It was late summer/early fall of 2002. My younger sister had been in the hospital for weeks and the doctors were unable to tell us why. She’d given birth prematurely to my nephew, and had slipped further into whatever it was that was making her sick, making her eventual recovery require the relearning of things we take for granted, such as feeding herself. I was spending my days at work, my evenings with her at the rehabilitation center, and my weekends caring for my nephews, her sons: A 1 year old and a newborn. Her prognosis was unsure and we prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best.

To say it was a difficult time would be an understatement, but somehow we all managed. I walked around in a daze; a combination of a mind full of worries and lack of any meaningful rest. I constantly felt like I was in one of those scenes in a movie in which the character is standing frozen in time, while everyone else is rushing around her. I was there, but not.

Then one day I stood at the train platform, in the same daze, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a person move suddenly. I turned quickly in time to see a man fall into the tracks. I let out a scream. He laid on the tracks, not moving, while several men worked on rescuing him. They managed to get him back on the platform and the rest happened in a blur of CTA employees, paramedics and a crowd of people.  Eventually, I got on my train and left, my eyes filled with tears and I felt as if I’d just been woken from a long and deep, but unrestful sleep.

I never saw the man move and with everything happening in my own life, didn’t really have time to check the news for any updates, but it stayed with me. For some reason, in spite of what I’d been experiencing for months with my sister,that incident made me face the reality that life is fragile. That one moment in time had the power to change everything. Weirdly enough, it was cathartic. It was all at once a feeling of responsibility and freedom. Knowing that life was short, I was responsible for making the most of it via my actions and words, and because I was obligated to do so, I felt the freedom that comes when you can do and say what you feel.

I went on a ‘say what I feel’ binge. While on a work trip to Italy, I sent an email to my friend, revealing my feelings for him. For the next few months, whatever emotion I was feeling, I shared. I didn’t want to leave anything important unsaid. I was the annoying “I love you” drunk girl, without the drunk.

10+ years later–my sister living a healthy and productive life– I have found something of a middle ground, but still remember that period in my life and still hold on to the importance of being honest and forthright with the people I care about, not only for them, but selfishly, so I don’t have to live with regrets.whatif

Of course, not all of it is about the deep I love yous or I’m sorrys, often it’s the simple things that we keep to ourselves that we should say.  Things such as…

Doesn’t it seem as though humans find it easier to criticize each other than to share positive feedback? We walk by another person and admire their hair/outfit/shoes/eyes/smile/etc… and leave that sentiment nestled uselessly  in our thoughts, rather than pass it on to the person who would appreciate it most.

Potentially embarrassing situation
Just about a week ago I met up with a friend for an art show, and as we were walking around she stopped and whispered that I had a booger hanging out of my nose. She had hesitated telling me, but didn’t want to leave me walking around like that. It was actually the post of my new nose ring that had peeked out of my nostril, but I appreciated the fact that this new friend would be that honest with me. We should never let anyone walk around with anything that might potentially embarrass them.

I like you/I don’t like you
I won’t go into my usual diatribe about how much dating sucks, but we single people all know it does. Partly, I believe, is because no one can be honest about their interest or lack thereof. Women can’t say “I like you” for fear of seeming too needy or forward, and men don’t seem to be able to say “I don’t like you”  for fear of making you cry (you won’t, we don’t break, get over yourself!). We give way too much meaning to those phrases, when in reality all they mean is you either intrigue me or don’t intrigue me enough to continue getting to know you.

I no longer believe in saying yes unless I mean it. I don’t do things I don’t want to do, because an insincere yes will often lead to resentment. Try it, just say no. You’re allowed.

Our truth
My friends know that I am the friend who rarely tells them what they want to hear. Just as easily as I can tell someone I love them, I can also tell them they’ve upset me. I expect the same in return, but more than it being what I expect, it’s because I have to live with me, and in order to do that I have to feel that I am free to be genuinely me. I want to be trusted. If I won’t let you lie to yourself about the guy you’re dating, then you can trust that I will tell you if your butt looks big in those jeans.

But–disclaimer here–I also recognize that what I say is my version of the truth and understand that sometimes (often?), truth can be relative.

Some people believe that there are things better left unsaid, and I don’t disagree. There are thoughts that should belong to us alone as they are too valuable to share, but those are few. In sharing we can find freedom from “what ifs.”

What are some things you’re leaving unsaid? What is stopping you? What do you get from not sharing it/them?


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