Early Sunday morning, I woke up from one of those very yucky dreams. In it, I was crying out to someone, maybe to my husband: “I’m unhappy! I hate my life! I hate myself!”
Yes, yuck. Because I don’t want to be unhappy, hate my life or hate myself. In fact, I’ve been feeling this rather strongly lately, this will to live welling up inside me at very surprising moments, but also in reaction to recent ruminations on death and the possibility of my own. I understand such ruminations are normal around the time one turns 50. I also wonder if they hit me more than they would otherwise because of my irregular heartbeat, diagnosed in October 2011 when my heart Just. Stopped. Beating. Diagnosed suddenly, quickly, I went into surgery to get a pacemaker, which seems to keep everything ticking along just fine. But, yes, I’ve been thinking about my heart lately.
And, I’ve been very sad this past week that the CineArts Dome movie theater is closing. I can’t entirely explain why, but I feel this loss pretty deeply. Well, so do a lot of people around here. I’m angry about it, which is why I’ve gotten involved in efforts to question the process by which Pleasant Hill city officials approved its destruction and replacement with a chain sporting goods store.
And, then on Monday, the day after my bad dream, comes the tragic bombings at the Boston marathon, another national horror—following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the much more recent December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary—that we need to get our collective minds around. Reading about the death of 8-year-old Martin Richard, and how his sister mother suffered serious injuries in the blast—well, my own concerns about personal or local issues pale in comparison.
At the same time, we all have things we’re muddling over and through, challenging us to various degrees. And, we’ve heard the past few days about the resilience of the people of Boston, rushing in to help the injured right after the blast, opening their homes to relatives of the injured, going back to work yesterday and not letting the attack upset their daily routines.
As I’ve been contemplating this notion of resilience, even before the Boston terrorist attack, I happened to come across a line from Quartets, a famous set of poems by T.S. Eliot: “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”
Eliot began writing the set in 1936 and struggled to finish the work as World War II was raging in Britain. Quartets is described as a meditation on our relationship with time, the universe and the divine, mixing philosophical and spiritual ideas from both Western and East religions.
In the poem “Coker,” which starts with the line, “In my beginning is my end,” there is a lot about how the world is a complicated, uncertain place. The future is uncertain, the past is behind us, time is mysterious, elusive, and there is so much in our lives that is outside our control.
“As we grow older, the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated …
"Not the intense moment/Isolated, with no before and after/But a lifetime burning in every moment.”
There is only the moment. The now, I interpret Eliot as saying. And if we ultimately can’t control the future or the actions of others, what do we have left? We can’t give up and throw up our hands. We have this moment, now, and we have to keep going.
"There is only the trying."