As we go from year to year, we often look back and ask ourselves, “What if something had not happened…or we had made different decisions…would our life be different? Would it be better? Would I not have gone through certain sufferings..either physical, mental or emotional?”
It is normal to wonder about these things. It is not normal to be obsessed by them. We face certain moments when we have to look rationally at life and receive it for what it truly is. That is often hard to do, but it is essential. What has happened in our lives is what has made us who we are. We learn from these experiences…and in many cases find courage from them.
I take encouragement from William Wordsworth’s poem that speaks to our human mortality and ultimate immortality. There is a certain age when we finally see that we are mortal…and life will have an end. We always hope it is not soon, but we do not know. I think when my Mother passed away two years ago, at age 93, I , for the first time in my life…counted the years that I may have left. I know that those years will pass quickly…as the ones in past have done. It was a wake-up call that I did not really receive…but knew I had to do so.
What was that “wake-up call”? It was the knowledge that I could continue to look backwards…at especially difficult times …like decisions family members have made that hurt; sickness, death and more other things that could be named. There may not be an answer for any of these.
I could also worry about things that have not happened…and may never happen. If we are truthful with ourselves we can not live our present life in a past experience or our present life in a future experience that we may never have. We only have now.
Wordsworth used the birds and lambs as example of enjoying and glorying in the life of Spring. He was going to join them in this experience and learn to feel “gladness”. I want to feel gladness. That may mean stopping to hear that bird. It may mean listening to a child laugh. It might be just closing my eyes and feeling the sun’s warmth on my face.
Wordsworth continues that some things in life…perhaps the innocence of childhood …were wonderful times. Nothing can bring that back. For some, childhood was not a joy…but perhaps a life with a husband that is now gone…was joyful. Whatever those happy experiences were…they are the “splendor in the grass…”. He likens this to the beauty of a “flower”…but we all know that the flower does not last forever. Life in the past was lived and life that is now is what “remains”. We then find “strength” and courage for today from the good of the past.
May you find that to be true in 2014.
A part of William Wordsworth’s famous Ode: “INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY FROM RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD”
Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song! And let the young Lambs bound As to the tabor's sound! We in thought will join your throng, Ye that pipe and ye that play, Ye that through your hearts to-day Feel the gladness of the May! What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now for ever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind..." Complete poem by Wordsworth Pictures by Robert Berdan