Mortality and Relationships

This has been a strange summer for all. I will state the obvious again: the whole pandemic situation has changed the way we live, the way we interact with each other and it has taught to some of us that a few things in life matter more than others.

This summer mortality has been more intensely present in my thoughts than it usually is. I am one of those people that before I go to bed, when the whole room goes dark and my husband next to me falls asleep before me and I struggle with my own sleep, I start pondering about life and its meaning, and whether what I did that day was worth it, and whether what I have waiting for me the next day is worth it, or even if I am going to be there the next day. It sounds like a scary place to live, and it is. But I have learned to use it to my advantage in helping me make the right choices for me and those I love. Don’t get me wrong. I know there are many of you out there oblivious to a world of death-thinkers. I very much envy you.

But back to the topic. This summer I lost a friend. That event is to blame for my intensified deep thinking about life, death and the meaning of everything.

The sea is now something I not only associate with fun and relaxation. It now also evokes feelings of nostalgia. Sail boats no longer represent pure fun and luxury. They also represent accidents, impermanence, suddenness.

This event has also made me more eager to say yes to invitations, I have felt encouraged to make small sacrifices to give and take the company of others, because I am so afraid of them suddenly not being present anymore. Ironically this hasn’t happened with the pandemic because while statistics say I should be scared, I haven’t experienced a personal story with it. I just stick to the rules out of respect for others. But not out of fear like I do when I lose a close one.

In any case, the whole saying yes to things and people has been in opposition with another big effort: I have spent a few years learning to be at ease with saying no. I do not mean learning to say it. But learning to be OK with the consequences of doing it. Through lessons from meditation, minimalism, essentialism, stoicism and whatever other ism you can think of, I have taught myself to identify that things that matter in life are just a few. This also means that there are many more things that we get exposed to regularly that do not matter, and that we should desist from or not engage with, in exchange for keeping our time and energy available to the few that deserve the yes. I have also learned to draw the line between sacrifice and self-destruction. If you are only sacrificing yourself and giving, but you are never getting anything in return, then you are causing harm to yourself and that is something to desist from. You only have one copy of you.

Friendship has been always at the top of my list. This was before I learned anything about essentialism, and even more after doing so. I have learned that while relationships are complicated, they are almost as important as water, food and sleep to me. In fact, they might come right after those. They are worth the effort that it comes from keeping them healthy and strong.

Balance is also an important criterion for what I do in life. Also something learned through a few tough lessons. By extension, while I am ready to give a piece of me for a friend, I will actively seek a friendship that is also giving me back like a good night of sleep and a refreshing glass of water. Friendship is also something I find in my marriage and family relationships, which is why I put those into the same bucket of careful cultivation.

The hard truth for me has been realizing, motivated by that scary thought of mortality that pushes me to actively reach out, that having a relationship among my top priorities does not translate in me being in their priorities. That is not the same to say that there will be periods in which one gives more than the other. It does not imply that you have to keep a balance of what is coming in and out like a bank account. It is much more subjective than that. Not all things have the same value for everyone. We have to be doing a constant exercise of weighing and choosing, and an exercise of acceptance and forgiveness.

In this open exercise of weighing and choosing I think it is an essential part of those relationships to discuss what we are doing, how we are feeling, and if we could try something different when things are not working out. The result of this will be something we accept or reject, forgive or resent.

In my painful recent experience this summer I have discovered that not only was I not a priority for a person I cared about. I was also punished for expressing my feelings. Openness is also essential to me in a relationship that is destined to become strong and valuable. If there is no room to renegotiate the relationship and redefine it to a state where all parties can feel good, then it’s time to say no. This renegotiation and redefinition is part of the constant change that life brings with it. There is nothing wrong with change, we just need to redefine things accordingly. But when we can’t redefine them, we need to reroute.

This is the danger of having relationships in your list of essentials. It will hurt to digest that you have said yes to things in life that perhaps you should have said no to. Yet, living life to the full comes with that risk in the package. We can not say no to everything or we will be essentially dying alive. We can’t say yes to everything or we will get lost in the euphoric emotions that will crash us into meaninglessness and emptiness after some time. We can say yes just to a few and we will still get hurt. What we have left is to work on the strength of our minds and our bodies to recover from each hit, and to still find the love and the strength within ourselves to keep on caring for the other items in the bucket that still need careful cultivation. In the process we will again weed out a few things, and it will hurt. We will be open to planting new ones, and I will keep on feeding and caring for the ones that have lived long and that I hope to enjoy for the rest of my ephemeral existence.

Happy Thursday,
Maria 🌺

Originally published at https://marialasprilla.wordpress.com on August 20, 2020.

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Maria Lasprilla

Product Management, Personal Growth, Leadership. Living The Good Life.