“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
I was married to a sailor for thirteen years. We weren’t wealthy, of course, but we managed to save money for little vacations or dinners at fancy restaurants now and then.
One year, after he returned from a six-month deployment, we went out to eat at a nice restaurant to celebrate our reunion. We dressed in our Aloha wear (yes, we were in Hawaii!) and arrived in time for our 5:00pm reservation.
It was the most incredible meal of my life! Not the food – rather, the company, the atmosphere. The food was delicious, too, but I don’t remember what we ate. The service was perfect – so perfect that we lingered over our five-course meal for five hours. We enjoyed catching each other up on the past six months of our lives.
In the middle of the meal, I suddenly burst into tears. My husband hugged me and asked what was wrong. I said, “This is so wonderful! I don’t want it to end!”
Ah, impermanence. Years later, when I came across the Buddhist teaching of impermanence, I immediately remembered this experience in the restaurant. I was relieved to know there wasn’t anything wrong with me for reacting the way I did. I was simply acknowledging a fact of life, however unskillfully.
The Buddha’s First Noble Truth states that life is “suffering” (or, I prefer the translation “unsatisfactoriness”). It means we are never truly satisfied; things are constantly changing in life and therefore, we can never get too comfortable. We must learn to stop pushing away things/people we dislike (which are part of life anyway) and stop clinging to things/people we love (which will eventually end/break/die anyway). I do not find this depressing. I just sigh with relief knowing this important truth about life.
I went through a long phase of life where I didn’t want anything fun or pleasurable in my life because I knew it would eventually end – so why bother? Now, thankfully, I’m in a place in life where I can live more in the moment. If something wonderful is happening, I can enjoy it fully and yet let it go at the appropriate time. If I’m dealing with rough times or a bout of depression, I KNOW it will not last forever. I pray everyone may find this place of peace.
“[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of all people; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiates 3:11-13)