My sister-in-law’s sister-in-law snapped the photo of my niece’s girlhood friend as she sunbathed against a backdrop of luscious sea grapes and palms, umbrellas, and sand and sea.
Merric straightened to better hide “her wrinkles,” as she termed the fat-free, tanned skin exposed by her bikini. She and my niece have remained friends since they attended the all-girls Catholic high school in their city. They are both 28, twiggy, tan, beautiful blonde bombshells, nearly identical in height and figure.
“She’ll love this photo of herself when she’s my age,” Carol said, smiling.
Carol, I’m guessing, is 70, a guess that is educated by the fact that my husband is 9 years older than I, his sister is 5 years older than he, her husband is 5 years older than she, and Carol is older than he. And she invited us to a “big” birthday party last November, which we did not attend. (Now stop trying to figure out how old I am.)
My point isn’t how old my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law is; my point is that youth is wasted on the young because we so rarely see ourselves clearly at any age. Hindsight is, indeed, 20/20.
I should probably speak for myself. As I readied for our pool adventure that afternoon, I questioned, “to skirt or not to skirt?” As I surveyed myself in my attractive one-piece bathing suit, I saw my thighs and decided a short bathing skirt over the bathing suit would do very little to hide what I consider hideous cellulite.
Which made me remember how I’d worn a skirt over bathing suits for more than 15 years, which made me think how nice my legs had looked and how silly it was for me to have wasted time thinking my legs unattractive back then.
Which made me remember one particular photograph my roommate at the time had taken of me in front of the 20 bags of leaves we had raked. At the time, I thought myself fat. When I view the photo now, I see how good I really looked at age 28…
Which is the age of Merric and Lauren and their beauty queen selves. And maybe they don’t realize how beautiful they are at this point in time either.
Hindsight (don’t you like my clever photo illustrating hind sight? hinds looking in the same direction? I know. You wanted to see the photo of Merric, right?) is when we look backward and see clearly what was, what could have been, and maybe what we should have done. It isn’t always the superficial, skin-deep hindsight I mention in this post. Decisions difficult to make today will be crystal clear choices at some time in the future. Worries that plague us either become points of action or hours wasted.
My sister Trish has a great perspective about things that bother her: “It will either get worse or it will get better.” In the meantime, she deals with what “is” not “what it might be.” Smart girl.
One of my patent fellows returned from an internship with a law firm in Orlando. As she was telling me how busy she was all summer — so busy she only went out with friends one time — she mentioned how happy she was to be back in school.
“Now that you’ve seen what real adult life is like, you never want to graduate, right?” I asked her at the time. I told her a story of my college years, when a friend graduated a year ahead of me, went into the workforce but stayed near enough to hang out. When I whined about how stressed and how busy I was, he cut me short.
“Trust me,” he said, “these are the easiest days of your adult life. The workforce? That’s hard.”
Looking back on what he had considered difficult college years, he gained the perspective of hindsight. I mean, think about it, mothers forget even the pain of childbirth after they’ve held their babies in their arms (John 16:21). Looking back always changes perspective.
So maybe it’s just the present that gives us poor perspective and seems so hard.
And maybe it shouldn’t be. Years ago, a friend wrote down this beautiful poem by Helen Mallicoat:
My Name is “I AM”
I was regretting the past
And fearing the future.
Suddenly my Lord was speaking:
“My name is I Am.” He paused.
I waited. He continued,
When you live in the past
With its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard. I am not there,
My name is not I WAS”.
When you live in the future
With its problems and fears,
It is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I WILL BE.
When you live in this moment,
It is not hard. I am here.
My name is I AM.
Hmmm. Something to think about.