TS Eliot on my time
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
In my early twenties, I had the good fortune of finding these words by TS Eliot from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. They became the compass by which I made decisions. I fell in love with the permission to change my mind at a moment’s notice. I realized that whatever decision I made, I could change my mind and nothing terrible would happen. The possibilities were endless.
Go to Texas to nurture a new relationship. Sure! Oh, well, actually no, my friends think it’s a bad idea, I get a refund and he drives home alone from the airport. The next day, I go to the airport anyway, buy a new ticket and spend the summer in Texas.
I always think about that summer romance, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and I almost did. That phrase helped me take a risk, I knew that I could always buy another ticket back East if it didn’t work out between us. That relationship did not last past August but that experience allowed me to make vital decisions about my life which I ‘knew’ were reversible. I have been married for 34 years to someone I said ‘Yes’ to thinking that if it didn’t work out, I could always make another decision. There was always a way out.
But, that’s not the way it works. Endless possibilities belong to youth, to those still trying to find the thread that leads to their destiny. At some point in time, we are no longer able to reverse a decision in a minute, the stakes become higher, the price to be paid becomes exponential, affecting not only our selves but those we love. And so the decisions are no longer external – Paris, Rome or Madrid, but internal. To change our attitude to our life, to change the relationship to our past, to our inner complexes, is a decision which cannot be revised or reversed. We persevere in becoming conscious of what has driven us, we choose to stay the course in awareness, knowing that to consistently give up and try something new will bring us only the same old same old.
That knowledge was hard won. There are no endless possibilities at my stage of life, and in fact, there weren’t any endless possibilities then either. There was just more energy and time available to experiment, experience and express. I live with the knowledge that where I am now is the fruit of all that I have done and been and I get to reap that harvest.
That is the work of archetypal pattern analysis, to recognize the mandates of life, to know what belongs to which season and to determine whether we are stuck or thriving. To live whole and balanced lives, we fully inhabit the spirit of our time, we learn to live with the many deceptions and disillusions of life, in ourselves and in others. It is hard work to live the reality of our lives at any age. That kind of clarity allows us to relax a bit, knowing we are exactly where and who we are supposed to be. The paradox is that when we really get to know, accept and embrace all of our perfect imperfections, we navigate life more easily, knowing what must be done minute by minute. Which is, of course, the only way to live.
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Dr. Silvia Behrend is a Certified Pattern Analyst, educator and mentor