Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
Those are the opening lines in one of my favourite novels, Anne Tyler’s Back When We Were Grownups.
Rebecca, the main character is a widow with four grown children who starts wondering if she is really happy. She begins to think about what her life would have been like if she had made other choices both professionally and personally. What is her purpose now?
Like Rebecca, as our life circumstances change, we often stop to reflect on what our new purpose might be or how the choices we made in life have impacted where we’ve arrived.
There are two key pieces of advice I always take away from Back When We Were Grownups when I reread it.
1. Don’t waste your time with regrets constantly thinking about what might have been.
Rebecca puts it this way. “Your true life is the one you end up with, whatever it may be.”
2. Live as richly and as fully as you can in the here and now. Rebecca tells this story to make that point.
When I was eight my aunt gave me a beautiful tall white candle with white lace around it in a spiral. I thought it was so elegant I saved it in my drawer to use on some momentous occasion. One day four years later I came across it in my drawer and it was all yellow and warped and the lace had crumbled. I’d never seen it burning and now I never would. Since then I light my candles any chance I get. I light them by the dozens, all over, all year. Multitudes of candles!
This Christmas in particular, when we may be feeling regretful that we can’t celebrate the season in the way we’d hoped to, or with the people we’d hoped to, it might be good to remember Rebecca’s advice to light multitudes of candles while making the very best of what life has given us right now.