What’s a reasonable time to expect a reply to an email? How about a text message? A few weeks ago, I scolded a friend for leaving home without her cell phone. “How am I supposed to reach you?” I said. She apologized. Shame on me! She’s a Super-mom, yes, but there was no crisis that couldn’t be avoided without her intervention. For most of us, there rarely is. In my case, I wanted to see if we could meet for coffee… What’s that saying about folks writing about things they need to hear?
I was bothered, because I couldn’t make the plans I wanted. We do that a lot, I think. We complain. “I sent you that text an hour ago! Why didn’t you respond?” At the end of a day we hear, “Did you see the email I sent this morning? You didn’t answer.” Or, “Oh my God, it took me at least ten minutes to get through the line at Trader Joe’s!” and “I won’t even walk into a bank anymore. If there are more than three people at the ATM, I’ll move on.”
That’s living as if only fulfillment now, will satisfy. Good days become one’s where everything goes “my way” as a result. In contrast, the relationships we treasure, are typically filled with ups, and downs. They take time, attention, and work. They’re not finished products. Not at any given moment. Not ever. In fact, I would argue that our relationships are most at risk are when we think they’re everything we ever wanted them, to be. That, and when alone, we try to make them into something we always wanted them to become. The other day a friend of mine passed along these words, “Marriage is where you bet half your stuff that you’ll still be together in a future you can’t imagine.” Ha! I thought. That’s wonderful, and so true. You can’t imagine the future.
Life is our greatest adventure. One where our openness to surprise and wonder, to happiness even, is tied to our willingness to let go. Of the expectations of others, and of ourselves. Few people are as adept at twisting the knife as the reflection in the mirror. How it escapes panes of silvered glass, I’ll never understand! I’m not advocating that anyone stops responding to text messages (especially mine). I do think that we need to have more conversations about how much contact is too much. That’s ultimately about trust, and allowing yourself the freedom to be where you are. Certainly, if you’ve ever spent a meal with your cell phone on the table, periodically buzzing with updates and notifications that require your response, you know something of what I mean. You can’t imagine the future. What you can do, is be present, now.