We know the day we’re born, but not when we’ll die. One bookend of our lives is defined but not the other. In our younger decades we anxiously race toward the future.
When we grow up, surely we won’t have a bedtime and will be able to make our own rules. Ironically, as grownups, we lust for the simpler days of youthful wonder.
Adulting is exhausting. We only wish there were time to take a nap!
Once we hit quarter and midlife crises, transition into retirement years, and then face the passing of our parents and eventually our peers, we look back on our past. Failures and milestones seem easiest to recall. We only wish we had the benefit of more time and the energy of our youth that dreamt of changing the world.
In reality, it’s the present that eludes us. And our present is the only instance we can take charge of. We cannot control our past, nor are we guaranteed a future.
Trying to manage time is overwhelming isn’t it?
Looking back at our past allows each of us to connect the dots. Glancing ahead, we desperately crave the itinerary that will help us reach our next right of passage.
To know which milestones we will accomplish. And when.
Whether the dots of our past are rose-colored, pock-marked by traumatic memories of victimization or rutted with regrets over our mistakes, we can grow to see them as a gift. Love and loss aren’t linear but they do create the scaffolding of our stories. Because they add up to make us the beautiful, unique individuals we were born to become.
These present moments are about becoming.
While most of us cannot fully categorize the dots of our past as all bad or all good, we can benefit from taking inventory:
- What character traits do you admire about yourself? And what are areas for personal growth?
- What circumstances do you struggle to overcome feeling like a victim? And what choices do you regret that have hurt others?
- What are your most precious memories?
- Who are the people who have walked alongside you through the good and the hard?
- What have you read, heard or seen that has impacted the course of your life?
- What conversations have caused you to pivot the trajectory your life might have otherwise taken?
- Which closed doors are you grateful for?
Considering closed doors.
I have spent great sums of energy ruminating on that last question. There have been many in my life. But never before in such quick succession as recent months with our new global norm of cancellations. An unfair job layoff, getting passed over for a promotion, getting outvoted for a steering committee to lead meaningful community work. Unfriended. Waiting, hoping to become a momma.
These failures and periods of waiting are painful in the present moments. But looking back I can see they have made space for other opportunities.
The dots are connecting differently than I would have planned but I am better for those dead ends. Of waiting and wondering.
Each one of the dots of our experiences matters. A blip on their own. But collectively they create full pictures. Our childhood connect-the-dot coloring pages seem as good foreshadowing for the lessons forthcoming. We could only look as far ahead as the next sequential dot.
The dots provide the sequential, but not linear instructions that beautifully connect the beginning with the end.
The Dots and a Dash
I think often about a poem called “The Dash.” That little picture in a word has stayed with me since learning that it was an image tiny in size, but impactful enough to write about. The dash represents our present, connecting the dots of our lives past and yet to come. Such uncomplicated lines that connect what’s true in this complicated world.
The Inspiring Poem
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?By Linda Ellis, Copyright © 2020 Inspire Kindness, thedashpoem.com
Only those who truly know us understand what that little line is worth.
While we don’t get to determine the length of our dash. We can choose how we live our days. As victims, lamenting what happens that’s out of our control. Or taking control where we can and navigating the detours of life with a willingness to learn.
To grow wiser. To learn more and regret less.