“I was here. I had reached my life.”

“I was here. I had reached my life. I had built it by decision and by accident–and there would be no other.”

I’m savoring Dani Shapiro’s new memoir, Devotion. Though the words above appear on page 36 and I’m on page 106, I keep returning to this passage, including once to read it aloud to Greg in the car yesterday. I had reached my life. There would be no other.

It dovetails nicely with an Annie Dillard quote I encountered this morning: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

By decision and by accident.
By happenstance and by intention.
By leaps of faith and retreats into fear.
By idealism and by wariness.
By trial and error.
By design and by inertia.
By naivete and by savvy.
By chance and on purpose.

The bottom line: There will be no other life than this life. A life that is reflected in how we spend our days.

It is easy to give lip service to these things, to slap a bumpersticker on the car: Don’t postpone joy. These past few weeks, though, something has been stirring in me, this very feeling Dani Shapiro describes so succinctly: I am here. I have reached my life.

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I have spent so many years imagining another life, always the one I was striving to create or find but never quite reaching, never fully inhabiting. Always working towards.

The waking up comes sometimes gradually and sometimes with stunning, even painful immediacy. It is not a one-time event. It may be cataclysmic or it may be mundane and simple. It happens every day. It happens when we open our eyes and recognize what is as opposed to what we think should be. It is a momentary, coming-and-going, ebbing-and-flowing, non-linear, cyclical, sometimes confusing and sometimes lucid spiral.

I had reached my life.

In Shrek 3, which Aviva & Pearl picked out for “Family Movie Night” last Friday, there is an actual land called Far, Far Away. Far, Far Away is exactly where my life isn’t. It isn’t in some imagined future where we have found inner peace and made lots of money, or where our kids have grown or where we have finally figured out what we want and who we are.

It is here, where the illusions are lifted, the intolerable is tolerable. It is here, this life, not some other one where you married someone else or chose a different profession or bought low and sold high or took the leap or listened to your gut.

It is here, beyond regret, beyond second-guessing, beyond fantasy. And yet it is beyond nothing. It is nowhere else. It is that pause I have come to treasure, the one that transforms the nowhere in our heads to the now here of our lives.

The life we already have.

11 thoughts on ““I was here. I had reached my life.”

  1. Lindsey says:

    Oh, Jena!
    Three of my VERY FAVORITE things in one post – well, four if you include you! Devotion moved me tremendously, more than any book in a long time, that Dillard quote lives inside my head, and I too adore the video for hand wash cold (and have it preordered).
    Thank you for this lucid and lyrical evocation of, really, all that matters most. Thank you.


    (also, I recommend the gift of an ordinary day by katrina kenison)


  2. Meg Casey says:

    Beautifully put Jena. I too am in the space of waking up to the fact that the only life I have is the one I am living and so this resonated deeply with where I am right now. Sending a big giant hug


  3. GailNHB says:

    Amen, girl. Amen.

    Right here, right now.
    This house, this husband, these kids.
    This body, this face, this head of hair.
    These hands, these feet, this place.

    Beyond regret or second-guessing or instant replay or “knowing then what I know now.” I know this now. I live this life right here and right now.

    So good. So very good.

    I am way down on the library waiting list for that book. Can’t wait to sink my teeth and my mind into it.


  4. Nicki says:

    I keep coming back and re-reading this and the comments. Lindsey convinced me I need to read Devotions. Now, you have convinced me I need to read it NOW.



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