When something unimaginable and out of control happens, how you think about living changes. Your focus zooms in so it becomes pinpointed on the current moment, because the current moment is all you can deal with. You realise that “right now” is the only part of your life that you have any real influence over.
The irony is that life is always like that. As much as many people would like to plan and know the future, we can only live and be active in the current, active, moment. The past and the future are both passive – the past because it is over (though perhaps it still actively influences you), and the future because it is still a concept, a promise. When nothing goes wrong, the illusion of control over the future is never challenged. People can have all the different types of insurances, all the promises of promotions and ongoing work, be confident in the “certainty” of their future plans, and it can all be a false security.
When something happens that changes your life – an accident, a death, job loss, sickness, market crash, whatever it may be – suddenly you realise how much you are at the mercy of circumstances.
Death is particularly merciless. Even with insurance payouts and financial aide, it is harsh and final.
When I am asleep and dreaming, I have a lot of agency. It is quite rare for people to be able to do this, but I can change the direction of my dreams. If they start getting scary or depressing or violent, I will mentally halt the dream, “rewind” it to the last moment when things were fine, and then let it continue on, taking a different tangent.
When a tragedy happens, there is no way to rewind and redo. I hear so often of people wishing they had said “I love you” more often, that they had apologised or forgiven instead of being bitter and stubborn. I think that it is easy to assume that “one day” things will be okay, or that having a strained relationship unrestored will not be too much of a drain on you. The problem is, when a tragedy happens, if you were wrong, there is no second chance. There is no pause and rewind. Life just keeps moving forward, relentless.
Sometimes I wonder if my daughter will live a long and fulfilling life, or will it be cut short? I hope she will outlive me and become grey and wrinkly, but I don’t know. You know what – if she were to die young, I do not want to know. I don’t want to live with the foreknowledge of something sad and terrible happening. I don’t want to grieve before there is a reason to do so. For those of you who have found yourselves in this position of knowing, my heart goes out to you, and your graciousness in your circumstances has amazed me.
If something horrible does happen one day, I want to be there, in that moment of shocking reality, steadfast in the knowledge that I made the most out of my “right now.” I want the joy that comes from knowing I treasured the good times and kept my perspective during the hard and tiring times. I want the peace that comes from knowing I apologised and forgave quickly after frustrations and arguments, and that I said “I love you” often and genuinely.
I don’t know the future, but I know the One who does. That’s been enough in the past, and it will be enough in the future, too.