Living the Change
I remember having lunch with a friend before I moved to North Carolina.
“Hannah, just remember that you aren’t very good with transitions,” he warned.
It’s true. I have not historically transitioned with grace.
This week someone asked me, “What is it about change that you don’t like? Is it…scary?”
“No. Well, maybe a little. But really the problem is that it’s…” I struggled to finish the sentence, but after a moment, eureka!
“UNNECESSARY!” I burst out.
And then I ranted “Things will be quite lovely, I’ll be all settled, which of course takes me forever and then, poof, something changes. WHY MUST THIS HAPPEN? It just seems ridiculous. WHAT IS THIS LIFE IN WHICH NICE THINGS MUST CHANGE? WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE?”
Looking back, I can see how I have dragged my feet with every. single. change. I have struggled to find my ground. I have felt floaty and weird and disoriented amidst change. With each change, finding myself and my purpose and place again has felt all-too-difficult.
These past five years I have been through many large (read: stress-inducing) life transitions: I got married, moved into the intentional community of which my husband was a part, got pregnant (er, surprise!), moved to a new house, had Elsie, left community, experienced the death of someone very dear to me, got pregnant again, moved to a new house, had Beatrice. My whole self is still reeling from all these changes. Many days I look around and I still have trouble accepting who I am and where I am: I’m a MOTHER. I have TWO DAUGHTERS. I’m MARRIED. I drive a minivan! I live in North Carolina on a pretty amazing little spot of land. I have chickens and an outdoor cat. My hair is its natural color. When I have a moment to consider all this, I tend to believe life is quite beautiful. But ten years ago, I was completely different. Everything was completely different. And I’m still working to catch up with the changes.
A friend suggested I listen to a podcast the other day in which Oprah was interviewing Deepak Chopra (Oprah and DC, yes please!) and Oprah asked him if he was afraid to die and he said that he was not. Oprah and I both wondered how that could be.
“Because we die all the time,” Chopra responded. But our essence remains, and so it will even after The Big Change.
Isn’t that the truth? Ten-years-ago-Hannah is dead. That single, childless girl living in Kentucky with the dyed dark hair, pierced nose, and thick eyeliner exists no more. But I’ll admit I’ve tried to hold onto her. Because there are parts of her, of her life, that I loved and miss desperately. That girl experienced so much freedom, time, laughter, and friendship. This woman tends to feel a little smothered by parenting (“Smotherhood”, I call it at my worst moments), desires more time to herself than is possible, and desperately needs a local mom-friend with whom she can snort-laugh. And so I have tried to hold onto that old self. I have gripped tightly to aspects of old lives because they have been lovely and comfortable.
We are all changing all the time. We’re all transitioning, dying. We move and we get new jobs and loved ones die and relationships shift and we have babies. Those children grow and the babies they were are no more. The flowers bloom and then they wither.
What can I do in the face of change? Must I always go kicking and screaming through life’s inevitable transitions? Must I hold myself and everyone and thing around me so tightly? When I’m trying to answer my own questions I like to go back in time and ask myself, “What do I really know about change from my own history? Have I really learned that change is bad, scary, unnecessary?”
What I can see is that change is the absolute most certain truth of life. Change will happen. Sometimes it is unwelcome change, sometimes it’s very welcome. But the best I can figure is that even though sometimes we must let go of lovely things, people, seasons of life, there is always beauty to be found ahead. Always. That doesn’t mean that it will be the same kind of beauty, and it doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes have to dig a little to find it, but it’s always there for us. That life is just one big flow of changes, of finding beauty and loving whoever and whatever is in front of us, and then gently letting it go in order to move onto something else. When I look back on all the changes in my life there has been beauty and love ahead of me with each transition. That 25-year-old was fun and free, but the 34-year-old old in the mirror is pretty cool too. Being childless afforded time for cello-playing and yoga-doing, and motherhood affords me infinite opportunities to love and learn deep lessons. We get to have lots of different experiences and they are all beautiful in different ways. Fortunately, we get to hold onto the essence of all that is dear to us as we flow forward. We get to keep the lessons we have learned in the knowledge that love, hope, and faith are Eternal. Change is, indeed, necessary for growth and for life itself. I’m trying, every day, to trust this knowledge.
So we must move forward in love, trusting and hoping that beauty lies ahead of us, embracing the new people we are and the new lives we lead. We accept what is, who we are, where we are (we like to call this mindfulness), embracing our present in love. And then we flow on. We grieve what is lost but we trust the continuation of all that is good.
This is what life is. We can face change kicking and screaming, or we can accept the sometimes tumultuous movement of transition, dance with it, laugh with it, hold it lovingly. We can watch the change from afar, gripping it as it moves in directions in which we are uncomfortable and trying to control it. Or we can be, live, and breathe the change, embracing the myriad possibilities for beauty and love that come with life’s transitions.
I’m working really hard to move toward that second vision.