I was reading an article recently when I came across a quote from the Hollywood actor, Michael Douglas. He said, “Sometimes we spend more efforts with people that are strangers, in terms of making an impression, than the person that’s closest to us. And you just have to remember not to take for granted that person that’s closest to you.” We all know this to be true, yet we take for granted our spouses, children, parents and even grandparents day after day, year after year, as though our lives will continue without the effects of time.
These past few weeks, I have been busy working on a little project. Two of the bedrooms in our house are those that my two step-children used to occupy when they would come in their younger years to visit us every other weekend. Ten years ago, their paint colors of choice had been shades of brilliant lime green and deep cerulean blue. They are no longer being used, so my husband recommended that I make them into guest bedrooms for our would-be visitors if and when we would ever need them. I found the task to be almost like going through a loved ones belongings after they have passed. Fortunately for me, I haven’t had to endure such agony as of yet.
When I started, the blue room was decorated with rows of colorful felt pennants, bright baseball caps and large, glossy posters depicting then-current MVPs of favorite athletic teams all held securely in place by an army of push pins (which left just as many holes in their absence). Oft-celebrated players of years past were captured mid-play in framed and matted pictures that decorated the expanse of the walls. Prized trophies from old baseball or football seasons now evoke warm and distant memories of years that have flown by in blur. Cluttered book shelves laden with memorabilia from days gone by line one of the walls: hard-fought medals and autographed footballs enclosed in acrylic boxes; old, scuffed ice skates leaning lifelessly against a stack of dusty-smelling books with gently worn, crimped paper covers and dog-eared pages that at one point were required reading. More trophies…Random neon-yellow spots dot the carpet, left behind as a result of our beloved furry family member, Jax, deciding that paintballs look very appetizing and later abandoning them after they tasted differently. Now, the once-dark chambray bedspread and sham have been bleached from years of sunsets. The room sits quietly in its vacancy.
The green room was markedly less cluttered. A colorful bulletin board hung on the wall adorned with mementos of a young life’s highlights: pictures and torn concert ticket stubs with a program from a Hannah Montana Concert (throwback from the days when she was a Disney sweetheart) held in place by satin ribbon; a photograph of smiling sweet success in building a well-endowed snowwoman with then-inseparable friends; a picture of a surprise birthday party with feather boas and a crowned birthday girl sitting between her little seven-year-old friends who are now seniors or high school graduates, all of whom no longer associate with one another. On the dresser sat four wax molds of hands that spelled L-O-V-E in sign language that left permanent circular reminders of neon pink in the wood’s washed finish; a dried, moss-covered flower girl basket that was carried down the aisle thirteen years ago when her dad and I got married sat still collecting dust. A Madame Alexander ballerina doll dressed in white satin stood poised on tiptoe next to a revolving carousel that rang chimes. I opened a hand-painted jewelry box filled with those little miscellaneous, prized objects that kids hoard and become meaningless in a little over a week’s time.
I sorted through the closets and drawers. As I emptied them, it made me think about how our lives become so busy with our own chaotic schedules that we often don’t fully consider what kind of an impression we leave on those we love the most dearly. As a stay at home mom, I can assure you that I have longed for solitude, especially as I was finishing up the last two weeks of the holidays. Instead of enjoying Christmas, oftentimes, I get to the end feeling depleted and thinking to myself, “What happened to Christmas?” At least this year, I made cookies. The drawback? I had deadlines to meet so I didn’t get to enjoy making them with my daughter. The same goes for our lives. Before I know it, I will be thinking, “What happened to my life?” Have I tried to impress upon those that I hold dearest the best version of myself? We are all flawed, but will it be a lasting impression that is good or, even better, GREAT? When they see the all-too-real version, they still love us. If we showed that same “genuine” version we present to our families to those who are merely acquaintances, i.e. professional or personal associates…those that we all too eagerly strive to impress…would they still be around? Would they try to avoid interacting with us? My guess is a resounding yes. So, with that said, why do we make more of an effort with them?
If those impressions were measureable, do we give the loftiest to those who aren’t seeing our flaws but only a snapshot of us putting our best foot forward? Shouldn’t we reserve that energy, charm and vivacity for those who have seen us through our darkest and most difficult moments? It reminds me of seeing pictures on social media. The pictures are taken, retaken and/or edited to make the impression that everything in that person’s life is going splendidly, without a hitch. Very rarely do we see the struggle or feel the pain of what someone is going through. Starting today, I am going to be intentional with leaving my best impressions to those who matter most. They will be the ones to whom it will be the most lasting.