When words fail

When I was 23, I met a man who swept me off my feet. He was 29 and tall, had a warm smile, soft hands, and deep curious eyes. He was an economist who one day just packed his bags, went to the mountains and disappeared. I met him on a gap moment, when he literally came out of his cave to reconnect with society. To wide-eyed me, who’s never met a hippie before, he was beautiful.

He told me these words:

You can only hold me accountable for what I say and do, when I say and do it.

At that time, it didn’t make sense to me. How can you have friends that way? How can you love that way? With no one to hold you to your word, with no word to even be given. He was big on the NOW, on what’s present. I remember him catching me once with a faraway look, and he asked me what I was thinking. I said I remembered my family back home (I was away on a solo trip abroad then), and he asked me to just look at him, be 100% with him. The way he was with me.

Maybe that’s why it was so intoxicating to be around him–I had his whole attention. For the moments that he was with me, I had all of him.

I’ve only come to understand what all that meant, what it entailed from his end.

I used to think of it as selfish. When he was present, he was wholly present, but when he was gone, he was also wholly gone. Not letting people call on him, or expect anything from him was short of saying “I live for myself.”

But I’ve also come to see the truth in it, in enjoying and loving what’s before us, when it’s before us.

For one thing, it’s given me a deeper appreciation of impermanence. Everything passes.

Whether it’s for better or for worse that I now see and understand this, I’m still not sure. But here’s what’s been hovering over me lately: Talk is cheap. Promises are easy to say out loud, ideals easily laid out and put to words.

We say a lot of things we don’t mean. Most of us plead guilty to this when we do small talk. But how often do we do this to people who are dear to us? Sometimes, it’s better to just hold our tongue and let actions do the talking. Let how we give people our most valuable gift — our time — be the judge of what we really want to say.

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