How Ya Been?

The other day I bumped into an acquaintance and before I could form a thought I found myself saying what I always seem to say to someone I know and run into by accident, “How ya been?”

We say it all the time to people on the street, people we meet standing in line, to old friends we haven’t talked to in years, to friends we saw last week. It gives us time to formulate other ingenious statements like, “You look great. Have you lost some weight? We should get together for lunch. Don’t be a stranger.” We go through life having small, inconsequential conversations with strangers, family and friends, pausing just long enough to not interrupt our made up schedule to get where we believe we need to be. For most people, life isn’t about what we put into it but what we get out of it.

I hadn’t seen Candice in two weeks. Last time we saw each other I heard about her husband’s promotion, her new Mercedes Coupe and her ski trip coming up to Squaw Valley. There wasn’t enough time to do all the things in her busy schedule. She was rushing. Almost so fast she couldn’t see herself coming or going. It had only been two weeks.

“Hi Candice, how ya been?”

“Fine, I guess, no, not really; it’s been kind of tough.”

Her statement caught me by surprise. “Oh, I’m sorry, what’s up?”

“My brother was carjacked the day after I saw you last.”

“My God, is he okay?”

“His funeral was last week. He was only nineteen.”

“I’m sorry, is there anything I can do?”

“Yesterday I was with my mother, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her oncologist says all we can do is make her comfortable.” Suddenly, Candice’s schedule wasn’t so busy. At least not with planning ski trips or spa appointments or galas. Her made up schedule of important things to do was now filled with the reality of life, the reality of death, the reality of loss. Most of us have busy schedules of our creation. Sometimes life reorganizes it. On September 11th, 2001 everyone’s schedule came to a halt and we were all forced to be on the same page, face the same truths, the same fears, the same realities. We all became one. We had real conversations for the first time in years. Divisions fell, hypocrisies melted, bigotries were set aside. As a nation that was coming apart at the seams, we were suddenly sewn tighter than ever as we became a country united. It took the loss of thousands of lives to wake us out of our slumber and staged conversations as we were caught sleep walking through our lives. Not realizing what was important from what wasn’t.

Candice reminded me that since September 11th, not all at once, we were slowly falling asleep again. Creating false priorities, false promises, and false realities.

In less than six months we were forgetting the valuable lessons that 9/11 had to offer. We aren’t going to live forever. There is only one of us. Love shouldn’t be rationed out and there isn’t anything that we can’t do if we work together.

Candice left my office almost in a daze. A daze we all go through when life makes us go left when we thought we were going right. My question is does it really take a tragedy for us to appreciate the things we’ve always had in our life but forgot were there? Does it really take a catastrophe for us to tell the ones we love how lucky we are to have them in our lives? I hope not. My wish is for all of us to slow down, throw away our “To Do” lists and realize we all have everything we ever needed to be happy. Ourselves!

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®