This week: Life's CycleEdited by: Kittiara
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Did your life turn out the way you'd imagined it would when you were a child? Are any differences for the better or the worse?
This week's Spiritual Newsletter is all about the unpredictability of life.
I’m getting older. Sometimes, I don’t think about it. At other times, when I look in the mirror and spot some grey hairs, or when my lower back hurts a little when I carry some shopping bags, I am reminded that I am past the days of my youth.
On the one hand, I feel that I should embrace my age. I made it this far! That’s a good thing! On the other hand, I miss that time in my life when my future was wide open and full of possibility. And I regret not enjoying it more. Not taking certain opportunities when I was offered them. Being down on the way that I looked because, truly, when I now see pictures of myself at that age, I was nowhere near as bad as I thought. In fact, I was reasonably pretty.
Life is strange. When I was a child, I thought my parents were old and definitely grown-ups who knew everything and had everything sorted. I couldn’t wait to turn 13 – a teenager – because being a teenager was cool. And then I couldn’t wait to turn 18, because then I would be an adult and being an adult was surely a good thing to be. In my twenties I figured that at the age I am now I would no doubt have a home of my own, and a husband, and a solid career. That’s the kind of picture you’re presented with of full adulthood. Now I realise that, technically speaking, I am old enough to have adult children, and I don’t know everything, and I don’t feel grown up at all. I’m really just trying to do my best in a world that all too often doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps that’s what adulthood is...
I never foresaw moving to another country. I never foresaw that I’d still be renting, that I’d be a student rather than have a stable career, that I wouldn’t be married – but hey, that’s coming – or that I would ever develop an interest in politics and philosophy (hence my continued education). I’m not saying that my life is bad. It isn’t. But it shows that life is unpredictable. I see the same with friends and family. My sister is a nurse, but she has problems with her back and her hip so she knows she won’t be able to continue in that field much longer and will need to consider what to do next. A friend of mine did the same thing I did and went back to university. Another friend was made redundant and he’s trying to start up his own business. Yet another friend thought that one child was quite enough, until it wasn’t and she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy at the age of 40.
Again, just because things work out differently than planned, they don’t need to be changes for the worse. We humans are adaptable and it may well be that these changes were necessary for us to learn and grow. Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were a child? I remember wanting to be a brain surgeon. Considering I can’t even watch medical procedures on television, that never happened. And then I wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force, but I’m too short. I have no regrets, however. I may not be a high-flying career woman, but there’s something great, too, about not having to work all hours of the clock, and being away from my home and my country all the time. It’s given me the opportunity to be involved in my local community, working on projects to enhance the woods and the land in this area and encourage local wildlife. I love being out and about and there’s something very rewarding about planting trees, or even just growing a variety of plants and bushes in my garden and watching the bees and the butterflies and the increasing variety of birds that come to visit.
I’m getting older, and sometimes that fills me with concern. Will I one day look in the mirror and hardly recognise myself? Will my health fail? I haven’t been passed the greatest genetic set one could get. I should have a good few decades left in me, but over the past few years I have lost several family members and that confronts a person about the end of life, and the question of what comes after.
Different people believe in different afterlives. Even those of the same faith imagine the afterlife in different ways. I guess we all have an ideal version in mind. I know that I do.
In the meanwhile, I try to shake off such thoughts. It’s no good looking back at the past and wondering what could have been, and no good looking ahead too much and wondering what will be. Sure, it’s inevitable that we do so every now and then, but we cannot change what was and we know that nothing’s set in stone for the years ahead.
It is best, then, to learn the lesson of enjoying what we’ve got. I may have a few grey hairs, but it’s not that big a deal. Maybe I cannot lift five shopping bags full of groceries any longer without my back protesting at me, but that’s what those shopping bags on wheels were designed for. Right here, right now, I’m alive, and I’ve got to make the best of it. Unless reincarnation turns out to be true, we only live once.
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