by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 4, 2008
IT'S NOT HOW YOU START: IT'S HOW YOU FINISH
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- This title came up while I was checking sources for what I want to write about. However, it didn't come up as a song, as I had always known it, but as the title of a book written by Gillian Hennessy-Ortega, subtitled "The Success Secrets of a Top Member of the Mary Kay Independent Sales Force." Yawn.
I immediately thought of the old Barbershop Quartet number always sung by some "Sweet Adeline" group and followed by "Down by the Old Mill Stream."
I thought of that, but that was not what I was thinking. I was trying to find the source of a line I scribbled down in the margin of last month's TV Guide. Unfortunately, I didn't copy the source - although I knew it would trigger my imagination just about now.
The line I wrote was: "You can't start your life over but you can change the way it ends." It is not anonymous, just unknown to me right now, and right now is when I need it.
I know I can't start my life over; but would I want to? I'm fine with where I am now but I'm not one of those who say, "I wouldn't change a thing." I'm fully aware that every day of my life 'til now shaped the person I am, but some of those days could have been lived differently and yet still have brought me to where I am.
A few moments of pondering here has only led me to acknowledge every day of my life to date was a stepping-stone to this one. I started thinking about some of the days that wouldn't have mattered and I discovered today that they did matter.
I would eliminate an entire lost semester of school when I had whooping cough, long before a vaccine eliminated it. For an active 13-year-old, those three months of bed rest would have been interminable torture. But that was when I discovered Edgar Allen Poe and his Annabel Lee. At 13, I was ripe for a story of love and loss.
Along with Poe, my mother brought me Shakespeare, but I wasn't ready for his work. Mama turned to his sonnets and told me to read only the last two lines. That worked: "So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
And, the much quoted: "For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings, that then I scorn to change my state with kings."
It was then that I rested the book on my chest and thought for awhile, reflecting on the Old Bard's words. I came upon one of the later sonnets that was such a wonderful definition of what love is all about that I committed it to memory. It is Sonnet 116.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
How could I erase those three months of whooping cough when I know the free time to delve into poets and poetry was part of it? Those days of literary enthrallment would not have been available to me if I were to think of it on my own. In school we were mulling our way through The Ancient Mariner and not understanding a word of it -- although I can recite 16 lines, our assignment.
No, I needed a head start and Mama gave me a gentle push. In my younger years, fairy tales brought me to rhyme and meter. Adult poetry was a logical step - and it came at just the right time. I needed it to move on with my life after whooping cough. I can't change whatever brought me to "bed rest" but I know I was being led into appreciation for all that had been and will be.
As 1997 Nobel Laureate, Wis?awa Szymborska, said: "As far as you've come can't be undone."
As for tomorrow, well, we'll see. I can change the way it ends, but will I?
Visit longtime AR Correspondent Constance Daley at her Website.