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Awareness and Friendship

Original posted September 2014

We talk about mindfulness: being present in the moment and not missing out on the events of our lives. But, what if not being mindful meant you missed out on a relationship? Not that you weren’t aware of the person in your life, but what that relationship had become. How many people do we take for granted or miss out on completely because we just aren’t paying attention?

This may sound cliché, but why does it take bad news to shake the clouds out of our heads, make us come up for air and pay attention? Because sometimes it just does. The other day my neighbor sent me a text that said, “Give me a shout out if you are free for a chat”. She never does that. At first I thought maybe she sent the text to the wrong person, then I briefly wondered if I’d done something and then I got nervous. Something was wrong. Later that evening she shared with me that she had been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer that had spread to her liver. This is an otherwise healthy 47-year-old woman with no family history. In a later Facebook post that she shared with select friends she said, “this is terminal.” I cannot shake those words from my head.

In the days following our conversation I have had a montage playing in my head, like a video of our interactions. I knew this woman casually before she moved in next door to me; we have kids the same age and have mutual friends. But, thanks to her friendly nature we moved past casually knowing each other quickly. When I had an idea to write my first (now defunct) blog she was the person I went to for brainstorming; my friend is an author. She was also the person who opened the door when I banged excitedly, bursting to tell her that someone had commented on one of my posts.

When I was starting my coaching practice and using a converted playhouse in my backyard as an office, I asked her to sit in the space with me to see if a client would feel claustrophobic. Not only was she willing to interrupt what she was doing to come check it out, she helped me decide the layout of my “massive” 49 square foot office and then stayed a bit to catch up. A month or so ago I was having an off day and spontaneously went next door to see if she wanted coffee. We ended up sitting outside Starbucks, talking about entrepreneurialship and the joys (or not) of working from home. I don’t know if she recognized it, but I felt a stronger connection that day.

The video playing in my head is one of a friendship. We are more than just the neighbors who take care of each other’s pets or have casual conversations on the sidewalk after school drop off. My relationship with her is a friendship that I hadn’t fully recognized until terrible news shook the cobwebs in my mind and the montage started rolling. I was too head down, shuttling kids, moving groceries out of the car and giving a casual wave across the driveway to recognize what had already developed.

One of my clients talks about walking through a field of weeds and seeing the rare flowers. To her those flowers represent good, solid friendships and she is taking stock of them. My good friend is facing an unthinkable situation but she is choosing to look for the positive. So I am. I am grateful that the cobwebs have cleared and I am now present for this relationship.

How many good things have slipped by because we weren’t paying attention? Is there a relationship in your life that could be amazing if you fostered it a little? If you were being mindful as you walked through the field of weeds, would you notice a fledgling little bud that with some nurturing could blossom into something really beautiful? Tell me about it in the comments. Share your stories of your best friend, the relationship that you missed out on or the one that you now recognize.

In love and friendship.

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