The quality of our lives seems to contain alternating waves of good and bad, hard and soft, light and shade. If we are lucky enough to appreciate that this is the nature of existence, we can bear much better with the shady parts of our lives. We can have faith that, whatever challenges we are facing, no matter how painful, the good times will roll around again. And the good times can be so good, so full of richness, pleasure, joy, lightness and brightness, that they are worth the price we may ultimately have to pay for the good fortune we have the luck to be earning.
The dilemma is that sometimes we do not realize that what we are passing through are the bright times, the good times, the best times. That often comes only with retrospection.
I remember that I left home at the age of 18 to spend a year of work and study in Israel. I did not think to ask for the permission of my parents, I just made my plans and informed them of those plans. I never thought to do otherwise, and I was never questioned. I saved up the money I needed from the odd jobs I performed as I wended my way through my high school years. I applied for the assignment, gathered my pennies and off I went, traveling across the globe.
I was a part of a group, but I felt very much alone. I remember that, being alone, on the ship sailing across the ocean, my mind brimming full of speculations about the nature of the world. I wrote incessantly about that on every scrap of paper I could find.
I have some of those scraps in a file I have kept to this day. So much of it, seems to me today, to be a load of nonsense. The gist of it was that I was a solitary sailor afloat on the sea of life and that life was incredibly sweet. I was full of wants. I wanted to find a true companion. I wanted a country of my own. I wanted to save the world. I was going to do it all myself if I had to. At the time, I could read it all in the palm of my hand, and it was all going to happen. I was totally free from obligations, except those that I chose to lay upon myself – and included in those was responsibility for creating the perfect world. All of us are heroes in our own eyes, and we have to try as hard as we can to live up to that image of ourselves.
How was that not the most superlative moment of my life to that date? I had not the merest clue as to the nature of the importance of those moments in my existence. I was unconsciously writing an agenda for my life.
I am no different from others, and all of you have had those moments in your lives, those moments whose importance is only appreciated by you with the passage of time and the gleanings of experience.
I remember holding a child of mine in my arms, and feeling like I would burst with joy. I remember when I was leaving my first job, hearing that my superiors were frantic about who they could find to fill the hole I was leaving. I remember when I realized that I had succeeded in resolving a dilemma that would yield years of success at a seemingly impossible task that I had taken on. I remember the instant when I recaptured the love of my heart after 50 long years of disappointment when I had not found the companionship I longed for. I remember the moments when I began to understand what elements of my behaviour prevented my Bride from feeling the depth of my love for her. All these events, which cast other parts of my life in the shade where they belonged, I could only truly appreciate in retrospect. The thrill they yield when I recall them I relive over and over again. So it must be for so many of you, when you recall your own experiences.
Surely there are lessons to be learned by sentient beings from these experiences. Don’t they help us, when we find ourselves in periods when there is shade all around us, know that the moments we hope for and will cherish all the days of our lives will surely arrive for us if we carry on? Just as day follows night, won’t our turn at good fortune arrive if we put in the necessary effort to survive what may seem to us to be the worst of times, and if we are lucky enough to have the good health and fortune to do so? Isn’t that the secret, that we try, and try again, to confront the challenges we face, and we never, never, give up?
Max Roytenberg is a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.