E.M. Forster wrote, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
Change is inevitable, and the wisest words in all the world are these, this, too, shall pass. For better for for worse, nothing lasts. We live in a constant state of transience.
There are been lots of changes, both on the macro and the micro level, over the past while. Deaths, the overturning of fortunes and of governments, friends dealing with serious health issues, prizes won and lost, public scandal and careers ended, hearts broken, dreams dashed and dreams born.
It’s easy to get dragged into everything, to feel the need to enter into every discussion, to have an opinion on this and that and keep our eyes glued to social media and the 24-hour news, to rant against every injustice and rail against the unfair powers that be. And I’ve been right on in there with the best of them. Chatter, chatter, chatter. But yesterday The Best Beloved, perhaps sensing overload, suggested we take The Rescuepoo and head out to the beach, about an hour from our home. Such a wise man is The Best Beloved.
The sea was gentle, the clouds gauzy, the sky a soft mauvish-blue. A few gulls wheeled above and bobbed on the water. The outgoing tide had left a glassy reflection on the liminal space between sea and beach. As I walked I couldn’t help but think, as the waves rolled back and forth, over and over, of the great healing constancy of nature. How tiny I felt, with just us three out there, next to the wide, wide water and sky. How insignificant, and yet, paradoxically, how connected.
A few years ago, when I was in the midst of a crippling depression, the result of the suicide of my brother (the second of my brothers to die by his own hand), and a particularly bleak period in my career, The Best Beloved and I rented, for the winter, a house facing this very beach and every day I took a long walk and sang Leonard Cohen’s “If It Be Thy Will” over and over again as a prayer to The Ineffable to help me accept what seemed unacceptable. Slowly, I healed, and things changed, as things do. Things got better, but even as they did, I understood what I had not understood before — that circumstances will, one day, get bad again, and that is as it should be. That is, in short, life.
Consider that Forster quote. What Forster does not say is, “we must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the FANTASTIC, AMAZING, PAIN-FREE life that is waiting for us.” He just says THE life that’s waiting for us. Whatever that may be.
We may have little control over the form that life takes. Things like war and illness and age and other people are, in many cases, simply beyond our influence. But what we can do is learn to let go, to understand our own tiny, and yet meaningful, place. What do I mean by that? I mean this: while I am quite sure no one on social media, for example, is really waiting for another comment from me about the latest scandal-de-jour, and thus I can let go of my own ego’s involvement in things beyond my scope of influence, I am equally sure my neighbor, who had a death in the family, could probably use a cup of tea and a listening ear; the man asking for help getting his homeless daughter home could probably use a few dollars; a sick friend would appreciate having her dog walked. And so on.
As I tell The Ineffable, as many moments as I can remember, that I am willing to let go of this moment so as to concentrate on the next, that I am willing to keep my eyes on what is right in front of me rather than what is happening many miles away, that I am willing, yes, to let go even of my own ambitions in favor of what’s actually happening, I may just discover the life that’s waiting for me is already here — imperfect and glorious and broken and beautiful as it is.