Note: this week was one of the first times I’d heard "1000 Words" all the way through, and had to get it from iTunes because it was stuck in my head. :-P After listening a few times I knew I had to write this one out. It has a bit more of a personal tone than I normally allow, but as you reach the end you’ll see why it applies to more than just this weekend and (hopefully) why it needs to be said!
Play song: 1000 Words (FFX-2 Mix)
It’s never easy to return to "normal life" after visiting family. As you get back into your routine you are reminded of all the fun times you had, the catching up you did, and the memories you made while spending time with each other. I personally don’t get to see family that lives outside of Nebraska very often, and even then there are really only a handful of people I’d make a special trip for. Sorry but I just don’t have a deep connection with most of my blood relatives – I still enjoy seeing them yet I feel like a complete stranger to 99% of anyone beyond the edges of my town. Most of those people I haven’t seen in 5 – 15 years anyway so you can understand my seemingly detached state.
Now when it comes to extended family, meaning those I define as family but don’t share a common relative with, things are different. Again there are very few people in this category, but there’s one group in particular that moved away over a year ago I miss very dearly. The song I’ve posted with this is titled "1000 Words" and I hope you listen and look up the lyrics if you haven’t heard it before. The family I’m referring to is one in a million, and I’m incredibly humbled just to hang out with them and know I’m accepted there no matter what I do. After knowing them only a short while I was told to walk in without knocking, stay as long as I needed, and contact them if anything was amiss. I grew very attached to them very quickly, so you can imagine my reaction when I learned that my best friends, my parents, and my siblings would all be 9 hours away instead of 9 minutes.
"I acted so distant then, didn’t say goodbye before you left"
This line from the song was me for about a year or so before I heard they were moving. I was wrapped up in things I was doing and places I thought I was going, but didn’t pause to make time for them. As a result it has been hard to get back into the "swing" of things and reconnect with everybody. All of me wanted to regain the time that was lost, and making sure I spent the last week or so with them before they left was the start of a re-awakening that revealed a lot to me about my actions. After that point, getting to see them months later was rough, and the pie-in-the-sky version I had in my head at that time just didn’t quite come to life. Really though, how selfish was it that I expected anything less? Who am I that their lives should stop when time is made for a trip only a few times a year? Especially with the track record I had as of late…I wasn’t exactly a participant in their daily lives like I should have been and missed out on a lot because of it.
"Wait for me I’ll write you letters"
The only good thing about being apart from someone is how special it is when you’re together. As time goes on we get to see each other about 4 times a year, and I’m really glad that trend continues to this day. It’s been such an honor to grow close to such an amazing group of people, and I could write for days about how God has used them in my life to stretch and move in new directions. I’d have been torn up or in jail if I continued some of the tendencies I had before really getting to know them, and now that I can see that more and more any time spent together is precious to me.
Now I don’t know about you, but the days following getting to see people like that always seems to result in a near bi-polar shift in my energy levels, attitude, and daily functions. While this may seem shallow to some, and that’s fine if so, there are lots of reasons this happens and is only intensified with the long drive home. Every trip we/they have made since the move over a year ago has resulted in various levels of this – plus returning this weekend was already going to be strange because Carolyn is in Colorado. Let’s just say from the day I left I wasn’t sure Monday/Tuesday would be good days to be around me.
However, this time was different.
This was one of the first times in a couple years that I felt 100% comfortable and at home the moment I arrived. Lots of old issues and problems have really minimized, we’re back up to speed with one another, and there’s a comfort level there that can only be described as family. During the entire duration of our stay I tried to focus on several great things that happened each day before going to sleep, and during the drive home I had time to really reflect on all the neat occurrences that the week brought for us.
"Though a thousand words, have never been spoken"
While driving home I almost started a list of all the cool things that God did for me this week, and was really tempted to make as detailed a list as possible to include in a post like this. What it ended up being was a simple rundown of just a few key things that really impacted me – even those were just so I could remember to keep track of those later on. For a while I was really afraid writing anything down would spoil the experiences and lessons I learned because I’m human and am sure to leave something out somewhere.
Anyone who knows me really well knows I’ve struggled with how to retain special memories, both for encouragement later and learning tools. What I discovered after I got back, however, was that trying to contain everything that happened on paper would limit how special they were. We had some fun times and even simple things like a new profile picture are evidence of that, but to really try and capture the deeper more meaningful ones is next to impossible. There are so many layers to what may seem like an average conversation or activity that the most important details and memories would be lost.
I think it’s really important to address events like this before or as they happen, because it makes a huge difference in how we remember our interactions and experiences with those we love. The bittersweet goodbyes can turn sour so quickly, and if we allow our minds to chase selfish rabbit trails we lose the blessings that friends bring and are left with lingering discontent. There’s nothing wrong with missing people, and there’s also something right about the feelings of "one more day please?" because it reminds us how much they mean to us. What can poison and separate friends is letting those emotions pull us down and tear us up while we wallow in self-pity.
Falling into this trap was a regular occurrence for me until I made an important realization and conscious decision – my family means more to me than that.
I can’t let that happen anymore when I get to see them. It only does a disservice to their character and our relationships – we don’t come out of that any closer if all I feel is remorse. I was incredibly blessed and honored to spend time with them this week, and though it will never be enough I’m grateful for what they mean to me and how much I mean to them. Even if it’s only a few times a year I’m still getting to see and know them better – I’m happy I’ve been able to see them every 3 months and hope/pray it will continue!
"But now I’m not afraid to say what’s in my heart"
If you’re missing someone or ever felt the same way I used to, hit play and listen to a song that does a great job painting a picture of a deeper connection between friends and family than I can write here. When the music ends and the last notes drift into silence, pick up the phone and call someone you need to connect with. Send them a text message or an e-mail, post on their wall, do what you have to do. Make sure you honor your relationship with those you care for by making time to stay in touch and up to speed on what’s going on in their lives. It may sound simple and even shallow, but I promise you it’s worth it.
Any number of words and emotions mean nothing unless you express them to each other – trust me when I say you don’t want to be left standing there knowing they’ll fight their battles "far from you, far too easily." I’d much rather be one that supports and strengthens my family, much like the chorus below. Who knows if just a few of the things you need to say to them might help them through a hard time? I can personally vouch for how much it means when someone takes time to show that they care for you.
"And a thousand words
Call out through the ages
They’ll cradle you
Turning all of the lonely years to only days
They’ll hold you forever"