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Staying the Same

April 23, 2013



“Change is constant,” people say. It’s a phrase we always hear, even though saying the words never actually gets to the heart of it.

I’ve written before about change, about how much I’ve wanted to avoid it. One of the things I found so hard about teaching college was the constant change—transitioning of semesters, transitioning from school to school, new schedules, new childcare arrangements.  There were new classes to create and conduct, new syllabi to adapt and tweak. When I switched to an office job, I was hopeful for an end to so much change, a feeling of constancy and stability. But that job proved to be inconstant, too.

One of the things I’m learning from yoga is how to adapt to change. A constant shift in posture forces a mental shift every few seconds or minutes. The more my body does it, the more it feels like second nature. I am constantly coerced into an attitude adjustment. In every pose, as in any new situation, our goal should be to breathe, focus, and be present.

Right now, as April wanes, change is happening not only in nature, but in my life. My longtime neighbors are moving in a couple of days, which means I’ll no longer be able to look out my dining room window and see them sitting outside, their son drawing with chalk in the driveway. I won’t be able to call for an egg or a cup of vegetable oil, or stand on the porch with them in early summer and watch the kids on scooters ride by.

Yesterday, I got an invitation in the mail for a memorial lecture to pay tribute to one of my favorite college professors. He used to sit in the restaurant where I worked, drinking wine and writing his ideas down in notebooks. My husband remembers that we saw him in a bookstore after I’d had dental surgery, and he said “Be true to your teeth, or they’ll be false to you.” He seemed to be from another era, another world. Now he’s gone.

On top of that, this weekend my son turns six. Six is so far from infancy or toddlerhood. He has longer legs now, a strange sense of humor, a firm fold in his arms when he doesn’t want to listen. He has a new best friend every day, new interests. And then there are the rumblings about girls, even though he’d rather not tell me about those.

Soon enough, he’ll be 16, and he won’t want to tell me anything.

There is no way to control change, even though I want to. Stagnation is a kind of death, an unwillingness to grow. It’s not that we have no power; it’s that the power is in our own behavior, our willingness to surrender. I can’t control change, and I can’t control what others think of me. But I can direct my energy where I want it to go. I can act with integrity, adhere to a value system that strengthens me so I can adapt. I’ll never know what’s going to come, but I can work hard and breathe and be present.

When I first finished this post a few minutes ago, I saved it and went back to search my blog for the other times I wrote about change. A lot of titles popped up, but I had a particular one in mind, so I scrolled back until I found it. “Change and Resilience,” I saw, was published in April of last year. I remembered writing it at my coffee table when I was at the cusp of a new job, invigorated by spring, eager to fit one more thing in before bed. Every year, when spring comes, I tend to write about the merging of old and new. It’s not the first time my blog helped me notice I’ve had the same thoughts and observations swirling in my head year after year, almost to the same day.

That’s when I saw I had published on the same day. On April 23rd, 2012, I wrote a post called “Change and Resilience.” And today, I wrote a post I almost called “Change.”

It delighted me to remember how many things stay the same.


Image: “Stylidium productum” by petrichor via Flickr.

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