I have never been one to be the life of the party. In college and medical school, you would most likely find me studying on a Friday or Saturday night…or if out with friends, usually the designated driver or lingering around the periphery of the action. It’s not that I am not a social creature. I love connecting with others. But my connections usually thrive in small, intimate groups. I love to be around one or two close friends, friends who know me better than I know myself, friends with whom there is no formality, just the unbreakable, unspoken bond of true knowing.
This past week, I had the opportunity to connect with an old friend from when I was a psychiatry resident. We had not seen one another in over seven years, and had recently starting communicating again over Facebook.
I remembered him as a life raft.
His office was housed just next door to our resident’s lounge, and he always greeted me with a bright smile and a warm hug after long, sleepless nights on call. We would often spend hours chatting…he would share stories about his work in administration, and his various relationship pursuits, and I would share stories about residency stress and difficult patient encounters. And always laughing, lots of laughing. For many reasons we were an unlikely match, but our friendship was strong.
Fast forward years later, we were able to connect over lunch in Los Angeles. It felt as though not a single moment had passed by. He had lost a few pounds, and I had gained a few. He had a few more gray hairs, as did I. He was in a new relationship, and I now had two children and two dogs. But we talked incessantly and laughed hard, and felt lucky to be reminded of each other, and to be in each others lives again.
As I drove back to Orange County, I was struck by the power of our connection to other human beings, especially during times of stress. He buoyed me up and lifted my spirits during times when I didn’t feel like I could breathe. For that, I was grateful to him. And yet, this was the first time I was able to express that to him in such clear words–that for myself, and several of the other residents, he was a life saver. Seven years had passed, and he had never known how much he meant to me.
I realize now that there is no point in holding on to our words, with our friends, with everyone. If someone’s smile is brightening your day, tell them now. If someone’s words warm your heart, tell them now. If someone’s hug was just what you needed that day, tell them now. Don’t wait, because none of us know how much time we have on this planet of ours. Unspoken words too often dissolve into regret.
Life is short, and our egos are powerful. But if we allow our vulnerability to prevail, our words are what will connect us all. Our words are how we let each other know that we need them, and that we will always be here for one another. Our words are how we love each other, if we can only speak them.
So today, and in the week ahead, I invite you to share your feelings with friends and strangers alike. Can you use your words as a way to reach out and connect and appreciate and inspire?
Wishing you a peaceful week ahead.
With gratitude, Monisha