Life is cumulative. That's because it has a beginning and a definite end. And, that time seems to have a direction though on paper it doesn't really need to. All the same, it certainly feels like there's a beginning, middle and end to things. That it moves in one direction, and as time goes on, it all adds up.
Experience and knowledge grows over time. You begin to see patterns and so anticipate more of life. Feeling more confident you attempt to create more in your life. Regrets follow soon after. You can't risk something without the chance of regret. Of looking back with new understanding and to wish you would've done things differently. And even though time should run in both directions, it seems only to have one. You can't co back, but you risk becoming timid and learn the comfort of following everyone else.
Moments of joy and accomplishments are cumulative over time as well. Though you may seem to remember the regrets and failures the best. Still, as time keeps moving and you keep accumulating, you'll discover projects that are meaningful. Like rewarding relationships, important work, loving families, and beautiful art--all can be created as time goes on.
With all this time on your hands, how to make sense of it? The beauty of time's cumulative nature is that you can start small. In fact everything almost always starts small even if it starts with a big parade or celebration. There's always the next day--the morning after. Weddings and Superbowls are like that.
The difference is between deciding how you're going to make meaning in your life; creating that plan, those goals, the ideas of your life--creating meaning; and then trying to do the hard work to maintain that meaning through time. You've decided to make something meaningful in your life. Let's say a more fit body so you can enjoy rock climbing. You've planned and outlined the road back to physical fitness. The following 232 days of working out are how you maintain that meaning. Each morning the alarm goes off at 5:30, you open your eyes and get to decide if you will maintain what you've created, or do something less meaningful like turn over and sleep in a bit. One gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction and the other, well it all adds up. Bit by bit you create your life and each moment you get to decide how you'll spend that moment.
The seductiveness of one-moment-at-a-time is overwhelming. It can lead you to spend whole weekends watching TV and eating ice cream. The trick is to not think about your great meaning projects; writing, painting, running, or raising your child while the whole of its responsibility weighs on your shoulders as a great burden or as the hands of fear tighten around your neck. Instead, relax into the understanding that time always moves in one direction--forward. Small steps--the smallest of steps; are cumulative. Each one moving you forward as you choose to step toward the meaningful projects you've decided to create for yourself. It all adds up.
How will you make small steps toward your meaningful projects today? How have you built something you're proud of over time?