So here we are again – at the beginning of
another new year. Is it only me, or are the years sailing by faster than a
When I was younger, my Mom used to say, “Jude,
time is the most precious gift you have. Don’t waste it – it goes by faster
than you expect.”
Are Moms always right? Because last year
certainly went by at a rate of knots!
I’m not ready to start 2014, for I feel I’ve
barely got my breath back after waving goodbye (and good riddance!) to 2013.
So many people I’ve spoken to over the
festive season have all agreed: not only did 2013 end almost before we realised
it had begun, but it was a hard year: a year of losses and change; a year when
things we’d taken for granted in our lives disappeared at an alarming rate. Long-term
friendships ended, beloved family members died or moved away, pets passed on,
jobs ended, rock-solid marriages disintegrated, houses burnt down … the list of
troubles went on and on whomever I spoke to, making my own challenges in 2013 seem
Even the newspapers help to depress us. Today’s
newspaper, the first edition of this bright and shiny new year, with its remaining
364 blank days waiting for us to paint the picture of our life on them, had
three stories on its front page: murder, murder and death by train. From
bouncing out of bed, cheerfully looking forward to the new day, I felt myself wanting
to slink back into bed, pull the covers up and hope the world and all its
misery would just go away!
Then a little thrush flew down into the
birdbath near the gate and my neighbour ran by with her dog on her early
I thought of the thrush I’d accidentally
killed over the Christmas season (it had a decent burial), and chatted with my
neighbour about the game her children were playing with me (throwing a note
over the wall asking for it to be thrown back – I did throw it back, together
with some Christmas candy!)
I was reminded that, in life, the sorrows are somehow always balanced out with simple pleasures. Life, like the endless ocean, has tides that ebb and flow, disturbed only by the occasional storm.
After an arduous year like the one
just past, which has left so many of us exhausted by a tsunami of trials and travails, the temptation is to sink into despair that life can only become ever harder and more difficult to navigate.
How easy it would be to waste our limited energy
resources on fear of what the future holds for us, and regrets for the choices
we made (for whenever we commit to one choice, we immediately lose the opportunities
hidden in the other choices we could have made), and a deep grief for what was
lost and can never be regained.
Life has always been uncertain – not only
for the human species, but for all sentient creatures. It can be snuffed in instant; it can change
irrevocably in a second. And it is all too brief an existence, whether we be man or mouse.
If we waste the precious time we have left on ‘what
ifs’, ‘I should haves’ or ‘I shouldn’t haves’; if we think only of the bad news that constantly surrounds us, would we ever have the courage to leave the shore of
our current existence? Would we be able to face new oceans and discover
new lands if we allow ourselves to be weighed down by the anchor of those fears
and regrets and griefs?
|... and it will! |
No matter how thunderous the storm,
never give up your hope,
your trust and your faith
No, we wouldn’t. The new ocean may be a pond in our backyard, the new land only a change of neighbourhood or a new habit, but our lives and our souls would become tarnished and dull if we only ever clung to the certainties in our life.
And so, during my life’s journey through
2014, I plan to captain the ship of my soul over whatever unchartered waters the
breath of the wind, the height of the waves and the light of the stars steer me
My fate will be what it will: but, when the end of another year looms too soon on the horizon, I want to look back and know that I have lived to the full every fruitful or futile second of my life’s uncertain
… tell them that, to ease them of their
Their fears of hostile strokes, their
Their pangs of love, with other incident
That nature's fragile vessel doth sustain
In life's uncertain voyage, I will some
kindness do them …
(Timon, in Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, V, i, 199-203)
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
(from Invictus, a poem by William Ernest
by Nelson Mandela to inspire him during his prison term on Robben Island)