I've been introducing my kids to the Beatles more seriously lately. Yesterday I played for Jasmyn the song "Yesterday". But while ultimately it is a love song, I found myself struck in a different way by the words to the first verses:
"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday.
Suddenly, I'm not half the man (sic) I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh yesterday came suddenly."
Life can and often does change on a dime. Sometimes we have no control over that: accidents, other people's choices, natural disasters - sometimes life changes suddenly for us in ways we simply can't anticipate, have no hand in creating, and therefore have no way to prevent. But other times I think that we do make choices, sometimes choices that seem very small, which, over time, impact our lives dramatically. Sometimes those choices are good. Sometimes they are bad. Sometimes a simple choice to say "yes" can lead us forward into a whole life and journey that we just didn't expect. Sometimes those moments of choice can only be recognized in hind sight. Some people seem blessed in the choices they make and are led into success. Others seem cursed in their choices, even in the choices that seem to be good from the onset, and find themselves heading down paths that lead nowhere, or worse, lead to destruction of themselves or others.
I think that for me, this is part of why I often have a very hard time making big and personal decisions. I recognize that every big decision has consequences far beyond what I can imagine or envision in the moment. I realize that we are called to "be not afraid" and to live in the now, which is where we find God. But because of the results of decisions I've made in the past that have led to struggles and pain and difficulties that simply could not be anticipated, staying in the moment and choosing "now" is not easy for me.
Many people talk about regrets. And I've heard again and again people saying they regretted not speaking up when they should have. I don't have too many of those regrets. My regrets tend to focus on speaking when perhaps I shouldn't have - usually speaking truth to those who didn't or couldn't hear it, or speaking it in an unhelpful way that simply could not be heard. But I also regret many choices I've made in terms of actions. I've regretted not taking opportunities I should have said "yes" to, and other times, choosing to do things that took me away from kids who already get too little of my time. I've missed some amazing chances that I see now would have led me in a completely different path. I made choices that I can only see now created a path I never would have chosen had I seen. The life I had envisioned and laid out for myself didn't happen. Instead, I found myself in this life, with this history, this path, this story. And while I can see that there are ways I could use this story to help others, life continues to happen and the doors that open only briefly have shut in several cases.
I find myself paying attention to so many of the "wise" quotes and sayings out there that tell you what to do and where to go next. Some of the quotes I saw just today:
"Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but, more often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next."
Okay. I need to pay more attention to my own tears.
"The gift of paying attention is the fundamental key to transforming relationships."
Okay. I need to pay attention more.
"Stress comes from trying to do it all on your own. Peace comes from putting it all in God's hands."
Okay. So I need to figure out how to force God to take on all of my stuff. So far, that's not working so well for me.
We read these quotes, we listen to the wise voices in our lives, we try to learn from our pasts, we strive to act like the people we want to be. But despite all of this, each day there are choices and each day those choices that we make lead to unforseen consequences that make up each moment of our lives.
In the face of all of this, I found another quote coming to mind for me today, this one from Paramahansa Yogandanda, "Do not take life's experiences too seriously. Above all, do not let them hurt you for in reality they are nothing but dream experiences. If circumstances are bad and you have to bear them, do not make them a part of yoruself. Play your part in life but never forget that it is only a role."
Learning to simply be okay with the choices we make and where life leads us is a worthwhile endeavor. We are on the path we are on. If we can choose to not fret about it, but just go with the flow, things move much more easily, smoothly, quickly. And if we lay back in the current and accept it for what it is, perhaps we will have a greater ability to look around us and enjoy the scenary on the way down.