Most often, we don’t know what we really have until it is gone.
I was reminded of that when my adoring wife left the Archipelago to visit her mom; who was recovering from dental surgery. We enjoy each other’s company and spend a lot of time together. If someone’s absence is going to leave an empty space in my life it would be her’s.
Texting and telephone calls can connect two people, but it is no replacement for being together in the same room.
When I was writing this, a similar situation came to mind. It is not on the same level as my sweet heart leaving town, but it did change my thinking about lose. A small change of thinking, but one that made a big difference.
One time I had dropped off my car for repairs at the mechanic’s garage, which is on the other end of the city from my house. I had to take the bus back home. A ten minute trip by car turned into a 40 minute trip by slow poke public transportation; with the added bonus of unwanted entertainment from a few ‘colorful’ passengers. On the ride, I realized a few items were needed from the grocery store for dinner. For that, a two minute car ride to the store would be a fifteen minute walk. As the bus lumbered along the emotional space of lose, created by not having my car, just got bigger and emptier.
For that entire day my life was defined by what I did not have. It had become the context for what was missing; which was not right. When I finally got home I was determined never to think that way again. I would never define myself exclusively in negative terms.
The root of my attitude change was not the lack of independent transportation, but a lack of appreciation. I lost sight of the fact that I had many other good aspects to my life beside my car, because I was focused on the aspect I lost. Consequently, I created that empty emotional space and put myself in it. It was unnecessary and I did not enjoy it either.
Being the practical sort, I made a mental list of all the positive aspects of my life. The next time I moved my thinking into that emotional space of lose, I would use it to remind myself of all the good things I had.
After I made this list I found that the most positive things on the list, and the ones that made the biggest difference for me, where the people I had relationships with.
Seeing that I had a good number of people who were a positive influence in my life I wanted to make sure they knew I appreciated them. I made it a point to show them that more often.
Over time I realized that showing appreciation was reaffirming my love for them. It acknowledged a positive bond between us which gave me joy in good times and strength in hard times.
Even after this emotional change, I still miss my wife when we are apart for a few days. But appreciating her every day, and all the other good people in my life, made that lonely space much smaller. A part of appreciating is focusing on the time I had with her and not pine over losing time with her.
Like anything you want to change in your behavior, it is a process of improvement. I have to work on it everyday to make that space as small as possible, and I don’t have to be an example of not really knowing what I have until it is gone.
After making that list I came up with a recitation; a point to focus on to keep me moving in the right direction. These kinds of reminders work well for me.
Improvement is the first step to perfection, as long as you keep walking.