Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When this is over, is it over for good?

Learning To Walk by dmacphoto
Learning To Walk, a photo by dmacphoto on Flickr.
In the past few months what seemed like an eternal string of days suddenly shot forward, and the end of an era seemed only an arms length away, and it was somewhat shocking.

Her daughter, only weeks away from being old enough to drive, would be climbing on a bus for a week-long trip without parents, without auntie or uncles or grandparents.  It was a preview of what the mom knew all along - that one of key jobs of a parent is to be able to let go and give space for her child to walk on her own.

If the mother does her job right, and if the child has learned her lessons well, there won't be another endless string of days.  There won't be complete reliance, or obedience to whatever the mother says and expects.  There will be more days ahead, God willing, but once the little girl learns to walk she walks, and she walks in her own direction that may or may not include regular time with her mother.

Some things in life are cyclical - economic booms and busts come around, and success often comes to the people who understand the laws of economic gravity:  what goes up will come down again.  That's not to say that everyone learns from cycles.  Some people are surprised (or devastated) again and again, after failing to anticipate that times of feast (or famine) will return.

Perhaps the challenge is to see what is happening right now and to recognize the difference between people and events that are part of a continuum that will roll forward, never backtracking, and things that will come around again.  When you know they will cycle back, like the sun that will rise again tomorrow, it's easy to take them for granted.  It's easy not to sweat over mistakes that were made or opportunities that were missed, because the chance will come again to do it the way you would prefer to do.  In cycles you have the opportunity for your own do-over.

Maybe the continuum, moving steadily forward, is only so when you're in it.  A birth, a death, a graduation, a coming of age - they are all milestones in the timeline of one person's life, but part of a cycle in the life of humanity.  But when you're in it, when you see and feel that movement forward, it can take your breath away for a second.  Then you take a picture, if only in your mind, file it safely away, and journey on.

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