All Our Beginnings

“In my beginning is my end.”

“In my end is my beginning.”

The first and last lines of T. S. Eliot’s grand poem, “East Coker.”

Sixty years later, this college English major has rediscovered Eliot as those two lines, out of all of his copious work, have come back to remind me that life is limited. Not just limited, but between ends and beginnings lie thousands of moments when we come to a crossroad and make changes because – well, we have to.

In the poetic genius of “East Coker,” T. S. Eliot, American Nobel Prize winning poet, surrounds the two meeting points of every life. When we are born, we come into the world with a time limit. We live our way into its fullness some day. With good habits, some good luck, and maybe enough good genes, we can sometimes manage when that will come to pass, but our end will come to every one of us. So far, so good. We are T. S. Eliot experts now.

It has been the last line, though, that has captivated me ever since I heard it. At nearly 81, my “end” is no longer comfortably tucked away for some far distant time. It is no longer figurative. It has flesh and blood and a name.

“In my end is my beginning.”

I have found them to be hopeful words. How many times do we get the chance to start over again? To find – to create, perhaps – yet another new beginning?

Each new start finds us looking ahead to find just what is left that still needs to be done. In every new start, there are possibilities for new kinds of joy and wonder and discovery that remind us that life is not done with us yet! And we are reminded that we are not yet done with being overwhelmed by the wonder of it all.

I have been doing the due diligence “things” that need doing in elder years: finishing an advance directive; updating my will; formalizing my “Do Not Resuscitate” wishes if my heart stops; and writing down the multitudes of information that my family will need to carry out all the many responsibilities when I no longer can. Numbers and passwords and names. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Something subtle began to happen, though. I began to lose some energy: physical, emotional and spiritual. When I finally came up for air after a week or so, I began to realize that I’d gotten stuck in the future. The present, which is quite manageable and which has lots of good things, was being subtly undermined without my even noticing it. I was forgetting to embrace the lovely and the creative and the wonder that is still very much a part of my life right here and now.

I began waking up to yet another beginning.

“In my end is my beginning.” And so it is. I took up my paint brushes after too long a hiatus and began to throw myself into color and shape and whimsy and trial and error and the energy of breathing again into the life that I want to create both because of and in spite of what its length will be.

Returning to living in the moment, full of the fascination of starting over, is like a mini-rebirth. It is remembering a way of being that claims the wisdom gained over so many years. And finding even more because I am ready to begin again.

In my end is my beginning. So far, my new beginning is making me smile. It is ramping up my energy for my rather complex and unpredictable life and teasing out some answers. Grace shows up again. It tends to do that at the crossroads.

Now, you must excuse me while I go to my art corner and pick up my brushes and watercolor paints. I have some new beginning to begin!

And I’m very okay with that.