Three weeks ago, my life looked very different than it does tonight. I knew some big changes were coming — we were moving, after all — but change is sometimes percussive, and there have been a number of startling ones in rapid succession. We’re moved now; I’ve relinquished my beloved house and its albino squirrel and St. Bernard neighbor.  I’m sitting on a chaise lounge in my new backyard with the dog, listening to the neighbors’ sprinklers and watching the fireflies. Four nights ago, we ate dinner on the patio and watched deer in the field behind us. The ponds are no longer within walking distance. But tomorrow I’ll start exploring what is. I haven’t picked up my camera in more than a week, and I’m not sure I even know where it is in all this chaos.

There have been other changes, all scary, but for different reasons. It’s nothing we’re not equal to, but forty-one years in and I’m still amazed at how life comes together, and then unravels. And then it comes together again, and then…sometimes it unravels and comes together all at once.

The older I get, the more reflexively suspicious I am when people proclaim their unqualified love of change in general. It feels forced to me.  What, I wonder, are they declining to feel or acknowledge in their unvarnished enthusiasm? Change inevitably involves all kinds of losses. We can lose a home even as we gain a new one; we can lose peace of mind even as we realize that there’s no such thing as safety; or we can lose a path that’s been familiar and comfortable even as we start down a new one that feels far more fitting.

I prefer holding things in tension, because life is complex and almost never just one thing. I like and trust paradox, and feeling the pain of loss as well as the excitement of new gain. I’m no longer afraid of being mired in pain, so I can allow myself to feel it fully. I think people, particularly those with a history of depression, are afraid of pain for awhile after recovering from it, perhaps always afraid they’ll fall in again and never get out. But mourning and celebration aren’t opposites, and they don’t exclude each other. They’re partners.

 

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5 thoughts on “The complexity of change

  1. Wow, Jen, you nailed it. I’m excited about realizing my dream of living on a farm and at the same time terrified. I can hear my dad in my head: “But what about this and how are you going to do that?” I know his intention was to be helpful, to keep me from falling on my face, but I heard it as “Don’t even try.” It’s taken me many years and experiences to learn I can do most of the things I set my mind to do, and that even if I fall on my face, it’s not the end of the world. But it’s still scary to think about such a drastic change on our lives. I’m already missing the backyard picket fence. And it’ll be hard to leave the house that has memories of raising our daughters. But then again, since I didn’t get to be the kid who spent the summer on the grandparents’ farm, I’ll get to be the grandparent with the farm.
    Donna
    p.s. On Thursday we’re visiting an alpaca farm in Blacksburg VA. 🙂

    1. That’s so exciting! I like the idea of being the grandparent with the farm. I also understand the pain of leaving the home where you raised your children. I’m pretty place-oriented, so I get very attached to homes. Of course, I never seem to stay in one for more than three years at a time…hoping to settle down in the next few years for a longer spell.

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