A year ago things were different. Before my brother (in-law) Eddy died a few months ago, I felt different, for obvious reasons. I also never realized that something was slowly brewing inside me, an energy that would reveal a bigger part of me.
Shortly after Eddy passed, I read a note he wrote about me years ago for a Change Management college course project I had completed. The assignment required me to ask my friends and family members to write something about the positive qualities they saw in me. Eddy’s note was long-winded, which was his usual way. His words were encouraging, but there was one particular part that surprised me. He wrote: “I used to think Maribel was all potential, now I see she’s capable of being more and going after what she wants.” I was 22 at the time.
I had forgotten about Eddy’s note, until I read it again in December. Now, I think about it every time I feel like giving up on a goal. “Be more than just potential”, I tell myself. It’s true, for a long time I wanted to be or do certain things, but my excitement often died in the plans, never truly materializing as I would put off my goals for trivial reasons. For years I’ve said I wanted to be a writer, give back, volunteer, start my own business. Now I’m actively doing all of that.
There wasn’t a specific day when I woke up and decided to do these things and stick it out through the challenges. Through the critics, the doubters, the frustration, and high expectations. I just started doing things, and I didn’t even realize that my goals were actually materializing until now that I’m too invested to quit. I’m already smack in the middle of the doing and there’s no going back to just being potential. This is how I came to realize that Eddy’s death didn’t change me, it revealed me. It revealed what he knew I had in me. Now I see it in so many ways…
I feel Eddy when I have to comfort a client who’s stressed out. I hear him in my response to an employee who’s frustrated. I feel him when out of nowhere, I know the perfect thing to say when someone is down. I hear him when I encourage my niece or nephew to make good choices.
“And herein lies the gift that cannot die. [grief] changes the course of your life forever. If you allow yourself the chance to feel it for as long as you need to — even if it is for the rest of your life — you will be guided by it. You will become someone it would have been impossible for you to be, and in this way your loved one lives on, in you.” – Alison Nappi, 5 Lies You Were Told About Grief.”
A few months after re-reading Eddy’s note, I’m playing flag football, negotiating better on business deals, and learning to have tough conversations. I used to hate negotiating and I still cringe at the thought of having a potentially uncomfortable conversation, but now I know I can push through the discomfort and make it to the other side better off. Because it turns out that the most uncomfortable part about having a tough conversation with someone, is the part where you pick up the phone and dial their number.
Training for flag football has also been revealing to me. I’ve always been clumsy and lacking in athleticism, but the other day I caught more passes in an hour than in my entire life. On a more simpler note, I now actually drink whisky without choking, and even my dating life has been improving, although admittedly a bit slow since last October
I have no desire to put up with a**holes or bull sh!* because life’s too short to waste it on that. I decided that I’m done with the “what-ifs” and “should-haves”. In losing Eddy, I figured out that by being honest and having the uncomfortable conversations sooner, I can have more meaningful relationships with the people who actually want to be around me. Instead of spending time deciphering clues to try and figure out how someone feels about me.
The other night I was out with a friend, who I’d previously dated, when I realized I still had feelings for him. Sadly, I realized this while I watched him with another woman. It’s so stupid uncomfortable to watch this when you’re still vulnerable. But it’s especially uncomfortable to watch it, knowing you have no right to be upset over it.
I was in 6th grade the first time I ever experienced this. His name was Pablo, and I’d been secretly in love with him for years. Of course he never knew it, nor would it have mattered because I looked like a boy who liked wearing bows on his wild curly hair. All the other girls had pretty long straight hair, how could I ever compete with that?
One day after school, Pablo and a few of our friends were hanging out listening to Shakira’s “Pies Descalzos” album. You know, back when she was a brunette. She was half way through the second verse of “Estoy Aqui”, when I saw Pablo kiss one of my friends! I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach three times, and then pushed me down the stairs. I wanted to throw up and cry at the same time. “I can’t believe he would do that to me,” I told another friend quietly, “how dare he kiss a girl in front of me, doesn’t he know I’m secretly in love with him?!” And that’s when I first realized guys don’t have the mind-reading powers that women do. I never said anything to Pablo, I was too embarrassed, and this coping mechanism continued into my adulthood. Not surprisingly yielding less than stellar results in my relationships.
Fast-forward to yesterday, when I considered letting my pride get the best of me and spending the rest of spring passive aggressively pretending that my feelings for my friend were not real, and what I saw didn’t bother me. I considered not telling him how I felt and “playing it cool”. Which would probably lead to me further misreading the situation and wasting a lot of time thinking about scenarios that would never materialize. Then I heard Eddy telling me: “That’s a stupid waste of time”. Maybe it’s the effect of having a loved one die young that makes me finally understand the words God, or the universe, has been trying to reveal to me: “Your time here is short, don’t waste it!” Whatever it is, I finally realized that I don’t have to be that way anymore.
So instead of eating my feelings, I called to tell my friend how I felt, knowing that there was a significant chance I wouldn’t like the results. Still, I couldn’t go on pretending I was fine, hoping he would somehow read my mind. The result was liberating, and took less than five minutes to get. Sure it always stings when the other person doesn’t return your affection, but It’s so much easier to move on when you have the chance to air out your feelings and have an honest conversation. So now I can say with certainty that’s over. Great! What’s next?
I look forward to seeing what else will be revealed in me throughout the rest of my life…