January 18, 2017

On Being There

In primary school, my mom would put two packs of M&Ms into my lunchbox each day; one for me, and one to share with my friends. If you know my mom at all, that's the least surprising thing in the world. She's thoughtful and giving in a way that's so extreme, it seems like the exaggerated quality of a sitcom character. For years she kept an entire kitchen cabinet stocked with foods for any guests. A corner of the fridge, too.

It all started out well, the whole extra-pack-of-M&Ms situation. Day after day, I'd pass the 2nd pack around the table, each of my close friends grabbing a few. As weeks turned into months, though, that friend group grew a bit larger, and I still had just two packs of M&Ms. There weren't enough in that 2nd pack to go around, so one day, I decided to share my pack, too. 

It's obvious where this is going, right? Because eventually, of course, I was passing out both packs of M&Ms each day. They were my favorite little treat in the lunchbox, but at some point, I decided it wasn't worth hurting anyone's feelings. I just wanted everyone to feel included.

Things clearly could've been handled by, you know, not bringing M&Ms anymore. Or not passing them out at all. Or realizing that, duh, hello, nobody cared nearly as much as I thought they did. But I was 8, or maybe 9, and extra sensitive, and everything felt like a big deal.

I didn't tell my mom about it, because she probably would've started putting 3 packs in there and all hell would've broken loose. My brother was the one I turned to, and after I explained the situation, he looked at me with such a blank expression that I started to repeat myself.

"There's a solution."
"What is it?" I asked.
"Don't have as many friends."

Oh, to be a boy, right? I've mulled over and laughed about his quick reply several times over the years. That conversation took place more than 2 decades ago, but it still feels relevant. In 2nd grade you hand out candies, and at 20-something, it's phone calls, dinner dates, your time.

The thing is, it's incredibly hard to be there for all the ones you love in exactly the way you really want to be there. That's a conversation I seem to be having with so many people lately, all of us feeling stretched just a bit too thin. Sometimes you have to settle for sending a text instead of making a phone call, or mailing a gift instead of making the trip, and all the while you feel sort of terrible about it. In different phases of your life, there just isn't enough of you to go around, and unfortunately, that may be when you're needed the most.

People I love are marking milestones, and so am I, and I've come to realize that it can be hard to keep up. There just aren't enough M&Ms for everybody, you know? And that's okay! Even if it feels like it isn't. You just have to do your best and be honest with yourself, because it's impossible to be there, all out, for all the people you care about most. Especially when you don't quite have things figured out for yourself just yet.

This is a small reminder, for myself mostly, that by all means, you should be there whenever you can. Show up, show your love, and make it count. And when you can't? Skip the phone call and send the text. I'm sure it still means something. 

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