Owning Your Feelings

A few weeks ago I was out running a quick errand. I ran into an acquaintance who made it a point to stop me and tell me how she missed me because she hasn’t seen me in months and hadn’t seen me at the school as often the second half of the year. She then began to list all the events where she missed seeing me. When she finished I looked her right in the eyes and said the following:

“You just listed about 20 times you missed seeing me and/or my family, but not once did you ever reach out to see if everything was okay or to say you missed us or that you were thinking of me. I am also pretty sure if you had not run into me today you would have gone through the entire summer without reaching out. It was nice to see you and I hope your kiddos are doing well and enjoying their summer. I am sure we will see one another when school begins. Have a nice night.”

She was shocked and just kind of stared at me as I walked away. Her husband stopped me in another aisle and apologized for her and told me they were just caught up in life and he hoped all was okay with my family and me. I explained that there was no apology necessary and that life gets the best of everyone sometimes. I meant it. I have been there, we all have.

I know some of you may think my response was harsh but for me I was just being honest. I am sure she meant well but sometimes we need to tell the hard truth. It isn’t to be mean or hurtful but to bring awareness. If you noticed I was missing in action for the second half of the school year and claimed to have missed me, then why didn’t you ever reach out? If you are asking yourself if I reached out during that time, that answer is “No I did not.” I also did not expect everyone to reach out to me. I did not have any expectations. But if you are going to take the time to rattle off all the things I was not attending and say you missed me, then you open yourself up to my response.

The second half of this past school year I was missing in action because my daughter got very sick very fast. Every day was about figuring out what was wrong with her, getting her through each day as safely and calmly as we could, researching ways to help get her well again – all while trying to maintain some normalcy and routine in our family. It felt like we were at the doctor’s office almost daily, made multiple emergency room visits and fought to get in with specialists. She needed a medical leave from school and had a surgery. Other than getting my kids to and from school, my family and I did not do much else. I was caught up in our life. I wasn’t reaching out to many people because I was barely getting through my days and every ounce of me was needed by my family.

I didn’t have any expectations from friends or acquaintances or even family. I was just grateful every day for the love and support we had and focused on the blessings that continued to surround us in the midst of the chaos. We had so many people rally in support, prayer and encouragement. I valued the honesty from people who didn’t know what was happening. I was blown away by the dedication, concern, love and flexibility of the staff at our daughter’s school. I cherished the simple smiles from strangers.

I wasn’t even fully aware until my daughter began healing how crazy those five months really were or how much we had missed. Even my closest family and friends will attest to the fact that unless they reached out to me it could be days or weeks before they would hear from me, unless I was sending a group text with an update. I did my best to remember birthdays, to write a card in the middle of the night if I was thinking of someone, respond to texts/emails/phone calls, to keep up with the events happening at each of the schools and everything else that is “normal” life. I also know I failed at a lot of things during this time. My best at the time was good for some and not for others and that is okay.

What is my point in telling you this story? Awareness is my point. As humans, we need to do a better job of being aware of ourselves, our environment and those around us. We need to value community and relationships. We need to open our hearts and be the example for the children who are paying attention.

Most of us mean well and many times do not realize our actions or words hurt others because that wasn’t our intention. At the same time, most of us do not speak up when someone’s actions or words hurt us. Why? How can we all grow and become better humans if we don’t speak up and if we don’t listen? I feel like we complicate life by letting so much get in the way of what really matters.

Here are a few things that we all need to be reminded of at times:

  • When you are wrapped up in your own life, own it with no excuses. It happens to everyone.
  • Everyone is going through something and everyone handles life differently. There is no right way. Be kind with yourself and others.
  • When you miss someone, reach out and let them know. You can text, call, email, message on social media or send a card. A simple act can mean the world to someone going through a tough time or whose life is just a bit crazy right now.
  • When you see routine patterns of people change drastically there is a reason why. The reason can be good or bad. Regardless of the reason, someone noticing (in a non-gossipy way) means a lot.
  • If you thought about that person but just never acted on reaching out for whatever reason, tell them that. Your honestly will be appreciated.
  • Do not do something for someone or reach out expecting a specific response or something in return. You will not always know your actions or words mattered. That is okay but I can assure you they did.
  • Interact with the people around you even if it is just holding the door for someone and saying hello as you leave the post office.
  • Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

I implore you to reach out to that person you are missing, that you have not seen or that you simply noticed just has not been around recently. I encourage you to be more aware and to value the relationships in your life. I hope you will be honest, share your heart, be present and be an example for others. Simple gestures can make an enormous impact.

Taralee A. O’Malley-Hurff is an educator, a philanthropist and a published author. Her book, 100 Things To Do Before You Are 10, is the go to resource for family bonding and adventure. Taralee has passionately contributed to the fields of special education and early childhood education since 1998, meeting her students as needed in the home or in school. She excels at recognizing each child’s unique gift and successfully ignites their love of learning through exploration, discovery and play. It is through this work that Inspired Education was born. As a philanthropist, Taralee currently serves as the President of the Board of Trustees for the Southern Regional New Jersey Early Intervention Collaborative. This is her 6th year as a Board Member. Taralee enjoys family life in Southern New Jersey with her husband and three children.

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