Friday, June 13, 2014

Make the Call

In 2012, I read a book that hit close to the bone. Off the Leash by Jean Ellen Whatley tells of one woman's cross-country journey to visit old haunts, old friends, and long-missed family. Her road trip with trusted canine companion, Libby, takes her along 8,000 miles of highway dotted with memories where she dives deep into the darkness and still emerges with a razor-sharp wit that made me laugh out loud. Still other parts made me cry as I pointed to the page and whispered, "Me, too." Then there's that mess of an ex-husband in jail and a brother she'd never met. 

I found the book (or did the book find me?) while planning my own road trip to visit family I had not seen in nearly 20 years. My nerves were shaky as I drove closer to my family's home, but the negative voices in my head were silenced at the sight of my aunt's vibrant smile and hugs that felt like home. Whatley's book, which I finished reading just before I set out on my cross-country journey, gave me the emotional boost to forget schedules and deadlines, forget old hurts and forgotten phone calls, forget all the reasons we tell ourselves that we don't have time or that we shouldn't call or visit or write. All of those reasons are meaningless, really. 

"To put off going to see someone you love is folly. Go today. Go this week. Book your ticket tonight. Go see them. Tell them they mattered." -- Jean Ellen Whatley

What was found on my journey was not only re-connection with family but also with who I used to be -- that good and happy girl, born of prime Midwestern stock who knows who she is. Or was. Or is again. And I waited for years to discover this because I was too afraid to call after not calling for so many years. Talk about your vicious cycles.

But maybe timing is everything.

I say this as I remember a great line from the movie Big Eden. The matriarchal figure, played by Louise Fletcher, explains to Henry (Arye Gross) how much the family missed him since he moved away and stayed away many years before. She reminds him that when a child is lost in the woods, they should stay where they are, not wander off, and wait for the family to find them. She continues, saying how she had been waiting for Henry (an adult) to stop running (figuratively) from his hometown so she could find him (emotionally). "We were waiting for you to be ready to be found," she said.

Timing may indeed be the deciding factor for any real growth in our lives. We have to be ready for the change or the change may wait until we are ready. Like the child lost in the woods, if we keep running, darting in every direction, we lessen our chance of finding the connection that will change us from lost to found. The running needs to stop. Stop it right now. 

Go today. What waits on the other side of fear is
worth all the effort it takes to get through it.
While on my road trip, I scribbled a few words that felt right at the time. They still do. I keep them posted over my desk so I remember how important it is to stop all the excuses and reach out to others. "Make the calls that are hard to make. Write the letters that are hard to write. Knock on the doors that are hard to approach. It will be worth it." Indeed it will. 

Earlier this week, I put an end to two-years of excuses for not writing a letter to someone who made a difference in my life. We have never met, but her work and example prompted me to change my life. After two years of saying to myself, "I need to write her a letter" I finally did it (yeah, way to take my own advice by waiting two years). I finally wrote it last week, sending it with a 'click' of the button and not expecting anything in return. A thank you, given from the heart, does not need a response. It is given as the gesture of gratitude and not as one of want. It's the give, not the get. It was a hard letter for me to write but the click of the computer mouse signaled the release of a long-unspoken 'thank you' that hung over my shoulder for far too long, begging to be spoken. 

I write these words directly to you, dear reader. If someone made a difference in your life, tell them. If someone has been long missing from your life, write them. If someone means something to you, call them. Do it now. Don't let time and excuses and fear stop you any longer. Go. Do it. Now. Speak from your heart. Odds are, they will be glad to hear from you. Possibly, they are just as afraid to make the call. On the slim chance it does not go well, at least you tried, and you can finally end years of "I need to call . . . " Either way, it will be worth it. It will be so worth it.

A few days after I sent the thank you letter, I received a reply, and the words contained within sent me soaring. You see, she wondered if her work would make a difference. My words of appreciation were not only words I needed to say but ones she needed to hear. Thankfully, all the second-guessing I did before I hit 'send' did not win. It was sent. It was said. It needed to be heard. It was worth it.

Had I stumbled upon Off the Leash at any other time in my life, it may not have had the same impact. The timing would have been off for me. Somehow, it found its way into my life at the exact moment I needed to read it, the moment I was ready to hear it. It was the summer I was ready to be found.

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If you would like to know more about Jean Ellen Whatley, her dog Libby, and her journey of reconciliation and rebirth, visit her webpage here and pick up a copy of Off the Leash

8 comments:

  1. All I can say it thank you. Oh, and, you're a good writer. Peace and love forever.
    Jean

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    1. That glow in the distance? That's my smile right now. Thank you for this.

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  2. Rita, what a lovely column! It underscores my own recent thoughts of maintaining connections with people and how important that is. Thank you for sharing your adventures!

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    1. Hi Randi -- So glad you are here. Thank you for the kind words. This was a great week, and it all spilled out of me.

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  3. Awesome, as always, Reeetah! XOXO

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  4. Thanks for the reminder. Life is too short not to do the things that need to be done - the *really* important things.

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    1. Oh, dear me, How did I miss this comment? So very sorry for my delay in responding. I am so happy you enjoyed the post. Much light and peace to you :-)

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