Being the last born in a birth order of two, I have a much different experience than my older sibling. Reflecting back, I can see what wasn't known to me then. I was handed much and gave back little. I was given countless rides to school, extra lunch or music money, clothing to borrow, advice, new shoes, opportunities to get out of the house (Tower Records, college town, etc), pretty much anything I wanted. I didn't have anyone next in birth order coveting my things, so I could argue there wasn't anyone to really learn to share my space, belongings, time, attention. I probably didn't even realize how much my sister (and parents) gave and gave and gave. I probably didn't thank them or realize how generous they were giving because I had just grown to expect this. I didn't know anything different, but should have seen the giving. I could have (and can be) a better sister.
Today I went to visit an elderly friend, Margie. She has a brain tumor that has been operated on in the past, but keeps growing back. It can no longer be operated on at this stage in her life. She has recently had two heart attacks. This was the first year in my life I have had the desire to be a surgeon. I hated that there was nothing I could really do for Margie's heart. All I could do was stand at her feet in the hospital and look into her eyes and tell her I wished I could keep her from having any more heart attacks. I don't think that was so helpful, we both started to cry. I just wanted to kick myself in the face that night, I didn't have any great words to say or even a flower for her.
Each month I visit her and I normally bring a healthy snack. Once she let me borrow a book she had about eathquakes because she knew how much they freaked me out. Today she gave me a gift- a paper organizer/ planner. She couldn't have given me a more timely gift. She must have had a vision of the notebooks and paper lists littering my kitchen I never know how to use properly. Today I only brought her popcorn. I left feeling like I have been so cheating her of things I can offer over the several months I have been visiting her. I have talents and things she could probably use and surely I haven't thought about it long enough or hard enough. Her caregiver was bringing in bags of used clothing someone else dropped off at the curb. Someone else brought her to the hospital last week because her nose kept bleeding. I didn't even know about it until today. How the hell is popcorn really going to make Margie's life better? I am a crappy friend.
Tara burned the new Death Cab CD for me before the concert so I could learn it. I was so excited to return the favor and share an old album so she, too, could learn the words. But I didn't make it a priority and it kept slipping my mind, she still doesn't have it and the concert is long over.
I took pictures of a birthday party for a friend, she made a fabulous cake that looked like a train, I should have not only burned those pictures onto a dic for her, but freaking sent a photo of it into Martha because it was that awesome. It's been several months (9) and she still doesn't have the pictures. Friend of the year strikes again.
I saw Jim outside, the neighbor across the street who has valley fever, cancer, and recently had shoulder surgery. He asked me about my move and packing as I was stuffing the kids into the car. I responded quickly with a smile. As I drove away I realized I forgot to ask him how he was recovering from his recent surgery. I could be a better neighbor.
I often start phone conversations with friends blabbering on and on about whatever my anxiety of the hour or week is without first asking about their current events. Why do they even pick up the phone when I call? I suck as a friend. It needs to stop.
I think of the rumor I heard once how investment bankers keep notes in a paper rolodex of everything they possibly can about their clients so when they speak they can get personal quickly without having to remember a lot. Things like their vacation destinations, name of their pets and kids, details about their hobbies. While that approach might be fake, I think my memory could use some better note taking on the important and routine people in my life.
I think it's good to bum out on myself sometimes because it's the only way I will be fired up enough to change and make goals to be better about a specific thing. My effort can be better.