Did you know that if you leave a cucumber in the fridge too long it liquefies?
I do now.
Did you know that if garlic sits too long unused it sprouts growths?
Learned that last year.
Did you know that if you leave a cup too long on your great-grandmother’s wooden dresser it leaves a white foggy ring that looks like it’ll go away, but really never does?
Did you know that you can get permanent dents in your fingers from an odd handwriting position?
I bet you knew that if you didn’t pay off your credit card bills they wouldn’t just magically disappear.
In life, leaving things on their own typically results in negative consequences. Call it the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Call it The Fall, or the sin-cursed world. Whatever the reason, many things in life require constant input in order to improve, or even to survive.
This is a problem for people like me: people whose first instinct at any sign of distress is to pretend it doesn’t exist. Some people say I’m calm and stress-free. I say I’m in denial. (Now, major crises are a different story; for some reason I find it easy to remain calm and work my way through getting in a car crash or finding out your car’s been stolen. When this happened a couple months ago, my first thought was, “Rats I’m late for work. Better start walking! Oh wait… I should probably call the police or something.”)
But the everyday little things that cause confusion or concern are prime pickings for the ignore pile. If I get an email I don’t know how to answer, I push it off until I forget about it. If I don’t want to do my dishes, I sit in my bedroom where I can’t see them. If my car insurance goes up unexpectedly, there’s a strong chance I won’t even log onto the website to find out why. Bad memories go into the same conveniently-forgotten heap, only to be unearthed in my private nightmares and the occasional teasing sibling. Let’s just pretend I’ve never done anything remotely embarrassing.
So I push off things and circumstances in hopes they’ll go away. Unfortunately, there’s one important aspect of life that goes stagnant (and sometimes sour) if left alone. Relationships thrive on regular communication; ignoring a person that I don’t understand or don’t know how to deal with is just as tempting as ignoring my growing pile of laundry.
This is a confession. I’ve let relationships fizzle merely because I didn’t know how to continue. I’ve read emails and texts with the intention of responding – later – only to find myself relieved that it’s been “too long” and a response would no longer be expected. I guess I figured that if I pretended someone didn’t exist, they would do the same to me. I was wrong.
And because I’ve experienced my own shortcomings on this front, over the last year or two I’ve pushed myself to the other extreme when it comes to family and close friends. In college I would talk to my parents once a month, maybe. Now I email my mother 2-3 times a week. I make it a point to have meaningful conversations when I’m with my friends. Bro #2 and his wife live nearby, and it is so easy to go weeks without even seeing or talking to one another – but we don’t. Because if we began to ignore one another, we could never go back to the thriving relationship we once enjoyed. It takes a lot of listening; it takes a lot of being courageous and just asking those awkward, “how are you really doing?” questions. It takes answering that question yourself. Sometimes it means sitting in silence or watching a movie or listening to music that you’re not particularly comfortable with. It takes time, dedication, and love. It could take saying no to some new close relationships in order to preserve the ones you already have. You only have so much of yourself to give.
Some people may say I don’t communicate enough. Some might call me obsessive. No matter. I will not let any more of my relationships turn into liquefied cucumbers.