Friday, November 7, 2014

Time's Changing Treasures

"The years teach much which the days never knew." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I saw a picture recently - I don't remember where - but it's stuck in my mind for days.

It was a picture like the one above; a pair of old hands, tenderly holding a worn book. Though both the hands and book are weathered - worn and wrinkled by life - there was something about the photograph that stirred me.

I could tell that the book was special to the person holding it. Who knows what gifts those tattered pages had given the person who now so gently cradles the leather volume? Some bits of wisdom? Words that inspired or consoled? Tales of journeys to distant lands? Or precious memories held dear? But one thing I could tell was that the book was a treasure cherished. Though both it, and the hands that so lovingly held it had been battered by time, they both radiate beauty: a beauty that only the burnishings of time could produce.

Funny how a simple picture could stir so much. I'm sure that when I was younger - even just a few years ago - I wouldn't have even noticed this picture. Would've sped by it in a blink, racing on to something more newsworthy, more dynamic, more "Wow!". But getting a little older has taught me gradually the value of slowing down, just a little.

And when I did the thought came to me that the things we treasure change as time passes. What we treasure in our youth and as young adults is different from what we treasure as we grow older (and hopefully wiser!). So I asked myself: What do I value today? How have my "treasures" changed over the years?

"The best thing about getting old is that all those things you couldn't have when you were young you no longer want." (L.S. McCandless)

  • "The Next Thing to Get" vs "Glad To Let That Go": It seems that when I was younger, I was always pursuing "big things":  my 1st "real" job; getting that college degree; my 1st new car; seeing my name and picture in the paper after a coaching achievement; my 1st trips to foreign lands, etc.. Life was all about acquiring and advancing; crossing accomplishments off an inner checklist and storing away all my "trophies", whether they were the things gotten, photographs taken, or memories tucked away. But I could see in looking back, that despite all that I had done, and all that kept me busy day after day, my life still felt empty. I was just "filling time". Today it seems I treasure more the "letting go" of all of those things. And in return my life has become more rewarding. A simpler life has become infinitely more richer for me; I value more what seemed before to be "the empty spaces"- the quiet moments. I also know that giving up much of what I pursued for so long also left space in my life for something very special.  I met, fell in love, and married Deborah - and learned the "magic arithmetic" of Love: the more you give away, the more you're given in return.
  • "Little Things" are Big:  The older I've gotten, the more I appreciate all those "little things" that I know I rarely noticed when I was younger: the beauty of a single tree in the fall, standing nobly resplendent; the gentle sound of rainfall at night, a single unexpected act of kindness (like Deborah surprising me with a hug as I sit here writing!). A walk around the block on a fall morning with our dog Izzy gives me as much pleasure now as a "road trip adventure" once did. I'm learning that pleasure can be found in every little task done, if I'm present to myself doing it.  Learning to slow down helps open up a whole world of beauty and value: whether I'm just sitting and looking out the window, raking the leaves in our yard, scrubbing my bathroom, or trying to thoughtfully craft each of these words. Some may say "slowing down" is just a natural consequence (and disadvantage) of growing older. I'm beginning to see the beauty and wisdom in doing so.
"The sun shines different ways in summer and winter. We shine different ways in the seasons of our lives." (Terri Guillemets)

I know that there's more that I could perhaps discover about how my "treasures" have changed. I'm sure I've just scratched the surface. But that's enough for now. Clarity will come with time. Writing the "perfect blog" the first time is something else I'm trying to learn to let go of, in exchange for simply enjoying the time I've spent doing so.

At our last class, Guy Finley said something that I thought was inspiring, yet I think rarely believed.

"All of Life's timeless qualities: Strength, Beauty, Kindness, Compassion, Nobility, etc - are meant to be strengthened by the passing of time, not diminished. Life is continually perfecting them, and herself." 

I think it's easy to think that as time passes, it's somehow "taking away" treasures that we once had. It isn't. It's just asking me to exchange the treasures of the past for new ones - for more lasting ones.

I hope to remember all of this. That would be a real "Pearl" of value as time goes by.

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