I grew up reading and being read Dr Seuss tales of Cats in Hats, Greens Eggs and Ham and The Sneetches. I dreamed of The Places I’d Go on rhyming roads and dancing words, and at Christmas, enjoyed reading of how the Whos reclaimed Christmas from The Grinch.
My fiancé and I enjoy comparing childhoods and sharing experiences of life the other hasn’t had: some of this involves books we have read. A big one is sharing our Tolkien and Lewis loves (I’ll let you guess which one is me!) Last Christmas, I got Dan ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and partook in our tradition of reading to each other in my best uppity-cuppity voice.
Last night, I watched Jim Carrey stealing Christmas from Taylor Momsen and co with my future in-laws.
And it reminded me how life, and time, are so unpredictable. I would not have guessed, as a child sitting on a relative’s knee as they read How The Grinch Stole Christmas, that I would in turn read it to my fiancé in 2012. Nor would I have guessed, then or last year, that I’d be watching it at Christmas 2013 with the parents of the guy I’m marrying.
I’m not sure there is a big lesson to learn here. But I’ve enjoyed looking back and finding these little coherencies. There have been little road-signs that have only become meaningful years after they first appeared.
We can’t tell the future, or change the past. I sometimes wish I could go back to my former self and tell myself that “it’ll be OK”. That I would find something worth fighting for and be able to do it as a job, that a phase wouldn’t last, that an experience would prove useful, that a problem would be resolved, that that colour would look even brighter later in life, that I would find someone with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. To make obvious the road-signs…
…but life is mystery and that is part of why it is beautiful.
There are friends of mine who I wish, though, I could fast-forward the present for…so that they could look back and understand, or so that their circumstances would change. Sometimes being in the present is so hard. Sitting ‘in the grey’, having to work through things, wondering if something or someone good will ever come – being there is painful.
And all I can say is that I think we all have been ‘there’, and we all will be there again. I have found, when ‘there’, that instead of hopeful road-signs from the future, present friends have been the road-signs from the present that have carried me through. Kindness, companionship, empathy: these are things that are worth more than gold when things are hard or incomprehensible. Light that stays with us, however long the darkness takes to fade, too. And hope in the possibility of change or progress – though never guaranteed – has softened the hard corners of life’s experiences.
We lost Seamus Heaney this year. One of my favourite quotes of his is this:
“So hope for a great sea-change… Believe that a further shore is reachable from here.”
If you are wishing for road-signs from the future, I hope with you for a sea-change in 2014. Until then, let’s be road-signs from the present for each other.