T.S. Wednesday: The Meaning of Life

“Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”  
T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, Four Quartets

Transitions are tough for me; I think they’re tough for everyone. I’ve spent the last months, nay year, deciding whether I should stay at my job, stay in the country. I’ve oscillated between living in the future, what could be, and the past, what has been and what could have been. Both the memories and the dreams sear vividly across my eyelids as I sleep to the world in front of me, the day before me, the moment that flits by.

My bathroom wall used to don a Lululemon poster that contained—along with myriad other inspirational quotes and phrases—the saying, “Living in the moment could be the meaning of life.”

Before I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and before I immersed myself in Eliot, I would have chalked the phrase up to pop psychology and over-priced yoga pants propaganda. Not now.

As I contemplate Ann’s excursions into eucharisteo, or thankfulness, in every aspect of her life, I can see her journey to joy, to God, to meaning, is a pilgrimage to living in the moment. To naming the graces. Counting the gifts. Stacking the joy.

The journey to God is the quest to unlearn our clinging to the past. The challenge to relinquish a life lived solely in the future.

Naming gifts brings meaning as the moment is acknowledged, fully lived.

Eliot writes in his poem Burnt Norton,

“What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.”

I am tired of straining to hear the regretted footfalls thump-thumping against untaken paths. I grow weary of a world of speculation.

And so I will keep at this naming of gifts, this stacking of joy. I will scrawl in my notebook the thanks of the moment:
     * A time of extended merriment with friends old and new.
     *Soft mist blanketing, softening the valley as the miles dart by on quiet freeways.
     *The sharing of stories and journeys and pig cheeks’ carbonara.

Another way I will orient myself to the present is by implementing a Bucket List for my last two months at my current job. Instead of withdrawing, disconnecting, and playing the Lame Duck Grant Writer, I will engage. I will create new challenges. I will try new lunch spots with my coworkers. I will write new blog posts. I will dance my butt off at our newly scheduled weekly Wii dance parties.

I will celebrate the past and I will dream for the future, all the while pointing to the present. 

Questions: Are you more apt to relive the past or spend your time dreaming and scheming for the future? What helps you live in the present, in the moment? Any suggestions for my work Bucket List?


4 thoughts on “T.S. Wednesday: The Meaning of Life

  1. What a wonderful, positive way to live! I've enjoyed reading through your past posts!

  2. Aly Lewis says:

    Thanks, Anita! The Bucket List has been a lot of fun. I loved your newest post on taking baby steps toward change.

  3. M says:

    I tend to think about the past a lot because I have this sort of obsession with always improving myself, learning from my mistakes, examining what I did to find out what I can do better next time. To an extent, I think this is a good thing to do. At the same time, excessive self-reflection can lead to self-criticism, self-condemnation and other unhealthy things. Not to mention that when something doesn't go well, asking myself what I could've done differently sometimes translates into the idea that everything is my fault. One thing that helps me is choosing to trust God. When I notice that I'm examining myself to pieces, I will just say, ok, this is what happened, I choose to trust God with it, the end. I don't know what it means yet, but I trust God. I feel like this incident should be on the FAIL website, but I trust God.

  4. Aly Lewis says:

    Such a tough phrase to say: "I don't know what it means yet, but I trust God." I tend to overanalyze the past, too, but I want to get to the point where I can say (and mean) that I trust God bring beauty and healing from my mistakes.

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