Renewing Relationships

By Rick Fullerton | Bio

Earlier this month, I was away from home for over a week on business. In itself, this is not a big deal. Lots of people travel more frequently and farther than I do. Yet for me, this trip was filled with unexpected feelings of gratitude and wonder.

At the outset, it was to be a routine work trip to two cities to conduct seminars at the completion of the MBA course I teach. What set this apart was the opportunity to be in Calgary, the home of Canada’s energy sector and fastest-growing city in the country. But it wasn’t the booming economy or the shocking growth that impressed me. Rather, it was being able to connect and have time with friends and family members whom I haven’t seen in many years that touched me in ways I did not expect.

There were introductions to adult cousins whom I had last seen when they were in elementary school, first meetings with their partners, and even a beautiful new baby. Similarly, I visited close colleagues with whom I had worked decades ago—colleagues who had played key roles in my career and who became dear friends. We shared stories of who we were, who we had become and who we might be. It was an opportune occasion to renew our relationships and a delight being together in real time with all these wonderful people.

Such visits are like time-lapse photography, enabling us to see people and relationships in ways that go unnoticed in our normal routines. Not surprisingly, our day-to-day routines push those who are distant to the back burner: there seems scarcely enough time to stay connected with more immediate family and friends.

Since returning home, I have mulled over the gifts of this trip and reflected on how relationships evolve in the absence of regular personal contact. Were these visits so intense because my contact with these people is likely to be even less frequent in the future? We all ‘know’ that the odds of dying increase with age, and I was certainly aware that I might not be in Calgary again—ever—given the distance and costs involved.

This trip has inspired me look at the quality of time I have with those close to me. I am reminded of the popular adages about living in the ‘here and now’ and about ‘being present’. I was fully present with others and aware of myself in my visits. And as I write this blog a couple of weeks later, I am recognizing that many of my routine contacts with people I see on a daily or weekly basis lack the richness and intensity of my recent trip.

I know that who I am and how I show up make a difference in my relationships. I also recognize that I am not always ‘on’—sometimes I am distracted, unfocused or in neutral. So the question I am uncovering remains: can I at least be ‘present’ enough to remember my intention to give my best and my commitment to being fully present when I am with the people who know me best in those ordinary, everyday settings? I trust my friends, family and colleagues will have compassion with any momentary lapses when I am not fully ‘present’ with them. I am, after all, like them, only human.