By: Noelle Sterne
I’ve Wasted Too Much Time
“It is true that you may have lost some time in the past. You may have allowed your life to melt away with your time, but the good news is that you still have the future.” ― Sunday Adelaja,
Do you regret choices you’ve made, opportunities you think you’ve lost, time you see as wasted? If you’re vigorously shaking your head yes yes yes, please stop and read.
You’re succumbing to self-condemnation. When we do, we cultivate a downward-spiraling sense of self-worth. Our energies dissipate, our health deteriorates, and we subliminally tell ourselves we’ve given up on the rest of our lives. Do you know we can free ourselves from those habitual regrets and judgments about the past and their consequences?
You can recognize and acknowledge a universal principle that’s always at work: Divine Order.
What’s Divine Order?
Rather, like the steadfast movements of the planets, the annual renewal of leaves on the commonest trees, and the casually assumed daily workings of our bodies, all of our experiences are part of the Whole.
We can choose to see our lives in this Divine Order. How? Accept that at every stage each of our experiences—as dreadful as we think it was—is exactly what we’ve needed. This principle is clearly expressed by Martha Smock in a poem aptly titled “No Other Way” (Fear Not!, Unity Books, p. 39):
Could we but see the pattern of our days,
We should discern how devious were the ways
By which we came to this, the present time,
This place in life; and we should see the climb
Our soul has made up through the years.
We should forget the hurts, the wanderings, the fears,
The wastelands of our life, and know
That we could come no other way or grow
Into our good without these steps our feet
Found hard to take, our faith found hard to meet.
The road of life winds on, and we like travelers go
From turn to turn until we come to know
The truth that life is endless and that we
Forever are inhabitants of all eternity.
This poem tells us several things.
First, divine order is actual.
Our habitual narrow mental vision prevents us from stepping back and seeing the “pattern” of our days and lives.
Second, let us accept all the roads we’ve taken.
Too often, we cling to our head-shaking guilt and aching regret, repeatedly labeling our choices as catastrophes.
Third, without “wasteland” experiences, we couldn’t be where we are now.
Our experiences have come precisely because we’ve needed them. This recognition is without a doubt difficult and embarrassing. But we’ll live with ourselves much more easily when we realize that we’ve chosen each event, consciously or not, for growth. As we admit our choices, we become more open to the lessons we needed to learn. Then we’re ready to allow the next good before us.
Hard to Swallow?
If these ideas are hard to take, look more closely at people evolve. An industrialist’s life-threatening illness, the result of excesses of diet, work, and pressure, impels him to seek alternative cures. With these and medical treatment, his body is healed. Deep gratitude leads him to found a cancer center at a major hospital that combines traditional and alternative therapies, giving hope and life to thousands of others.
A woman dreams of a career in business, but is detoured by marriage and raising a large family. To keep her kids busy and learning, she develops innovative games, techniques, and activities for them. After her children are grown, she returns to school and obtains a master’s degree. On graduation, she launches her own company, drawing on those child-centered years, to create and sell educational toys and resources. Her company grows rapidly, and two of her grown children become indispensable aides.
Many other examples come to mind, from Famous Amos to unfamous but highly successful people of all kinds.The one thing in common? Their mistakes, delays, and wrong turns turned out to be exactly the right preparation for what they later needed and wanted to do. Click To Tweet
The legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis said, “Do not fear mistakes. There are none” (quoted in I Believe in You, Dan Zadra, Compendium, p. 60). We rarely, if ever, see where the path is leading. That’s why we fear, shudder, and rage at its turns. And often, what we so fervently crave now we may be nowhere near ready for.
If you’re protesting that it’s too late for you, do I really need to remind you otherwise? Today, more than ever, the horizons of longevity, health, and vibrant activity increase daily, even among the medically orthodox.
Examples abound. The late actress Janet Leigh published her first novel at age 68. Political activist Maggie Kuhn was forced to retire from her job at 65. Within a few years, she founded one of the first organizations to ignore chronological limits, the Gray Panthers. The consummate comedian Jerry Lewis became a star in his 20s and only reached his lifelong goal of appearing on Broadway at 70. Michelangelo was 74 when he began painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. At 81, Benjamin Franklin created the compromise that led to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Writer Phyllis A. Whitney published her last book at 93. In 2016, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk published Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author.
One of my favorite books is called Late Bloomers by Brendan Gill (Artisan). You’d be surprised at the many now-famous people whose accomplishments brought them fame late in life, often with many earlier “failures.” And you may be heartened.
What Are Our Lessons?
- Let go of your lamentations and labels.
- Forgive yourself for your perceived past errors, in decisions and actions.
- Think about the ways in which those “bad” experiences or “terrible” choices helped you and may be helping you now.
- Affirm continually that Divine Order is ever active in your life.
- Through meditation, develop inner listening for guidance in right directions, decisions, and actions.
- Above all, keep listening and keep going.
Truly, there are no limits. We do not have to succumb to past history, “awful” mistakes or actions, or stereotypes and assumptions of certain activities at certain ages. Only our acceptance of the notions of failure, wrongdoing, inappropriateness, or deterioration and our self-judging keep us depressed, fatigued, and collecting illnesses. Once we scrape away the guilt and self-blame, we’re free to shake out our dusty dreams. Only then can we express that shimmering, childlike excitement that recognizes the Divine Order of our lives and propels us to our lifelong vision.
However you’ve denounced yourself for your past, know that there was truly no other way. Your experiences have been far from wrong—they’ve been perfect.
Trust your intuition and inner guidance, your drive and desire. Whatever you haven’t done, wished you’d done, and want more than ever to do toward a life dream, take one simple step. Make a call, go to a meeting, get a university catalog, sign up for piano lessons, buy a computer, shovel out the spare room, unearth your watercolors, write for ten minutes.
As you let go of past guilt and release the energy to act, you’ll probably be surprised, even shocked, at what you’re remembering, using, and building on from all those experiences you considered wasted.
Your life is in Divine Order.
Author, editor, mainstream and academic writing coach, writing and meditation workshop leader, and spiritual counselor, Noelle has published over 400 writing craft articles, spiritual pieces, poems, essays, and short stories in print and online publications and anthologies.
Publications include Author Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children’s Book Insider, Funds for Writers, InnerSelf, Inside Higher Ed, New Age Journal, Pen & Prosper, Ruminate, Story Monsters Ink, Textbook and Academic Authors Association, The Write Place At the Write Time, Two Drops of Ink, Unity Magazine, Writer’s Journal, The Writer, and Writer’s Digest. She also contributes monthly articles to several online literary blogs.
With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle helps doctoral students wrestling with their dissertations and publishes articles in several blogs for dissertation writers. Her book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books) has examples from her practice, writing, and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach lifelong yearnings.
Noelle’s book Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping With the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2015) further aids doctoral candidates to award of their degrees.
In addition to her own expression in writing, Noelle’s mission is to help others create the lives they truly desire. Visit Noelle at http://www.trustyourlifenow.com/
A Chicken Soup for the Soul podcast (May 16, 2017) featured her story “Time to Say Goodbye” from a 2013 volume: https://chickensoup.podbean.com/e/tip-tuesday-why-you-should-remove-toxic-people-from-your-life-and-how-to-do-it/
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