Sunday, April 7, 2013

Forward Motion

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it in this space, but growing up we moved a lot. My two older sisters were born in Alexandria, Va, my little sister Whitney and I were born in Beverly, Mass., and the next four siblings were born in the Berryville/Winchester, Va area. In all, I moved nine times when I was still living under my parents' roof(s).

Given the sheer size of our family and the frequent moves, the ability to "roll with it" was ingrained in each of us from an early age. We learned to share, look out for one another, make our own fun, step up for responsibility, play our part, and have good attitudes no matter the circumstances. If mom was out of town on a business trip, we stepped up to help dad brave the weekend. If plans changed at the last minute, we got creative to preserve our fun. If we got to church and someone forgot underwear, one of us was wearing an extra pair over ours "just in case." (This actually happened once.) We learned to be prepared, and sometimes not ask questions, and other times to hop up and hold on when we were needed. We learned that change - like a move, cancelled plan, divorce - is inevitable, so make the best of it.

As I've grown into a woman, my ability to act in accordance with this statement has dissolved and reappeared and then dissolved again from time to time. I wouldn't say I am always someone who has "a cooler head," or takes a step back from a stressful situation to process things, or even breathes deeply in and out before speaking. Frankly, I would say I'm hardly ever that person, because struggle, by nature, isn't easy. Facing uncertainty or the guarantee of hard times ahead causes all of us to falter once in a while. Change is scary, and as much as you might be someone who loves that nomad lifestyle, of that shiny something new just around the corner, we all have that degree or level of change, of flux, that sets us into free fall.
Maybe you love the idea of moving from rental to rental every year - new rooms to paint and decorate, a new route to work, new neighbors. Or maybe it's work - you don't like staying anywhere too long for fear of getting soft and out of touch. Maybe it's your hair. But the likelihood that you enjoy all of those things constantly is probably pretty small.

Because, to me, constant change can equal a lack of stability. A missing element in the equation of a life. Of course there are exceptions; there always are. There are perfectly balanced and happy nomads out there, and we love them. They inspire us to let go of routine just a bit more, they represent a quest for personal freedom within all of us.

But still we face this problem of change in an area that we're not so comfortable. As the course of life redirects - sometimes abruptly, sometimes slowly over time - we feel ourselves losing control and therein faith in ourselves. I could do THAT even though it was hard, but I CANNOT do this. There is just no way. As the rope of control slips more quickly through our fingers, we cling to every fiber even harder, just hoping to retain a bit of the "way it was," the comfort of that well-worn daily routine.

In the abrupt switch, the without-a-choice switch, it's more like waking up at the end of that dangling rope - perhaps it's even drenched in oil - and before you can muster the strength to heave upward, its already out of your hands. Its gone. A not-so-distant memory. You're falling - it's a fact. You can accept it or flail until unconsciousness. I think the pain of accepting it is part of the process - of the sometimes sadistic beauty of change. You have to believe that eventually you're going to land somewhere - pavement, water, a mountainside, jagged rocks. Something is going to break your fall - and maybe even your back - but the fall will eventually stop, and in this metaphor there is no death, so you will live to see another day. I know it sounds so basic, but I think truly embracing your situation is one of the hardest things we humans go through.

It might take you years to get back to that place, that peak where you once stood - and even if you make it back, you might wake up on the end of that rope all over again, but you have to believe the journey is worth it. That forward motion is growth - be it struggle, change, heartache, uncertainty - and if you're standing still, you're wasting time, talent, creativity, skill, faith. So what's better - to hang in stasis or fall with the chance to climb again - this time with the knowledge of a seasoned climber?

We can't control what happens to us, but we can control how we deal with those things. Facing great adversity, we can give up or we can choose to dig in our heels, cry out to the heavens, brace ourselves for the worst of it, and hang on for dear life.

1 comment:

Shauni said...

beautiful words. As usual, well said my friend.