Years in the Making: a Life Accumulation

I suppose these thoughts are a consequence of aging, although people don’t talk about them much.

I’m looking at my own life, and the lives of other people, and wondering: Did we realize THIS was what we were creating all those years? ?THIS life, the one we’re living right now?

As Mary Oliver calls it, our “one wild and precious life.” One life. One single span of days. ?One chance to occupy our slot on Planet Earth. One opportunity to journey from birth to death.

Would we act the way we do, if we really thought about the life we were creating? We’re too often blind to the results of our thoughts/behaviors/actions.

So there is an accumulation, which shapes future choices, like a river reshaping itself over time because of silt deposits. The progress seems random but is actually predictable. Every choice shapes the way for the next. ?Eventually our one wild and precious life looks nothing like we imagined.

Instead, our life is shaped by detritus we didn’t notice: the stuff we kick out of our way every day, or leave in our wake, the stuff that slowly accumulates until in time it becomes a landmass, a continent, a Life.

I don’t mean just laundry here. ?Although that is surely a mass to be reckoned with. ?I mean the ways we think, which lead us to results we had not intended.

We were just trying to be good people, and didn’t notice we’d become perfectionists, didn’t notice how our perfectionism led to defeatism, first in the people we love, and eventually in ourselves. Because none of us can pull off perfect for very long.

We were just trying to be good people, and didn’t notice we’d become control freaks, didn’t notice that controlling everything didn’t make us happy, just made our lives smaller and smaller. ?Because there’s very little we can really control.

We were just trying to achieve the American dream, and didn’t notice the seed of jealousy and deprivation that fueled our scrambling, didn’t notice how it fed on itself. ?Because we missed the memo that said dreams are to be chased, not realized, even in America.

Maybe this sounds mundane to you, but I’m seeing and understanding more, “in the moment” these days. I don’t know, maybe I used to think there was more time. ?You know, time for some great future shift, something unnamed and glorious, that insight, that repaired relationship, the glory that’s a-comin’. ?It was a functional sort of eschatological psychology, if you will. ?Without putting it in these words, I thought we could each burst free from the bonds of our personality.

Yes, you’re right. ?I can hear you saying it. ?That’s what salvation is. I agree. ?One of my essential beliefs has been that sure, we’re saved, but we’re all work-in-progress. ?That phrase implies motion and change. ?But I see now that sometimes all that motion and change leads to predictable places which still manage to surprise us. We can be like a wind-up toy that runs into a corner of the living room, and the dog barks at it until it runs out of juice.

Nobody, looking on, is all that surprised, because don’t wind-up toys always do this?

Perhaps that wind-up toy is a good image for the opposite of salvation. ?My grandma would could call it being “mired in sin.” Ecclesiastes could call it “chasing after the wind.”

Maybe I’m finally old enough to have the eyes to see it myself.


Comments

2 responses to “Years in the Making: a Life Accumulation”

  1. In the book, ‘The Shack’, Sarayu the Holy Spirit says this about life: it’s wild and beautful and perfectly in process. I think that’s what you’re writing about.

  2. Great post. I was talking to some mothers at the church about this. We make a thousand little decisions along the way about our children, each of which doesn’t amount to much… but over time we can find ourselves in a place we didn’t intend to be.

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