Andrew Marvell begins “To His Coy Mistress” with these words: “Had We But World Enough and Time” – a reference to living life in the present moment. We only inhabit this earthly plain for a short time and must make the most of it while we can – that was Marvell’s argument, and I would agree. Carpe Diem. He could spend all eternity making love to her but there just isn’t time for that, so… His specific plea related to the two of them enjoying each other while they still could – we’re left to wonder if she was ever convinced.
Seizing the day applies to the things we say, and those we fail to say, too. Things we want to say but can’t. Things we want to say but don’t. Things we should say but are afraid to, fearing that opening that particular door will mean we’ll have to walk on through it. Then what? Life as we’ve known it will change. What of it? I’m up for the challenge. At least I think I am, though I’ve been known to falter before and have a whole host of reasons for doing so.
Excuses? Maybe. Fear? Surely. Rationales? You betcha. Anything that keeps me from doing something that requires full frontal confrontation. Nerve. Guts. Strength of character. Nope – not going there.
But this hesitation, this lack of follow-through often breeds regret and a huge sense of loss. Like Frank Sinatra says in his signature song “My Way,” we have a few regrets, maybe more. But for some of us: There Is Still Time. Time to work through them, talk them out, time to temper their affect. Time to correct the course we’re on.
It would be nice to do things our own way all the time, to have a life built on having what we want the way we want it. But we don’t all get that, do we? Sometimes it’s our own fault (cowardice); sometimes circumstances prevent it – or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Whatever the reason, the reality is most of us don’t get what we want.
And we don’t go through this life alone – we touch others even as they touch us, at times in unforeseen ways. We touch some with kindness and sympathy. Others we fashion into targets that receive isolated, random arrows that strike, spreading a fatal venom. Some of us are struck, too, driven to our knees when we least expect it. Exemplary lives lived don’t count. The arrows come from nowhere – and everywhere. They strike without purpose or intent and leave one to wonder:
Why me? Why now? Why this?
There often is no answer.
It’s okay to embrace self-pity, briefly, though we mustn’t linger there too long lest we become shackled to its more deleterious affects. If you recall, Superman was subject to the affect of Kryptonite, laid low by it in fact, but he struggled mightily to free himself of the shackles it imposed. Our Kryptonite lurks in forgotten corners and will drive us to our knees, as did his, when we least expect it – but only if we let it.
Why me? Why this? Why now? – There are no satisfactory answers. Were there ill-advised choices that brought us to this moment in time? Were we fallible? Did we make mistakes? Yes, yes, and yes again.
But sometimes there are no answers at all. What then?
Marvell tells his lady friend we don’t “have world enough and time.” Oh, if only we did. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it always comes too late. So while there’s breath left in our bodies, there is still time to say the things we’ve kept to ourselves for far too long. Time to say, to feel, to do. Things we’ve wanted to say a thousand times over but our reticence, our fear, and our desire to disguise our vulnerability have kept us from doing so. There is still time to say the things those close to us want and need to hear. Give them the words, the touch, the look they will carry with them and cherish to the end of their days.
One can’t imagine just how important words can be when they are sincere, heartfelt. Sometimes they are everything, and sometimes they are all some of us will ever have to remember, to cherish, to cling to.
Unlike Sinatra, we don’t all get to do it our way, and wasn’t it Mark Twain who said “ life is not fair” – and there is not one single thing we can do about that. Regrets? Yes, we have a few, maybe more than a few, but let not the withholding of our words, our feelings, or our deepest thoughts be among them.
Say them loud. Say them clearly. Say them now.