Handle with Care
"Life is what happens to you
while you're busy making
other plans." Although its
origin can be traced back
many generations, the oft
quoted sentiment is credited
typically to John Lennon.
And after decades, these
wise words remain spot-on.
When used effectively, social media can be an amazing tool with which we can connect and re-connect with friends and family in warm and wonderful ways. Just the other day, an item popped up in a feed on one of my preferred platforms from a high school friend. The post revealed her thoughtful recollections of growing up during the '70s in our small Florida beachside community. What first captured my attention was the accompanying photo — her "Class of '81" yearbook head shot — a young, fresh-faced, brown-eyed, blond beach girl. In an instant, 40 years flashed before my eyes. Simply put, "life happens."
The kids from my teenage crew now are closing in on 60 — which seems absurd to me. And as I poured over her post, and focused on her photo, I experienced something of a "wake up call." She was one of my high school "dream girls" — someone who I cared about, a lot. So, why hadn't I done a better job of keeping in touch with her over the years? Had she ever been married or had kids? Has she achieved her hopes and dreams? I didn't know. All I had was her "then and now" photo and a paragraph. "It's what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
While on my recent book tour, I returned to my childhood hometown, Springfield, Missouri. During my visit, I had coffee one morning with one of my dearest long-time friends — someone who I've known since 1969. As we chatted about life — where we've been and where we've arrived, I looked into her still-crisp green eyes and realized how we clearly no longer were kids. At that moment, I was grateful that we had kept in touch over the years. And while I did have an opportunity to reconnect with several childhood friends during my trip, there are many other kids from my days at Horace Mann Elementary who I may not ever see again. Where are they today? How did their life stories play out? I may never know.
Not too long ago, I reconnected with a fella who had gotten me my first job at a local Florida record store back in 1978. He was the "cool guy" with the ponytail and the pretty girlfriend. At the time, I was 15 and he was 19. At that age, four years is quite a stretch, and I always looked up to him as a "big brother." While sitting out on his back porch reminiscing and bragging on our kids (and his grandkids), I noticed how my buddy's ponytail now had become nearly snow white. Heck, these days, my (remaining) hair is as grey as "Grandpa Gramperton" too — that's why I keep my salon tech's number on speed dial. Soon after, my buddy and his wife relocated to Tennessee. For years, we lived in the same town, but truth be told, I could count on fewer than ten fingers how many times we'd seen each other in the last decade. Now, it's anyone's guess when, or if, we'll ever get to hang out again. "Handle with care."
I always endeavored to be the best dad possible. And as a result, my son and I continue to enjoy an incredible relationship. But it's still rather heartbreaking knowing that he's now living his own life more than a thousand miles away. He grew up so fast — while I was "busy making other plans" with rock stars. What I would give to have just one more magical "little guy" day when we would attend pro sporting events, go on father and son vacations, take in a hot new flick or just run daily errands together.
And who hasn't faced the pain of losing a friend or loved one? The agonizing feeling of "shoulda, woulda, coulda" if there only was more time is a tough cross to bear.
The point to this heartfelt "rabbit trail?" Time is the most valuable currency we have in life. Unlike cash, once those funds are depleted, we can't "deposit" any more — the "account" is "closed." But there's no value in beating ourselves up. What's in the past, is in the past. However, we can do something about the present.
Yes, life is fragile, and more fleeting than we'd like. While we're (still) "busy making other plans," perhaps we should slow down a bit and embrace the people we love most — in the moment. Given today's increasingly volatile cultural landscape, it might also be a good time to chill out just a little and make a NEW friend.
In sum, life happens — handle with care.