There are no destinations in life, only journeys.
I thought I was just getting a small bite of dark chocolate goodness to finish off my brown bag lunch, but it would seem I was in store for a whole lot more.
I licked the chocolate off my finger as I read that Dove wrapper and reflected back over my life thus far. What if I could take this chocolate-covered wisdom and go back and do it all over again? What if I could live with nothing more on my mind than what was happening around me on any given day and who I was becoming in any given moment?
For a task-driven, goal-oriented person such as myself, this seems as impossible as me winning an Olympic medal in track and field. (For those who did not know me as a child and are not aware of my brief and unfortunate encounter with cross-country, just trust me when I say it seems impossible.)
But if I close my eyes, I can imagine how differently most things would have turned out, or at least how differently I would have handled them, had I eaten this particular chocolate, say, thirty years ago instead of on a park bench on my lunch break less than thirty minutes ago.
What if I had viewed my teen-aged self through the lens of self-discovery instead of being focused on who I was supposed to “end up” becoming? Maybe I would have embraced the insecurity and uncertainty and realized that every other kid in my school was struggling with the same. Maybe I would have forgiven my own shortcomings and cut myself some slack for not having everything figured out at 17. For not knowing the future, for not being who I would be at the end when I was still at the beginning. Because, let’s face it, the only end to this journey we are all on is the final end, and everything along the way is just another chance to try, try again and maybe get it more right today than we did yesterday.
What about me as a young – and I mean a very young – mom in my twenties? What if I had known that those days of temper tantrums and potty training and getting them to eat their vegetables and maybe play nicely with their sisters just long enough for me to close my eyes, oh just for a couple of minutes, be quiet for mommy for just a minute, please? What if I had taken some of the weight off my shoulders by not thinking so hard about whether they would turn out complete and perfect and successful and productive, but what if I had lingered over them just a little bit longer when they finally fell asleep? Or listened to the sound of their laughter for a few minutes longer, letting it ring through my ears and into my heart and down through my soul, filling all my lonely places? What would have happened when that sweet little face twisted into an angry, screaming mess (because she couldn’t have another cookie before dinner) had I taken a deep breath and considered it yet another step in the journey – her journey and mine – a journey that would lead us through imperfection and selfishness and anger and pride? What if I had not expected her to know how to behave or myself to know how to parent, but had just been more patient with both of us as we learned?
If I had known then what I really just learned today, I would have given myself a hug and told myself I was beautiful and smart and capable and strong, and that every day I would come closer to the person I was meant to be. And even though I would mess up more times than I would ever care to count, well, in the end, that was all a part of the plan, and the One who created me could take all of that and work it into his design like it was always meant to be a part of the final project.