“Necessity changes a course but never a goal.” – Sanskrit Proverb
I think it’s fairly safe to say that the past two months haven’t gone the way many of us suspected, at the start of 2020, that they would. Vacations, milestone celebrations, work projects and all other sorts of plans have been cancelled or postponed. Daily and weekly routines have shifted in some cases, and been turned completely upside down in others. Our sense of safety and security has been rattled, and for some, unanticipated losses and hardships have shaken us to the core.
In light of all the unexpected and unsettling events of the past ten weeks, I noticed myself, at the start of April and May, making goals for the month ahead with an emphasis on living fully in the present moment. Not wanting to look back on this phase of life as something that I merely managed to “get through,” I considered how I could make my new day-to-day meaningful. I paid special attention to considering how I could maintain professional productivity, relish the little moments with my family, and serve the people in my life with loving kindness. These considerations oriented me in the moment, and now, I’m actually able to look back on the past 60 days with satisfaction and fondness.
But as the unusual continues to unfold — and the reality that things won’t be going back to “normal” anytime soon settles in — I find myself craving more. I want the everyday to be meaningful in the moment, but I also want it to be attached to something in the bigger picture.
I remember someone once telling me that, when making plans, there are three “pictures” to consider: the small picture (right now, the upcoming few weeks), the big picture (the next few years, or even decades), and the really big picture (an entire lifetime). Right now, I’m finding it impossible to think about “the big picture” (who knows how the current events will impact these next few years?) but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be thinking about “the really big picture.” What are my life goals, not so much in terms of professional or even familial aspirations, but in terms of values? What, when looking back from my deathbed, do I want to have cultivated?
A Sanskrit proverb tells us, “necessity changes a course, but never a goal.” To be sure, COVID-19 is changing our courses. But the really big picture goals of our lives likely aren’t: what we valued before we still value now. It’s worth reflecting on those really big picture goals and considering how our actions in the present moment tie into them.
Teresa Coda works as a Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic Church, dabbles in interfaith hospital chaplaincy, and writes about life and spirituality. She has a Masters in Divinity from Harvard Divinity School where she studied theology and pastoral care and counseling. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband Caleb, her daughter Esther and her Boston terrier Bean.