By Pat DeKok Spilseth
“And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” Rainer Maria Rilke, Austrian poet, 1875-1926.
As I turn the calendar to January, 2022, I wonder what the new year will bring. After starting with such hope, this past year has been unsettling.
A new year brings hope. Rilke wrote, “We see the brightness of a new page where everything yet can happen.”
In college I began reading Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” The poet’s words offered comfort when I felt anxious and uncertain, especially when he wrote, “Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”
“And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”
Several years ago I wrote a column I called Tempus Fugit (Time Flies), which I’m going to refer to once again. Rather than living the questions, enjoying life, we anxiously distress ourselves about life’s outcomes. Too often we let time pass us by.
January, a time for new beginnings, has many of us writing well-intended resolutions to lead a healthier life and set goals to achieve new aspirations. Our intentions are so good. How often we rush through our days, always anticipating a new morning, a new beginning, a new start in life. Life is an endless cycle of anticipation.
At age 3, we can’t wait to get rid of our three-wheeler to graduate to a two-wheeler. At age 4, we can’t wait to be 5 to go to school with the big kids. Then we can’t wait to be part of the top grade in school because all the little kids look up to the oldest kids. At 12, we’re anxious to be 13, a teenager. At 15, we wait for our sixteenth birthday so we can date and drive. At age 16, we wait for 17 and 18 to finally get out of high school, leave home, and start college. We’re anxious to be 21, the legal age to drink and vote…to be “a real adult.”
The days pass too quickly. Unconcerned, we wish precious time away. By the time I hit 30, I began to realize that time wouldn’t go on forever. School was completed, a marriage was made, and my life as an adult was in gear. Years of raising children became a blur. I started to notice a few gray hairs and wrinkles on my forehead and around the eyes. I began to balk at time racing indifferently through my precious years. Why didn’t time stand still so I could get a handle on this aging process?
At 40, I began to enjoy each season’s beauty. I was able to enjoy my teenagers, to revel in their growth, their active sports teams, academic progress, and to look closely at their friends, especially the questionable characters they sometimes dated. It was exciting to visit colleges across the country, to interview their dates, to dress them in gowns and tuxes for prom. I began to look at their dates as possible marriage partners. The rush through life was in full gear once more.
At 50, I realized time was passing me by. What did I still hope to do with my life? I wanted to see more places, meet new people, taste different foods, paint some canvases, and read more books. Life was no longer so rushed. I finally understand why my mother could sit on her screened porch for hours enjoying the simple pleasures of nature, a friend’s conversation, a cup of coffee and a cookie. Simple pleasures became satisfying.
Age grants us some wisdom. I now take time to appreciate each day’s sunrises and sunsets, revel in life’s ups, and know that the down times will pass. It’s enjoyable to take time to relax and think about those years that passed so quickly, as well as the possibilities that life still offers to all ages.
Let time stand still for a moment or two. Life’s endless cycle continues. Just be. Enjoy.