Just how well do you think you know the people you live with or who you see on a regular basis?
I’m not talking about the serial killer who is married with children and a leader in the community. I’m also not talking about the man who has two wives and two families living in two different states. Nor am I referring to the many other tales depicted in stories and movies about dual lives. Those examples certainly could apply to this topic, but I have something else in mind.
“Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life and a secret life.” —Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Recently I was lying next to my husband as we went to bed. I had an eventful day filled with several one-on-one meetings, sessions with clients, interaction with other customers, staff, and later on some friends. The conversations and time spent with these folks on this day were particularly meaningful as I was able to provide support in various ways to all I came into contact with. This opportunity is always heartwarming for me, and is ultimately what led me into the healing pathway. It occurred to me that my husband wasn’t really aware of the lives that I am able to touch on a daily basis. He knows what I do professionally, he knows who I work with, and who my friends are. What he doesn’t see or hear about is what actually happens during these interactions. I also realized that while I have met and know the people he works with, and through his stories I am aware of the people whose lives are impacted by his work, I am not there to feel and see what actually occurs.
Of course we share certain aspects about our days, but usually not all the details of each and every encounter. We hit the highlights.
Humility (noun) – Willingness to stay teachable, regardless of how much we already know.
I have friends who have shared stories about family members who were deceased. They recalled being quite surprised by what they discovered about their family members while handling the affairs. One friend’s husband led a very quiet life at home with his wife. He wasn’t much for change, so he left the house needing repairs and remodeling. He seemed to have minimal interaction with friends. She had met and known about the people he worked with, going on rare occasions to office parties and visiting his workplace. When she went to handle some work details after his death, the surprise she found was overwhelming. He was so well regarded by colleagues from other states, clients whom he’d helped with finances and retirement. She never knew the real impact her husband had had on so many lives. This was just not something that was evident or talked about at home. It was a pleasant surprise, but still a surprise.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou
Another friend’s father wasn’t thought too highly of by his children or former wife upon his death. He had been an unfaithful husband, and was distant from the children due to conflict in the home. He had remarried, and had two more children. He seemed to have found peace in his new life. At his funeral my friend and her siblings were astonished to hear all of the accolades their father received. He had an understated generosity. He had helped many families, friends and colleagues. He brought food to those who had none, helped create jobs for those who needed one, given financial support to some who needed it. It was a bittersweet surprise for his first set of children, as they would have liked to experience their dad this way.
We all have certain expectations of those who are closest to us. We lean on them for support, getting things done, need and want their praise or recognition. We can be aggravated or annoyed when those expectations aren’t met. Our expectations versus the reality can bring disappointment that clouds our day-to-day living. Without good communication, truth and understanding can get lost. Resentment starts to build, and unless you identify the real problem and correct it, it can be more difficult to let disappointments go.
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” —Abraham Lincoln
Another friend’s father recently passed away. He and his father were best friends and spent a lot of time together, even though they lived in separate towns. My friend went to his father’s house to take care of the arrangements of his passing. He and his wife soon became astonished at the number of people who dropped by the house and shared their stories of how this man had changed their life. He was a good husband, good neighbor, townsman, a leader in the community and a friend to all. This man never talked about his day-to-day activities or the people he helped. He just lived it. To hear about the things that he’d done, the lives he impacted and the difference he made in his town was humbling. He didn’t boast or brag; he just did it.
Do you really know who you live with? Maybe this can be a good reminder to reach beyond your living room and pay a little more attention to those closest to you. To know more about them now rather than after they’re gone. The ability to see them in a different way may bring a more gentle reverence, closeness and less expectation or disappointment.