It’s that time of year when familiar faces from days gone by are starting to reemerge. Like something lost down a deep well, over the past couple of weeks old friends and acquaintances are resurfacing – and I guess to some, I am also doing the same.
I suspect it has to do with it being that time of the year where many of us are reflecting – consciously and unconsciously – on what the year brought and what it is taking away.
An aspect of the reappearing familiar face is where that conversation subsequently ends. I find that in many cases it concludes with the phrase – “Let’s do lunch soon”. There are many other variations to this – “Let’s do coffee soon”, “Let’s have dinner soon”, “Let’s catch up in the new year” – and I’m sure there are many many other variations.
I found myself at the receiving end of this yesterday, as I said goodbye to a reemerged familiar face. As we hugged goodbye, I heard “Let’s do this again in the new year”. And only a few hours ago, I contemplated writing a variation to this in an email received from one of those re-emerging faces who had invited me to a function that I will not be able to attend.
It being the season of reflection, I cannot help but think of Graeme whenever I hear that variation of “Let’s do lunch soon”. Graeme was a work colleague 16 years ago. He was friends with the person I shared an office with and would often drop in to chat with her, and in the process, we’d exchange pleasantries. Graeme, like myself, was also gay and after a while he would also drop by to chat with me. Our conversations would always end with…..”Let’s do lunch soon”. This familiar ending happened over a period of months. I am sure we both meant it, and yet neither of us did anything about it.
About a year or so after knowing Graeme, we bumped into each other one day in the staff canteen and as we said goodbye, I looked at him and said “We must do lunch soon”. He responded with a smile and said “We are not going to do lunch, are we?”. “Of course we will”, I responded this time more than ever determined that we will. We saw each other a few times after that, and during these times neither one of us ended our encounter with that familiar phrase. We simply smiled – as if we both knew we were holding back on something.
A few months passed and I did not see Graeme. When I casually enquired, my roommate mentioned that he had been off ill for a few weeks. Those weeks soon turned into months, and then we got word that Graeme had died. I thought back to “We are not going to do lunch, are we?”. He was right. I remember very little about what Graeme and myself would often talk about, but I do remember that poignant conversation in the canteen.
As I said goodbye last night to my reemerged friend, I remembered Graeme and thought of the many “lunches” with the Graemes’ of this world that never came to be.
Over the years I have tried to understand why I never did do that lunch. The conclusion I always reach is that life simply got in the way and I kept on postponing. Sometime this year I came across a phrase often used by the poet and teacher, Mark Nepo, he talks about “holding nothing back”. He uses this in many context, but ultimately it is an invitation to holding nothing back of ourselves, so that we can enter the fullness of life. “Holding Nothing Back!”.
Therein lied the answer to why I never did do that lunch and why I did not accept many invitations from days gone by. I grew up in a home where I learnt to “hold something back”. Holding nothing back, I came to learn somewhere along my life journey meant – risk, emotional exposure and uncertainty (Vulnerability – as Brené Brown would say).
I’m learning that “holding nothing back” is indeed an “Endless Practice” and it means not simply saying “yes”, but acting on the “yes”.
So, as we move into a fresh year I am looking forward to having those “lunches” and accepting the invitation of life to hold nothing back!
Wishing everyone a wonderful and courageous 2015!