Take, for example, my first born son. Years of living with him at home, expecting him to be there every night, knowing he was asleep in his room, that he would be joining us at the kitchen table…all those things and more had a tendency to reduce him.
It a corollary to the old adage…familiarity breeds contempt. In human relationships, especially, familiarity shrinks others. The more we know someone (or think we do), the more familiar they become…the less important they become.
It’s tricky. That other person becomes so much a part of your life that they begin to lose significance in your life. You take their presence, their contribution, their sound or smell or impact as they walk in the room for granted. You expect it, and therefore you reduce it. It is not something that you have to work for. Eventually it becomes something you don’t have to prioritize.
And you find yourself ignoring that person, because they are not a squeaking wheel. They are there; they are a part of the landscape. Other things, the things that are urgent but not necessarily important, grab your attention and suck your energy.
Then, one day, that other person is gone. Even though I helped him find a place to live, helped him pack, helped him move, hugged him goodbye at his new place…the moment came when my first born son was no longer in my landscape. He was not on the couch, watching TV with me. He was not at the dinner table. I did not hear him in his bathroom, brushing his teeth before bed. He did not come into my room, sit on my bed as he had done for years, and talk about the day. He was not asleep in his bed. He was gone.
And suddenly, he moved from being a blip on my landscape to the biggest thing in my life. I found myself thinking about him every moment of every day. Missing him. Yearning for him. Understanding how I had missed moments with him because of his familiarity. Resenting myself for letting other things take priority over him.
So, despite what the laws of physics tell you, there are some things – some people – that get bigger as they go. Our greatest work is to keep them big while they are still with us. Don’t let familiarity cause diminishment. Don’t let the urgent rob you of the important.
Keep them big now…and you won’t be crushed by them later as they inevitably go.