This afternoon the kids and I had lunch at an outdoor wine bar near the house.  We split two chicken Caesar salads and all enjoyed some fresh squeezed lemonade; what can I say, we are really living dangerously out here in southern California.

The great thing about the restaurant we went to, besides the wine that we weren’t there to enjoy, is the Jazz trio that performs live every Sunday afternoon.  I’ve only recently come to appreciate Jazz music and that is largely due to the influence of my cousin, and Jazz author, Mick Carlon whose passion for Jazz is infectious. I believe it’s the improvisation I appreciate the most when it comes to Jazz; the art form really breaks the rules, remains countercultural, and is arguably America’s greatest contribution to the world (it’s certainly not our politicians).

The salads were delivered when the trio began playing Yesterday by The Beatles.  A saxophone performed the vocal duties and, because a vocalist wasn’t present, I immediately began to hear the lyrics in my head.  At that moment I was struck by the fact that I’ve probably heard this song hundreds of times yet rarely do I ever reflect on the beauty contained in the lyrics.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

Now it looks as though they’re here to stay

Oh, I believe in yesterday

Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be

There’s a shadow hanging over me.

Oh, yesterday came suddenly

Why she had to go I don’t know she wouldn’t say

I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday

Since the song is so well known and I have heard it so many times, I simply take these lyrics for granted and don’t really hear them when they are sung and it is only when they are missing that I actually reflect on them.  It’s not unlike driving the same route to work every day and not noticing the beauty in the scenery around you; everything is rote (apologies to those of you reading this who commute in NJ as you won’t understand what I mean when I say “the beauty in the scenery around you”). Unfortunately, this creeps into our personal lives and relationships as well; the routines we establish with those we are closet to lead to our not noticing and appreciating little things that others due for us daily.

Our taking for granted those actions leads to feelings of resentment and under appreciation by the other.  Resentment then slowly builds like pressure in a volcano until it erupts into an argument; steam is emitted and angry words flow like lava until they eviscerate the guilty person who has now been reminded of the importance of saying “thank you,” and “I appreciate you,” more frequently.

Unfortunately, it takes those eruptions to make all of us who are guilty of taking another for granted to open our eyes and see our own faults. Seeing someone we love with all our heart and soul get so angry at us sparks us into action; the fear of not having them in our lives is like a shadow hanging over us, but sometimes it takes that fear to spring us into action and “wake up!”

Perhaps that’s what the problem was in the relationship McCartney was singing about in Yesterday; maybe the “she” being sung about about was tired of being taken for granted. Maybe she had enough, screamed, “I’m done,” and stormed off into the waiting arms of Eric Clapton (note, this example would make much more sense if George Harrison sang Yesterday).

The point is, we are all guilty of taking others for granted but we can do little things to show others how much we appreciate them.  Surprising someone with flowers and a card or perhaps a hand written love note in place of a honey do list can go a long way to making another person feel that all of the sacrifices and time they spent doing things on our behalf is appreciated.  Like Jazz music though, these actions should be improvised so that they are not predictable and never become expected; for if they are expected, the intent and behind them won’t be felt as it too will be taken for granted.

So I challenge each and everyone of you reading this – all four of you and even those of you in New Jersey – to find some small yet significant way to express your gratitude to someone in your life whom you have a tendency to take for granted.  Maybe it’s a spouse, okay – likely it is a spouse – but it could also be a child, a parent, or a friend who is always there for you when you need to vent but whom you rarely make time for otherwise.  Do something for this person to show them that you appreciate all they do – and have done – for you and you will find that you will not only brighten their day, but yours as well.