Change. It is in the air. Fall is handing over the reins to winter. The weather is shifting, the last of the leaves are falling, the dark comes early, and we’re seeing glimpses of holiday lights and Christmas decorations. Some people bemoan the change from our crisp autumn days to the snowy flurries of winter. Some people embrace the onslaught of winter and all the outdoor adventures it offers. I love the way the city slowly changes at this time of year. There’s a certain quiet in the air, yet you can feel the anticipation of the holiday rush. I feel the urge to hunker down, make hearty warm soups, hang out in front of a fire, drink wine and catch up with friends.
Whenever the seasons change, I notice a tendency to reflect more deeply on things. The physical change in nature reminds me of the passing of time, and I have a chance observe how different (or not) life is from the last time fall gave way to winter. And on a greater level it is a reminder that, whatever may happen in life, change is constant.
Since joining the ranks of motherhood, I am more aware than ever of how rapidly life can and does change. From the big life moments -- like seeing two blue lines on a pregnancy test or experiencing the loss of a loved one -- to the smaller things – like recognizing it’s time to put away the 6-12 month clothing and bring out the 18-month outfits -- we are faced with change daily.
Sometimes the changes we are faced with as parents are huge and heartbreaking, and some we hardly even recognize until after they’ve happened.
So, how do we deal with change?
For years, before our kids came along, I consciously (and subconsciously) forced change. I loved trying new activities, moving to new places, even shifting careers a few times. I believed at the time that I embraced change.
Along the way, I came to realize that trying new activities, moving to new places or changing careers was a certain kind of change: A superficial kind of change involving a different environment or the learning of new skills. Both of these have great benefits, but are far different than the deep personal or emotional changes I believed I was embracing. In fact, rather than sitting with and dealing with some of the changes I really needed to experience, I was actually running away from them.
Through yoga and meditation, I discovered that the best - and also the hardest - way to deal with change was to actually stay where I was.
This is not always a comfortable place to be as a parent. Sometimes changes --whether they are for my kids, my husband or me -- are glorious and welcome, but sometimes they push the boundaries of my beliefs, they challenge my confidence, or dash my expectations. Regardless of what form these changes come in (or what emotions they bring up) I am trying to sit, to be, and simply face them.
This quote by Pema Chodron has had a lasting impact on me, and I also believe it is appropriate to the way we face change:
"To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach…—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path."
I love the idea of 'relaxing amidst the chaos,' and strive to practice this approach to change. How do you deal with change? I would love to hear.
I remember. I remember my grandad with his big smile, warm eyes and hearty laugh. I remember asking him about the war - when I was too young to know the pain it had caused him - and he simply said, “I lost some friends.”
I remember learning from my father the many-layered truth. That my grandad could barely talk to his own son about the war because he had shut it all away somewhere deep inside. A necessary act in order for him to keep living, to be an incredible father to his four children, and a loving husband to my granny. That he was in a tank that was bombed and it was just one of the many ways he, “lost some friends”.
I remember how, after he died, (in his seventies) we learned many more details of his experiences in World War II as we sorted through the letters he had sent home, as well as his diaries.
It amazes me that he – who witnessed so much pain, suffering, and death – was able to be the warm, loving and jovial man that I was lucky enough to know as my grandad.
And so I will always remember.
For him – and for every man and woman who has given us the freedoms that we so often take for granted – each year on November 11th, I acknowledge their sacrifices, and give thanks.