It’s the time of year to think about beginnings. And endings.
We on this globe—at least those who live some distance from the unchanging belt around the middle—live in a world of constant beginnings and endings. The snow blesses then gives way to flowers. The leaves unfurl then tumble into dust. The sun rises then withdraws its bounty.
The essence of our Earth is change, a world constantly remaking itself in earthquake and volcano, in fire and flood, in life evolved and life eradicated. Even the seeming constant stars die, and planets are born in their fiery deaths. In the midst of this birthing and dying of everything we know, you and I enter, breathe for a brief patch, and are gone.
And while we are breathing we keep starting over. And over. And over.
There was a time when I thought my life was meant to be a straight line toward some distinct and thoroughly desirable goal. What goal I didn’t know, but I was certain I would arrive there. Otherwise, what was the point?
Today I look back across nearly eight decades and find a different truth. My life has been—still is—crammed with discovery, with dreams, with joy more sweet than anything I’d ever been told I deserved. It has also been littered with missteps, mischance, misperceptions, misunderstandings, mischoices. Perhaps that dichotomy shapes every life, but certainly it shapes of mine.
To my own credit I can say that I have learned along the way. Not everything. Perhaps not even enough. But the learning goes on, even in age.
Now, already deep into a century I found unimaginable when I was a child, I stand at the threshold of another New Year starting over once more. Not just nodding to an artificially declared holiday but truly starting over. So much in my life is new, is being done over, tried again.
New work. Work I have never dared attempt before. Hard work, even harrowing sometimes, but good, so good. Will it find a place in the world out there? I have no way of knowing, but it calls and I tiptoe after.
New understanding. So much I thought I knew seems unimportant from the vantage point of age. So much I understood has been proven wrong. Or if it isn’t wrong, it has moved on to become something I can no longer fathom. What to do in the face of my ignorance? The only answer seems to be declare my incompetence and open myself to discovery.
New peace. Not the kind of peace from which the chaos of the world doesn’t matter, but a struggling peace, one that seeks openness before the intractable, quiet in the midst of noise, caring against a world of indifference.
And love. A new love. Sweetest of all, this new love.
What have I learned as I start over once more after so many other startings? One thing that I can name.
I eschew regret.
My mistakes have formed me as deeply—perhaps even more deeply—than my gifts. And here I come carrying it all, mistakes and gifts together, into another day. Another precious day.
What can I possibly do but rejoice?