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Monday, November 12, 2012

Life, Death and Lost Opportunities

Recently someone who was starting to become more involved in my social circles passed away suddenly.
This was not a case of the person having had a known disease that could have taken them at any time nor was it a case of the person being old and dying of old age.
This was a case of an unexpected stroke followed by a long period of time without any care and a hospital stay leading to slipping away.

Many who know me will attest that few things affect me emotionally. Most of the things tat do affect me in a manner that is unpleasant. Those things tend to increase my blood pressure and wind me up; those things make me angry.
Few things actually make me sad. Few things actually make me grieve.

This is not one of those things. My emotional disturbance over this was not due to my direct loss but due to the pain of the people whom I know who were left behind.

It has, however, generated a considerable amount of introspection on the part of my subconscious. That has, at this point, crept its way into the foreground of my thoughts.

I know Dave and I could have been great friends. I know this because of whom he was friends with and the common interests and knowledge bases we shared. I also know this because our personalities were similar enough that we would understand motivations and expectations of each other.
I know this because I am an introvert and my observations and experiences of Dave were that he, too, was an introvert.
Introverts, contrary to many non-introverts' belief, are not anti-social. They like people they just like their people. They take time to allow people into their circle and to generate friendships.
The problem is that this takes time.
The problem with that is that time is not always as plentiful as it seems like it would be.
The problem is that sometimes time is cut short. Cut short and cut unpredictably. Cut short without any ceremony or opportunity to rectify.

The reflection has generated some thoughts on what I want to change about myself and how I intend to change those things.

First - I realized that the missed opportunity to be better friends with Dave is mine (it is also his, but I cannot change another person). I could have reached out more. I could have generated more interaction. I could have invited him to things. I could have added him on Facebook sooner. Lots of things I could have done to generate a stronger friendship in the time that was there.
Would any of those things have saved him? Probably not. I cannot take any responsibility for the manner that he died nor for the events that led to it. Those events happened. If my friendship had altered that course it would have been only slightly and probably not enough to have made a difference to his survival.

What am I doing about this?
I have decided that when I see people whom I have good reason to believe I will get along with and whom I might be able to build a good friendship with I will do something about it.
Before I would wait and watch. I would engage in conversation when there was something relevant to talk about being discussed which I could weigh in on. I would evaluate the conversation and words used by the others and make a decision based on that. Then I would wait some more. I would repeat this until I felt as though the person might have an interest in allowing me into their lives AND that I had made the determination that I would like to have them in mine.
I am deciding from now on (I have actually already started doing this) that I will be a bit more cavalier with whom I allow into my life via social media. I will be more extroverted (it's easy to be MORE extroverted when one is as introverted as I am.... I will still be introverted) when it comes to adding people on facebook. People whom I have spoken to once or twice whom I may enjoy the company of I will add with less reservation. People who I know, but just barely, I will add. I will allow facebook to be a conduit to gaining a better understanding and knowledge of people whom I may be able to become friends with.

I will seize the opportunities presented to me rather than let them quietly slip away.

I understand that this will be hard work to maintain and it will have more failures than the path I ran before. I understand that those failures will feel difficult. I understand that I will have to generate interactions and that I might even make people uncomfortable in my feeble and awkward efforts to interact in a manner that I am not accustomed to. I also understand that my quiet looming may also make people uncomfortable in a non-threatening way.
I also understand, now, that missing an opportunity and losing it is just a failure in disguise.
If you don't try then you ALWAYS lose.
I don't like to lose. I, especially, don't like to lose when I didn't even realize I was playing the game.

Second - I realize that anyone can be taken at any time. I, like everyone else, knew this before but the harsh reality of someone closer to my own age and with a similar lifestyle in many ways to one I have led dying in the manner that Dave died drives this point home.
I intend to try and make sure people whom I know who matter to me know I am here and know they matter to me.
This will not take the form of always saying "hey, I like you; you're important" but, rather, it will take the form of seizing the opportunity for harmless frivolity and fun. It will take the form of joking with people who I care about to generate positive interactions with them. It will take the form of "liking" things they post to facebook when I like them. It will take the form of telling them jokes. It will take the form of spending time with them rather than being a lazy bastard on my couch. It will take the form of talking to them.
It will take the form of being there.

Sometimes life is mean to us.
Sometimes life is mean to others.
Sometimes life is unpredictable.
Sometimes life is lonely.
Sometimes life brings us pain.

Sometimes life seems dreadfully long.
But one thing we often forget when life does all of those things: our time is short.
We are insignificant to life. We are insignificant to time. We are insignificant to space. We are insignificant to the massive horde that is humanity and even more so to the gulf that is the history of civilization.

We are not, however, insignificant to each other.

Remember this for yourself.
Remember this for your friends.
Remember this for your loved ones.

Remember that, despite all the insignificance in the greater picture you are actually more significant than you know to those you know.

Do something about it.
Let them know.
Joke with them. Tell them stories. Listen to them. Let them know, by actions, that they matter to your world.

Don't let yourself, or those you care about, find themselves in a position where they are saying "if I only...." with respect to people they may care for....

On the flip side - accept people whom you care about interacting with you for what it is - an effort to show you they care or that they need you to care about them.

Our time is fleeting. Tomorrow is certain but our ability to experience it is not.

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