The Meaning Reveals Itself In The Rearview

Sometimes life turns out to be harder than you expected. In fact, it always does. Otherwise, you’d need to have been born a staunch pessimist, and I don’t think anyone comes out of the womb a pessimist.

We all come out the same way: gasping for air. We all go out the same way, too: a final exhale.

It’s not the first gasp or the final exhale that makes life harder than expected. It’s all the bad stuff that happens in between your first breath and your last one. Luckily, that’s where all the good stuff happens, too.

This timespan between first breath and last is a thing we call “life.” It’d be simple to just call “life” the time when the breath is active, but it’s more than that. I tend to think of it like a good story, a story written in the way Stephen King might write his. Letting the plot lines, themes, and characters surface as he goes. Never once planning where the story will go.

It’s only in reflection, or in the editing phase, that we can make any sense of it at all. As Steve Jobs said: “you can’t connect the dots looking forward.”

I’d imagine that between those two breaths all of us (past, present, and future) will have our expectations shattered at the hands of life itself. Our hearts will be broken. Over and over again. And we won’t see it coming.

Some heartbreaks will be small—like losing a pair of your favorite earrings. Some will be medium sized—like losing your house in a fire. Some will be large—like getting a divorce. And some will be cataclysmic—like seeing someone you love die.

My hope is that we all start to incorporate these small to cataclysmic losses into who we are becoming. It sucks to sit in the heartbreak, the pain. But you have to sit there sometimes so that you can cultivate a faith that things are going to turn out okay, and a hunger to make sure they do.

Meaning always reveals itself in the rearview, if only you’ll make the time and space to let it.

Kate Ward