I wish I’d expressed my feelings. When I think about the two words – regret and communication – in the same sentence, my grandfather comes to mind. I remember the day I learned that my grandfather had passed away. He was half a world away, on another continent, but that didn’t ease the intensity of the aftershock. Because of our family’s financial and political situation back then, we couldn’t even attend his funeral. I remember having to be the one who broke the news to my mom when she walked in the door from work. The expression that flooded her face as soon as she registered what I said is an expression I’ll never forget. Even to this day, when I reflect on what that looked like, it whacks me with pain and sorrow in a way no other memory can. As my mom spent the next few days mourning for her father in her room, alone, I found an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach as I realized I couldn’t share in her pain.
I don’t remember my grandfather very much. But a few years ago during one of my meditations, the memory of him came flooding back into conscious awareness. My grandfather was a very stoic man. Very stoic and stern, but sincere in his affection for his family. I’ve heard many surreal stories about the dinner table, and how he would eat scraps so that his five children and wife could enjoy the good stuff. When they’d have fish for dinner, he’d eat the parts like the fish eyes and head so that his kids could enjoy the flesh. As a little kid, I remember smelling his factory of belt buckles, the distinct metallic taste on my tongue as I breathed in the air at his factory below our house and fell asleep to the distinct whirring of machines that were always running as he created works of beauty with his bare hands. I also remember what a sensitive, self-conscious girl I was as I’d let waves of embarrassment wash over me when he would take me to school in the mornings on the back of his motorcycle. I’d ask him to drop me off a block away so none of my peers would see. I remember small details of my grandfather here and there, but it pains me to say that I don’t remember telling him how much I loved him. How much I admired his work ethic, and what it meant for me to have him as a male role model. How I wish I could be back on his motorcycle clutching at his waist, knowing that all was okay when I was on his motorcycle. All I have left now are intense stabbings of pain and tears of regret for never letting him know how I much I loved him. Miles between us and language barrier aside, I always let his intense presence take precedence to feelings of appreciation when it came to expressing myself around him.
Remembering to express yourself is a necessary part to living a meaningful life. Hiding your feelings or denying them because you’re afraid you’ll hurt someone’s feelings doesn’t serve anyone. Making yourself small doesn’t make someone else any bigger. Say what you mean, mean what you say. If you have to dig for what you mean, all the more valuable what it is you have to say.
1. Show appreciation. To family, friends, and strangers. For little acts and big. Always show appreciation.
2. Use kind words in expressing disappointment. Many times, we avoid conflict. Or we say too much in harsh ways that have no truth. Remember to use kind words in expressing your disappointment, and express what you’d love to see change in both your behavior and others’.
3. Speak up for yourself. I can’t stress this one enough. Your voice must be heard – no one else will champion your needs but yourself. Living in an empowered way begins with knowing your value and speaking to whoever will listen about the beauty of your singular presence.