Recently I was back in my old neighborhood in Illinois staying with dear friends for the night on my way to Spain.
My dear friend Ellen had prepared a beautiful and healthy dinner—hospitality being one of her major gifts. I sat with a view across the lake of one of my former homes. I was struck by the fact that despite looking at the house for over an hour it did not spark a single memory or emotion. It was as though I was viewing a set from a previous act in a play.
Traveling provides lots of downtime for processing and this idea took root. I’ve had many acts prior to my current one and many more to come. Some were dramas, some tragedies, some comedies. Mostly they were quiet chapters with happy endings, or sometimes just endings. Some are hidden and others very public. The beauty of life is we have some control over the length and breadth of the act but no control over the span of the play itself. We can choose the theaters it is shown in but not who is watching.
While in an act you have no idea what the ending will be or how long it will take. You can spend a lot of time and effort trying to Suss out the ending but then you miss the living of it and your ability to react to it. One often knows when the act is over.
This is all reinforced by reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. Never did she know that she was going to fall in love with and marry a future president. Each act unfolded leading to another and a growing awareness of where their life was heading.
In reviewing all the acts that went before this past year I realize that my life has been both difficult and insanely blessed. It was what I decide it was. That every difficult part made me stronger and every blessed part made me peaceful and happy. With the grace of God I will see how this act ends and all the others yet to play out with no sense yet of how they will be recorded in the theater of my life.
This trip to Spain is the end of a wonderful act with plot twist I never could have anticipated. I loved it all. Let me close this act with a poem with this poem by Mary Oliver about choosing one’s perspective.
By Mary Oliver
are so perfect
I can hardly believe
their lapped light crowding
Nobody could count all of them —
the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch
only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek
half nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.