Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When Change Happens

For some reason this photo surfaced this morning, so I'm thinking maybe it's because even the sunniest of lives needs an occasional update. Whether it's a simple paint job or more complex maintenance or even a major remodel, the inevitable truth is that, in what Eckhart Tolle refers to as the world of forms, decay and change are inevitable.

And though most of us understand that intellectually, for some reason those concepts encounter a lot of resistance at the emotional/psychological level. Is it because change means work? Is it just because it's so rare that we reach a comfort level that we find ourselves wanting to stay there and rest a while?

And what about those of us -- and we all know they exist -- who would rather dump an old life (or wife) and get a new one than put energy into maintenance of an existing one; who find the task of putting on a fresh coat of paint -- or peeling off another layer of masking -- more daunting than just selling out and starting over? What's that about?

And then there are those of us who can get caught in what is essentially an untenable situation -- the house is falling down around our ears -- and instead of doing something about it we go hide in the one room left standing, humming to ourselves in hope the problems will go away.

I've seen all of these responses in my own behavior over the years. I've allowed things to go downhill because I was afraid to do the work required to fix or adjust. I've curled up in a ball and tried to ignore it when stuff starts falling down. And I've cut and run on a couple of occasions when a willingness to confront might have solved the problem and allowed me to stay where I was.

I don't know what drives other people's avoidance in these situations, but for me it was always fear. Not so much fear of change, I think; I do find change threatening, but I grew up an IBM (I've Been Moved) brat, so I'm used to picking up and starting over. I don't look forward to it, but I know it's possible and know I can survive -- even thrive -- in a new environment. For me the fear has to do more with a deep-seated insecurity, a sense that either I won't have what it takes to resolve the problem, or I'll do it wrong, or that the people I'm dealing with won't care enough about me to stick around if I challenge the status quo. I admire people who seem to instinctively know the right thing to do, and who do it without worrying about possible consequences, but I am definitely not one of them.

Which means that I'm pleased and surprised to observe how relatively easily I'm dealing with this sudden phenomenon of having my husband around the house 24/7. Yes, there are times when I get frustrated -- most often because he seems to have a knack for interrupting my meditation periods, or because he wants to talk or put the radio on when I want to read or enjoy the silence -- but for the most part we're having fun.

But in a way, we're also hiding in the closet and humming, because at some point he WILL need to start hunting for a job -- or else I will. And that could mean some big changes -- even a move, though we both hope to avoid that. Fortunately Rome hasn't started burning yet, so we're happily fiddling up a storm here, trusting that somehow it will all work out. Maybe that's why it's working: we're staying in the present and enjoying it, trying not to worry too much about what's ahead, trying to maintain what we have, shoring up our emotional and psychological resources, so that whatever happens we'll at least be strong enough as a couple to face it together.

It is, I think, another one of those liminal spaces, where what was has come to an end, and what will be is still very unclear -- and in some ways it feels like the whole country is kind of in that space, waiting to see what will happen with the economy, with the situations in Iraq, Korea, and the Honduras -- not to mention all the other trouble spots in the world... But then, maybe all of life is a liminal space; all of life, every minute, is a space between what was and what will be. Perhaps choosing to be present in the moment, to stay attentive and compassionate, is the best we can hope for. But right now, it just seems like the only reasonable choice.


marymartha said...

I have been taking much comfort and strength from your blog. Today's post was very helpful. My husband too is out of work and I am dealing w/ changes and fear. Reading your words, "maybe all of life in a liminal space, all of life, every minute is a space between what was and what will be.." for some reason gave me hope. Thank you for sharing.
Martha said...

thank you so much. I feel like the blog has been suffering because I don't get the meditation time I need to feed it, so it's nice to know there still some good stuff passing through even if I'm not "on my A game."

... and I wish you both the best: we are finding this to be challenging, but also a time of huge growth. It just doesn't always happen the way you expect it to, I guess. You just have to stay nimble and flexible and trust that the opportunities will present themselves...