Falls the Shadow

“Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow.” — T.S. Eliot.

This is not what I had in mind. At some point in time everyone utters those words. No exceptions. Most of you have already said it. And if you haven’t yet… I promise you will.

Maybe it was the vacation you had planned or the house you always imagined you’d buy. Maybe it was the career you thought would last forever or the spouse who promised to love and cherish you “till death do us part.” Perhaps it is in the visions you had for your children, or even the vision that one day you would have children. It might be the health and well-being you expected from your own body.

Whatever it is for you… there is probably something that didn’t turn out the way you planned. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes amazing blessings and miraculous surprises come our way. And that’s what keeps life interesting.

In T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men” there is a line that reads: “Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow.” There is much debate over what the entire poem means. And it means lots of different things to different people. But in that particular line I find it interesting to consider “the shadow” to be that grey area that exists between what we pictured in our minds and what we actually have.

If you’re anything like me, you might struggle with reconciling your dreams with your realities. And we may ask ourselves: How do I learn to be content living inside “the shadow”? I think the best we can do is to look around for the surprises… the tiny gems we never even considered to be of such great value: A neighbor who seems to come through just when you need it most. A co-worker who notices whenever you’re having a rough day and encourages you. A friend who knows everything there possibly is to know about you and loves you anyway. Family members who are your biggest fans and cheer you on even when you fall down.

These are the riches found in secret and unexpected places. We may need to write them down. Put them on the fridge or the bathroom mirror… somewhere we’ll always be reminded of them. This way, perhaps we will never forget that even if life doesn’t turn out to be the treasure chest we were expecting… we need to look closer. We will find that it is still a treasure bursting with sparkling jewels… just lying there… in the shadow.


11 thoughts on “Falls the Shadow

  1. Oh yeah. I like this. Another thing I find helps is to try to go into things without expectations, good or bad. This works for little things, like movies, but it also works for big things, like life. It’s all pretty much a crap shoot anyway, so I think it’s good to just kind of take it as it comes. There will always be bad stuff, but like you say, there are moments that are gems as well.

  2. Beautiful. I try everyday to be grateful for what I have and be open to the possibilities. Somedays I barely hang on – somedays I struggle and other days are just pure bliss. I find the more I fight the less it helps, so learning to just go with it at times. I recently realized I am not the only one going through this and that I am not as crazy as I thought:)

  3. Sometimes when things don’t turn out how we expected, it’s for the absolute best. The disappointment of a loss may later become elation at the protection of ourselves from a bigger mistake. In this, we should remember that sometimes what seems to be a shadow can become shade.

  4. Jan Adams says:

    This piece really made me think about my life, and how truly lucky I am to have what I have! Also, it is important to remember that just a smile might encourage someone who is down, or brighten someone’s day. I am blessed to be your friend….and as the years go by and we don’t talk often….when we do….. it is like we never were apart:) love you!

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