Changing the Ending: A Meditation on Action

I ran across this quote from C.S. Lewis a few days ago that I really liked: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

I think you could add to that and say that you can start where you are and change the story. After all, the story is what leads to the ending and makes it happen.

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time regretting the past, especially what I have lost. And so I use up my energy living in the past instead of in the present. As you can imagine, that robs the present of any value and makes it all too bleak and uninviting.

Is my present (my story) unpleasant? In a lot of ways, yes, but in so many ways it is nearly perfect. I have a loving husband, a beautiful and healthy son, enough money for the necessities and some of the luxuries of life, my health, and so on, but I also have depression and anxiety and all that goes with them.

I can’t change those things about my story, but I can change what I do with them. I can change how I look at my life. For one thing, I can start actually to look at it. And by “it” I mean my life now, at this moment.

It is so important to live our lives in the present, to make our stories. Otherwise, we miss so much. Not only do we miss out on the enjoyment of any good that is happening to us at the moment, but we also miss out on the good we could be doing. Yes, I am depressed and anxious, but those things don’t keep me from doing good.

I don’t know the context of the quote, so I may be way off as to what Lewis actually meant. However, out of context, it seems to me that it could be paraphrased as follows, “We cannot undo what we did in the past, but we can do differently from now on.”

So, it’s more about doing than about happening. There is so much emphasis on living in the present to enjoy what is happening to us, to be grateful for it, to fully participate in it. That is all well and good. Far be it from me to deprecate those things. However, they are only half the picture. Living in the present doesn’t just mean experiencing the present; it means doing in the present.

I think I personally have a tendency to take life passively. That’s not good for anybody. Instead of letting life happen–existing–I should be creating life, should be living it. I discussed this before from the point of view of surviving versus thriving, and I think Lewis’ quote chimes in beautifully with what I meant to convey then. It is action that creates happiness; it is actively seeking it, actively cultivating it, actively spreading it that bear fruit.

How about you? How do you live your life? Do you tend to wait for happiness to happen to you, or do you go out and pursue it? Are you writing your story by doing good, or are you just letting things occur until you get to the ending? I’d love to hear how you “do” your life. Please share so we can all learn how to live our lives better.

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