I heard on the radio again yesterday that one of the top regrets of people at the end of their lives is losing contact with friends. It's probably not surprising it comes at a time when I sit in my own self-conscious place, worried about my own recklessness, and wondering if it's too late to contact three precious women I have neglected and lost. I say reckless not because that was my intent, but more to describe what it must have felt like from their perspectives when I disappeared. At the very least I keep thinking I would like to say I'm sorry.
I lost my dear college-and-beyond friend during a major shuffle in my life just about 15 years ago. She was a funny, peaceful sort I even lived with for a time, and loved like a sister. The shift in my life changed my habits and our phone time got compromised. Once I was out of touch for a few weeks, it was hard to call. Then months turned into years. I am stuck with my own inaction and can't seem to make a move. Not even just to apologize. I want to, but don't.
Not long after that I let another friend go in a similar story. She was hired into a company I consulted with and we became fast friends. I was accepted into her family and actually traveled with her and her daughter abroad. She too was funny, and smart and always working on some new something, or making something better/cleaner. And then she got sick, cancer, and had surgery. With a tight group of friends around her, and my own discomfort about how to help or be, I only stayed connected with her for a few months after. I cannot believe how despicable that makes me feel. I don't know what happened really. I vaguely remember some tension developed between me and her husband as I tried to help, but in retrospect hardly a reason to bail. It still pains me that for some reason I couldn't be there for her.
The most recent story is of an artist friend I met in Mexico, an incredible, talented, peaceful woman that helped me believe in myself as an artist. She lives several hours from me, and while we didn't communicate frequently, we were in touch, and one of my favorite trips of the year was driving to stay, eat, walk, write and dream with her. During the time I was really connecting with this woman my Mom was deteriorating from Alzheimers. Mom died a short time after the last time I saw my friend. I think I went into la-la land after that, isolating and reflecting. By the time I looked up months had passed and I was too embarrassed to call. I even framed some beautiful photos her husband gave me hoping my sense of decency would make me call before I could hang up the pictures. They are hung and I still haven't called.
I have learned some things about myself over the years. First I am kind of a turtle. I pull my head in my shell and shut out the world, especially under stress. Second I spent years at home hearing how idiotic I was for wanting to talk on the phone to my friends, and it seems too have stunted my ability to be good at it. Third, I procrastinate, not everything, but usually things that daunt me.
All of these make me a candidate for regret, like everybody else who wishes they hadn't done something in their lives. I don't like being like everybody else. And I want to stop waking up in the middle of the night thinking about my shortcomings as a friend. I want to know these lovely people who have added so much to my life are well and happy, or at least they are surrounded by people to help them cope with whatever stands in their way. I want to tell them how sorry I am for letting them go, and how much they meant to me, even though I wasn't able to show it.
Somehow writing about it helps. Somehow sending it out to the Universe and to my blessed readers gives me hope. I pray now for the ability to act. Send me your good wishes for no regrets.