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.