You’d think that by the time someone was well into her fifties, she might have worked out what life is all about. Well, sadly, I have to confess that, in my case, I have not.
Yes, there have been many breakthroughs and insights over the years (which I wish I’d experienced far earlier in my life) but still there is so much to learn and understand.
My faith, of course, has been a huge help to me. I regret the arrogance of my youth that made me scornful of Christianity and the great faiths – as I have come to find so much wisdom and truth in them.
But I am still on a journey.
I still cannot claim to be confident that I am living a good life – let alone that I have ‘mastered life’ – despite working hard at it for over a half a century!
The thing is that life is truly a wild and uncontrollable thing. You think you’ve got it tamed and manageable but it then suddenly careers off in another direction or turns around and bites you.
Accepting that life simply cannot be mastered is, however, a start. And this has really helped me to feel less driven in later years. And less depressed -when things don’t go the way I want them too – either in my personal life or in the world around me.
Someone once described depression to me as ‘over-rigid and overly high investment in certain goals and the consequent vulnerability to feelings of disappointment, failure and entrapment.’
If we accept that we are never going to get things completely right – even in our own lives, let alone the rest of the world – we don’t need to give up trying to do our best. But we can give up unrealistic expectations.
And then we can choose how to respond to this unmasterable life. Whether to enjoy it. Or to endure it.
Over the weekend I’ve been reflecting on two neighbours and friends of mine, who are both in their sixties.
One friend struggles to get through each day. Sad things have happened in her life and she sees life a real test of endurance.
The other friend seems to embrace each day with gladness. Sad things have happened in her life too - but she finds joy in the simplest of pleasures.
Yesterday she saw a woman standing outside my church with a dog, wanting to join the service but not sure what to do about the dog. So my friend kindly offered to look after the woman’s dog for an hour.
Later in the day, the same friend saw that a rose tree she knows I love had come into bloom, so she picked a flower and brought it round and gave it to me.
Simple things – but evidence that this second friend sees life as being abundant with opportunities for joy.
Years ago, I read a book by the Japanese author Haruki Murakami which talks about the importance of climbing down to the bottom of a well – from time to time - to get a better perspective on life.
And I find this a helpful thought.
We may climb down the well. We may feel we have unwittingly fallen down a well. Or been pushed down a well.
But once we are there, we have the opportunity to recognise that there will be times when we are down, when we are in the dark and alone. And we can then choose either to remain downcast or to lift up our heads and look up to the sky, to the light and to life.
And, when we do that, we see the world afresh and our lives for what they truly are. Precious, beautiful, amazing gifts and, even in the saddest times, opportunities for all kinds of joy.
Posted by Martine Oborne