Facing Change

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I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.
Flannery O’Connor

I am immensely grateful for my life. My husband is a talented, intelligent man who makes me laugh and is committed to growing with me in our relationship. I have two beautiful, healthy children who inspire me daily with their unbridled joy and wonder. I get paid for work I love, work that challenges me intellectually and spiritually. And yet there are days when I want it all to change. I want a new job, a different boss, more time to write, fewer committee meetings. I want my husband to be less cynical. I want my children to stop fighting, to stop yelling, “STOP!” I want things to change and I want them to stay the same. Every day is like this.

A poem by Randall Jarrell struck me today. Called Next Day, the poem shares a woman’s thoughts as she reflects on her life the day after attending a friend’s funeral. Here is an excerpt:

Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,

My husband away at work—I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them.  As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing.

I understand this fear of change, especially the change that comes with growing older. I feel the desire to slow life down when I sit on the back porch with my kids eating ice cream cones, then watch as they kick off their socks to gallop barefoot through the grass. I don’t want any of this to change. I don’t want to lose what is so precious.

But I also find change exciting. Something new is around the corner and I am curious, eager to see what this change will bring; A new and better version of myself? A new phase in my relationship with my husband? A new challenge at work? A new joy as a parent of rapidly growing children? While Christians refer to Christ as the solid rock on which we stand and sing about an unchanging God, Buddhists teach that all is groundless and that we must grow comfortable with change as our constant reality. As much as I would be comforted by the belief that God doesn’t change, I find myself agreeing more with the Buddhists.

So how can I live faithfully, wisely, attentively, comfortably in the face of all this change?  Maybe as Flannery O’Connor does in taking it all as a blessing, but with one eye squinted.

 

[Feature Image: Stephen Thomas]

 

about remembering

1349987486840I remember getting out of bed in the morning to muscles that didn’t ache and joints that did not crack and pop.  I remember being able to see without the thick-lensed glasses I fumble for on my bed stand.  I remember not needing a minute to loosen up, my feet screaming from their heel spurs, before I answer my children’s calls from their beds.  In fact, I remember the time before children.  An actual alarm clock woke me then.  If it was not set, I would sleep the morning away.

My body doesn’t rest like that anymore.  These past forty-one years have taken their toll.  Though I consider myself healthy, I cannot stop the effects of aging…or the trauma of childbearing….or the enduring back, leg, knee, and foot pain after years of running. I imagine carpal tunnel will soon set in with all this writing.

But I don’t live with regret. Life has been abundant. I am amazed by the life that surrounds me: a marriage that grounds me, two healthy children who inspire me, a career that consistently challenges and fulfills me.  I have certainly made mistakes in this life.  But even the mistakes have fed the abundance for what they have taught.  When I took that job where my boss turned crazy and whispered to others of my incompetency, why did I let her whittle away my self-confidence?  Why didn’t I quit sooner?  I would now.  When that boy’s hand found my inner thigh under the table and slowly moved to that place I knew he shouldn’t touch, why was I so surprised?  And why didn’t I say “Stop!”  I would now.  Why did I, in my young rebellion, rage at my mother, tell her I hate her, and push her, hard, away from me?  I wouldn’t now.  Wisdom has been born from my mistakes.  Failure has led to my growth.  Abundance gratefully rises above the pains of my past.

Aware of my daughter’s cry, but not yet fully awake, I kick my legs out of the pillows I have used all night for lumbar support.  I knock the bed stand and hear my glasses fall to the floor.  Bending is a nightmare.  My hamstrings are so tight.  I can’t see a thing.  Swishing my hands like metal detectors along the carpet I search for those damn glasses while my daughter cries and cries.  On my knees my body remembers everything, every ache, every jab, every taught tendon. Every one of those forty-one years travels with me as I search.  Finally, the tip of my finger catches the ear of my frames and I jump up in triumph.  “Mommy!  Mommy!” She cries.  “Coming! Coming!” I shout in return as I take off towards her bedroom in glad pursuit of the rest of my life.

**This post was written in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge.