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Time is a Teacher

A Ten Year Life Review

Time is a teacher.  As this last decade closes, I have experienced one consistent truth over and over: I do not have the ability to control what life brings.  In our society we speak of things like pursuing your dreams and speaking your truth.  All of these are good and necessary.  Yet, a hidden message in these mantras is that when you pursue your dreams and name your truth you can make your life work the way you want it to work.  This is the fallacy. 

Over the last ten years I have experienced the wonder of marriage and the joy of being a parent.  I have achieved certain career milestones, received a PhD, and feel a certain level of professional expertise.  In these last ten years I have also known the sorrow of two miscarriages, the ache that comes with two parents dying, the shock of our home being destroyed and losing most of our possessions, the constant drum of weariness that beats with each day as a husband, father, friend, professional, and human.  I have heard of natural disasters, shootings, and the innumerable traumas that so many persons less privileged than I have to endure in our country and outside of our country.  There is good and there is heartbreak and I cannot feign to think I can control which I get to experience. 

What time has taught me is that I must learn how to be a person that can hold the exuberance of life’s joy in one hand and the discomfort and agony of suffering in the other.  I can pursue my dream and sometimes I will achieve it and other times I will fall far short.  I do not get to control my world but I do get to be mindful of who I am in the world and how I accept the experiences that I am given.  The joy and the agony.  This perspective is what allows me to feel the depth of life more fully. 

Yes, the first and fourth pregnancy my wife and I had ended in a miscarriage and the pain of this continues to run so deep. And yes, having lost the hope of two children makes me revel in my three boys with such gratitude.  The agony is not forgotten, the agony informs how I experience the joy.  In my unhealthy moments I am riddled with anxiety that expresses itself in productivity, rigidity, and micromanaging my life and my family’s life.  In more balanced times I am able to breathe and hold the dual perspective of agony and joy; acceptance and gratitude.  Perhaps in the next ten years the scales will be tipped more towards the acceptance and gratitude and time can teach me something new again.     

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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