One year ago, we moved into our home in an older, established neighborhood. For the most part, kids have grown and gone, and their nearly or newly retired parents remain. A few younger families dot the tree-lined landscape.
One of the first questions many of our new neighbors asked us when we moved in was, “Are you staying?”
Apparently, this house has had a great deal of turnover. Numerous families have come and gone over the past decade. We are well aware that little maintenance has been performed on the property. Over the past twelve months, we’ve pulled bushes, cut down trees, spread mulch, installed hardscaping, refinished the deck, repainted the fencing… and that’s just the beginning of what needs to be done.
But that question: “Are you staying?” has stuck with us. Are they concerned about the state of the yard? The house? Our hearts? Some neighbors have given us a warm welcome. Others have not. George has suggested we put a sign in the yard that reads: Whether we stay or not, get to know us. You’ll like us.
I think it’s a grand idea.
It’s funny to me, this notion of “Are you staying?” and the unspoken assumption that only an unequivocal yes will motivate a certain few to open their arms… or their hearts.
We plan to stay here — at least — until all the kids graduate from high school. And the more I sit lakeside with a book and a breeze, the longer our intended tenure grows. But the truth is… not one of us can answer the “Are you staying?” question with any certainty. Life marches forward, the wind shifts, jobs change, people fall in and out of love. At some juncture, we’ll all breathe our last breath. No one knows when. No one knows how.
So whether someone plans to stay or not is irrelevant. What we have is now. This moment. It is all we’re guaranteed. Why would we wait to reach out? Why would we hesitate to connect? Why would we require all the dandelions be eradicated before we say hello?
Are we so protective of our fragile hearts that we’d rather keep them locked up tight than risk a bruise or a break… or even a giddy, dizzying happiness? Have we worked ourselves into such an overcommitted frenzy that we no longer have time to greet one another?
The wonder of this life — both the beauty and the bane — is that it constantly evolves. Nothing really stays the same. Forever friendships sometimes aren’t; babies grow into teens; we become great-aunts, grandmothers, great-grandfathers. We change homes, states, countries. Brown hair turns gray, size 10s bloom into size 14s. Wrinkles line our eyes, our smiles, the backs of our hands. Loved ones let go… sometimes, even, while we are desperately trying to hold on.
I am not the same person I was two years ago.
I am not the same person I was two sentences ago.
But instead of looking back toward what might have been, why wouldn’t we choose to say, “Hello. I’m here. You’re here. Let’s enjoy today.” Whether or not we’re destined to become BFFs matters little. We humans were not meant to traverse this world alone.
And some of the greatest life lessons I’ve learned are from those who have chosen not to stay.
Instead of asking, “Are you staying?” think about asking these questions instead:
What’s your name?
What makes you happy?
Who inspires you?
Do you enjoy hot ham and cheese sandwiches?
What interests you?
Who’s your favorite author?
What kind of wine do you prefer?
Bring brownies and conversation and a smile.
Dare to offer your carefully guarded heart to a stranger, to risk, to trust. Life is short and uncertain. Choose to live it — even without a money back guarantee.
I promise to do the same.
And I make some mean brownies.