantly recalibrate and rebalance and reprioritize what we do and who we do it with? It’s within our control to pause, reflect on who we’d like to be connected to, and make the effort we can afford at that time. On one end of the spectrum it’s a sweet n’ simple text that reads, “Thinking of you ☺️!”, and on the other end it’s a two-week hiking trip in the Swiss Alps.

Two easy ways to stop taking people for granted:

List of People to Stay Connected to Before they DieWay #1: It might help to write out a list of the people in your life, with a notation of how often you’d like to stay connected. I did this (on an Excel spreadsheet; nerd alert!) and it was eye-opening how many people I like/ love/ don’t hate, whom I have not chatted with in a year. Or more 😬. You might want to categorize people by frequency of contact, like how some acquaintances are appropriately slotted into the “touch base every 1 – 2 years” column whereas some friends/ family/ spouses fall into the “every week for sure!” category. (This is the kind of list you might want to password protect, in case you put one kid in the “talk every day” column and the other in the “see on random holidays” column.)

Way #2: Ask yourself this cheerful question about each person on your Cast of Characters in My Life list: “If this person died today, I’d feel _____ about how connected I’ve been to them.” It so obvious! If the answer is “I’d feel like a piece of shit,” then voila—you can reach out today to set up a time to talk/ Zoom/ meet at the base of the mountain in Switzerland. If the answer is “I’d feel generally okay,” then pat yourself on the back and keep that connection rhythm up if it feels right.

In summary, let’s make an effort to be with the people who matter to us before they flatline. Reach out to someone you care about today, because there might not be a tomorrow.

This post, rather obviously, was brought to you by the Grim Reaper.

Jodi Wellman

P.S.: Check out (okay, and maybe preorder) my upcoming book, You Only Die Once: How to Make It to the End with No Regrets!

P.P.S.: Let’s do Instagram together!

P.P.P.S.: Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!

 

Related articles you just might love...

How to (Sort of) Gain 8.68 Years of Life
What’s Your Kiss of Death (out of 50 Vices)?
Are You Celebrating “Found Time”?