Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016



by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 4, 2008
Constance
IT'S NOT HOW YOU START: IT'S HOW YOU FINISH

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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
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

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.

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