This is Us can be corny, right? The “moral” of one episode stuck with me, though. I can’t remember the exact specifics now, but, on the opening night of Kevin’s play, he focused on the empty seat – one he was saving for a critic. When he complained about it, his girlfriend (I think?) told him to instead focus on the seats that were filled. Seats by his brother and sister and girlfriend. People who genuinely wanted to cheer him on. Those who supported him. Those were the seats that mattered.
I co-hosted a party a few weeks ago for my friend who moved to Florida, and the next day, the conversation was not who came to the party… it was who was NOT in attendance. A lot of great people showed up to wish her good luck. People who’d been at work all day and had to do it all over again in the morning. People who lived over an hour away. People who wanted to connect and celebrate and wish well. And a few people had to ruin a positive thing by complaining about the ones who weren’t there.
It’s a theme that’s been prevalent throughout my life, and yet, I am one of those people for whom that shit does not matter. I have an understanding of two things: one, people are busy. They have work and life and get sick and what if they just want to take a freaking bubble bath in their free time instead? It’s precious! And two, they don’t have a sense of “obligation”, which I find admirable, in a way. I remember going to a baby shower for a distant family member who I didn’t feel connected to (for various reasons, which I will not waste discussing here). My family insisted I attend when I asked why I had to be there. One of my family members said, “because don’t you want her to come to your shower one day?” Honestly? No. That’s not the way I’m wired. I want people to celebrate me because they love me and want to be part of my celebrations and pick me up during my defeats. Even if that’s only one person. I don’t want someone to be there because they feel an obligation. We all deserve better, don’t we?
So I’ve stopped showing up to anything I felt obligated to attend. Perhaps that sounds harsh, but, time is limited and I can’t cross the state going to every shower and party for women I have only spoken to twice in ten years. If they don’t know where I work, or live, or bother to see if I’m alive sporadically, what’s the point? And I would say the same to them. It can be hard to let go of relationships from the past. But let’s focus our efforts into cultivating the relationships of now.
Embrace the ones who are there. Extend grace to the ones who weren’t. Life is complicated and it’s not a popularity contest. I’d rather have one genuine person celebrating me than 100 people who don’t give a shit. Let’s stop focusing negative energy on an empty fucking chair. Instead remember the ones who filled the seats. The ones who showed up. The ones who come not caring if you reciprocate. The ones who always support and love and inquire and care.
What are your thoughts on this topic?