Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Do you feel it coming? Change is imminent. It’s the cool breeze on an otherwise hot August day. It’s the colorful ripeness of harvest. It’s the sale sign in department stores overstocked with backpacks and loose-leaf paper; trendy jeans and sports gear; this-year’s-Disney lunch boxes and impossibly slim calculators with incongruously thick instruction books.
Chicago has only two seasons – Winter and road construction. Phase one of this summer’s road work is yet to be complete, but in a familiar mad-dash attempt to get every street and highway up to the level of functional, thousands of new orange signs and cones have appeared in the last week. This coincides with the increase in traffic which accompanies the sudden/obvious realization that the kids are going to need new everything for school.
The lazy pace of the “dog days” is overlaid with detours, stress, and apologies to the dentist, the barber, the woman who gives the sport’s physicals so the doctor can do more important things, and the coach who has set up practices every day of the two weeks leading up to the first day of school and who can’t understand how - when he is giving up HIS summer – we can’t just get there on time.
I stare through the sliding door, noticing the faded colors of our deck furniture as they sit under the same intense sun they’ve enjoyed (endured?) for months. Beyond them, the sky is summer-blue, the trees are dark and full, the bushes are overgrown, uneven, in need of trimming (again) and the determined weeds are thriving while the flowers in my garden are waving a white flag.
The nearness of the coming shift is blaring in my head, much like the car alarm which erupted yesterday, in the middle of my session with C. My sons are heading back to college – one for his second year and one for his last. My younger daughter and the exchange student who lives with us will be heading back to high school. My older daughter – who has gone through changes of her own this summer - is a married woman now. Tomorrow I will head up to see her for the first time since the wedding.
This goes on around me, seen through new eyes – more focused, more certain, more aware. Emotions come to me so much more easily now. They engulf me like the humid August air and I succumb to them in a way my lilies give in to the milkweed. Okay. I'll make room. You have a right to be here, too.
Feelings wash over me. I wade into anger, tread sorrow, dive into fear and come up for relief. I wonder at their intensity and then again at their brevity. Before I'm used to one state of being, another is on upon me.
Nothing lasts forever – not anxiety, not despair, not the hundred-and-twenty-dollar-guaranteed-for-life backpack my son has loaded with six-hundred-dollars worth of textbooks (bought used, online, at a fraction of the original cost – what a deal). The cyclical nature of everything is proof that when I find myself in the darkest places, I know I will find my way out.
Nothing lasts forever = hope.
I will find the light, immerge, and once again pull peace/joy/gratitude gratefully into my lungs. When I come up from the depths, the air will always be there.
Change is the constant, yet we imagine life in stages, in the spaces in-between. We pause in the calm that exists after one breeze and before the next, in the momentary stillness when one waves has crashed over us and another is approaching, and we think this is life. For all the songs we've sung and poems we've written about the journey, we still think the destination - the stopping point - is where we're meant to be.
The reality is the opposite.
The pendulum’s swing between day and night
The rotating seasons of each year and each life
That's the meat we are meant to chew and savor in the breakroom of life.
Those moments in between are merely an offering from God to step back, to take in what we’ve learned before it’s time to move forward again. In that stillness we live outside the change that is life and have the opportunity to connect with the eternal. Motionless instants – few and elusive – hold within them the reality of our souls.
Illusion = a stagnant pond
Truth = the river of life
Lessons swirl around us and promise is only a ripple away.
Yesterday, C loaned me a book by Dr. Christine Northrup. The book is called, “The Wisdom of Menopause”. The book holds promise. It speaks of new beginnings, of goals and focus of a different kind.
Change is scary, but the fear is fleeting and making it through can bring valid and worthwhile gains. When I look at change as opportunity - as movement toward and not away from – I'm able to wait with anticipation for the next wave to come.
When I “entered womanhood” (this phrase in itself an ugly misnomer as I am fairly certain I am not now leaving womanhood) I was angry, fearful, and sad. I felt the loss of some piece of who I am as a veil of instinct fell over me. I grew used to the idea that this is who I was. I was here to create life, to nest and nurture. That was how I was meant to find fulfillment… and I did. Having and raising children has been an incredible ride and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Without that very necessary instinctual drive I would likely never have brought these amazing people into the world.
With that work nearly done, a growing sense of loss has had me searching for myself once again. I felt pulled in other directions, but also felt guilty. It seemed wrong to be focused more on myself than my children and my husband. I was confused. What was my purpose? Who was I if I was not taking care of others?
I stand in that space, in-between - in that little bit of peace before the next wave crashes, and I feel lost. I feel the tide's aproach, the strong undertow giving it away. I plant my feet, legs wide, arms outstretched, to steady myself as best I can. I’m pulled, swayed, lifted, kicking and flailing and finding the ground again and again.
It's hard work. Gradually, I stop fighting. I lift my feet from the sandy bottom and float, bobbing.
Eyes closed, I let it come. I connect with the universe, the terror of the unknown quickening my heart. Inside - deep, hidden - I search for that eternal stillness and when (not if) I find it, it calms me like a drug.
Hold it now.
I know who I am. I know, and it’s amazing. I realize that I'm the only one who can be this person. It’s an awesome responsibility to know that no one else can be what I am. I can fill this space that’s made perfectly for me AND
there’s time – so much time –
AND there’s nothing else I have to do.