People fall through the cracks of our lives and fade into the background like the fuzzy grey screen at the end of the VHS when you fell asleep watching a movie as a kid. It rocks us to sleep, in a way, and lulls us into a sense of complacency. We just get used to them, and imagine that their existence in our life is something permanent, something we’re entitled to.
Sometimes we let voicemails from our relatives sit in our inboxes. We say, “Ahh, I’ll get to it later, I have things to do.” And you really think you’re going to get to it. But just like that tab on your browser that you put aside with intentions to attend to shortly, you eventually just forget. It goes almost unnoticed, a slight too small to really be angry about, but something that surely cuts in a small way.
A friend will call you and ask you if you want to hang out this weekend. And you make semi-serious plans, but things happen, and you don’t see each other. This can go on for months, a back-and-forth of not really doing things because you just know that you will have another chance to see them. They live just a few blocks away, after all.
But those few blocks become more damning than a thousand miles you have to take by plane. The distance is so small, so doable, that you imagine you’ll do it tomorrow. Then the next day. And the next. And you never cross it, you never make that trip, because it was just too easy to put off. And by the time you really think about making plans to go see them, they have moved.
Then we turn around and give this attention, this affection, this urgency of presence to the people who deserve it least. The people who withhold, who make us question our worth, who keep us on our toes. They are interesting and challenging and something we’re not sure about. All of these people over there — the ones who care about us deeply and will be there tomorrow — they can wait a few more days. You’ll spend weeks chasing after someone while the people who are standing by with cups of water go completely unnoticed.
One day, that voicemail from that relative becomes a memorial, something you listen to over and over again because you were too stupid to call them back when you had the chance. And you hate yourself just a little bit because of all the days you could have taken two minutes to ask them how their day was and you didn’t. You allowed all the days to wash over you and form a kind of numbing barrier to the fragility of all that we have. Everything seemed permanent, and nothing was.
Go tell someone that you love them. Go tell them that they are important, and that you are glad to be a part of their life. Make plans with them, and keep them. Hug them just a few seconds longer than we usually do when we see someone that we haven’t seen in a while, even if it feels weird at first. It’s not weird. It’s the best thing we can do to hold someone tight enough that there can be no doubt as to how much they matter in this world. Hug the ones who are there for you, who surround you so completely that you can sometimes forget they are keeping you warm.