Tag Archives: Change

Change

“I have accepted fear as part of life—specifically the fear of change…I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back…” Erica Jong

Change.  Many of us struggle against it, and, at the very least, devalue it, like the pennies and nickels and dimes that collect in the bottom of our purses, weighing us down. Change, whether gentle or harsh, is uncompromising in its persistence and its accumulation.

Loose change adds up. Minor changes, some of them which occur so gradually we can’t detect them in real time, are not going to remain small forever. The tiniest of cracks hidden behind a wall may grow undetected for months or years before we discover the mushrooms growing in the attic or we step off the last stair into an inch of water pooling on the basement floor.

And also, for women, there is menopause, which I remember my mother calling The Change. Relief or regret, it makes no difference. At the average age of 51, American women stop having menstrual periods and no longer produce eggs (www.mayoclinic.org). The change comes, though at different ages and with varied symptoms. For men, it seems there’s no age-related end to sperm production (though counts do tend to go down), but the prevalent use of Viagra speaks to a change in performance (erectile dysfunction).

My granddaughter’s skin is silky perfection, my daughter’s, still smooth at thirty something. Mine is a map of a lifetime of laughter, heartache, and a wretched lack of self-care. First, a tiny crease transformed into one small wrinkle between my eyes, an exclamation mark above the bridge of my nose. Surprise!

Over the years that small furrow deepened, and numerous others presented themselves, accompanied by an overall loss of tautness and clarity. When the face one sees in the mirror belongs to someone who appears to have lived through a millennium of sleep deprivation, dehydration, and exposure to harsh elements, it’s only natural to be alarmed or saddened. Many of us fear or loath this facet of aging so much that we slather on sun blocks and night creams, either before the lines make their appearance or as soon as we spot them, hoping it’s not too late. If we can afford it, we go to salons for facials, steam baths, Botox, surgery… Some of us ignore the changes in our skin, or better, take a certain pride in them; we’ve earned them!  Regardless of what we do or do not do, the wrinkles come.

Children grow up. Careers change. Our bodies change. Our country changes. The world changes. This is all understandably unsettling.

As for me, I have always been the restless type, one of those odd sorts who has accepted and often sought change in my life, even while at the same time yearning for stability. This very probably has to do with the fact that I experienced a great deal of change as a child, living in different states in different circumstances.

 Don’t get me wrong. I had parents who loved me. They just weren’t together and they weren’t all that traditional, and our family experienced multiple dead ends, detours, and reroutes. I loved Dorothy’s “No place like home,” but as an abstract idea only. Something from a pretty story. By the time I was eight years old, I didn’t know where home was.

Wisconsin, Nevada, Illinois, Minnesota, and back again. Thirty-seven years in California (a record!), and then another move.  Always wondering where to land. And so, as Vonnegut would say, it goes. Wishing it had been different does no good. Wishing I had been different doesn’t either. And now time, the master architect of change, has brought me to my “golden years.” Not for wimps, my dad used to say. Truth there. And he wasn’t. Nor was my mother. And I won’t be either.

That said, there’s no getting out of this thing alive. All the more reason to wake up, spiritually, physically, academically, socially—in whatever way we are stuck downstream of where we want to be. That’s perhaps why I read so much, and travel. And pack up my belongings and move.

It’s not always effective. The change has often been for the worse, at least temporarily. Sometimes short-sighted. Maybe selfish, too. So, as I consider the changes I will willingly make over the next decade(s), and what painful changes may come that I will have to accept, I endeavor to do so consciously self-aware, and mindful of everything and everyone around me. These are to be among the last changes I will know in my lifetime.

Whatever changes come, I pray to accept them with grace and love, and in deep gratitude for the all the people I’ve known: my beautiful family, my dear friends, my students, colleagues, neighbors—the strangers who smile when we pass, or write a story that moves my soul, or who care for a child, an animal, or our natural world—the world entire.

But for now, it’s time to pack the car. I’m off on another road trip. Wishing you the ability to embrace the best of the changes you make or take, and the fortitude to deal with the worst of them. And may love be your unchangeable superpower.

Mahalo!

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Random Sammys

Sammy was a truck driver stuck in my husband’s place of work, a truck fixing place—what’s that called anyway—a really big garage I guess. Anyway, it was Christmas Eve and Sammy was supposed to be home with his wife and children in Georgia, but instead he was stranded in Wisconsin in a cold garage. He was leaning against the service counter with his head down when I arrived to pick up my husband from work. I’d brought our two dogs into the shop as a special Christmas treat for everyone. Merry Christmas, Guys! Time to get home and celebrate. Atticus, the schnauzer, promptly lifted his leg on one of Sammy’s tires, unleashing a steamy stream of urine that left an impressive puddle. It was kind of fitting really because Sammy’s truck wasn’t going anywhere for some time. I guess it was super broken. It had let him down, and on the most important night of the year. Atticus must have sensed that.

 

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Atticus likes to hide in bed, too!

I’d been feeling pretty blue, but had been trying to hide it in public for quite a while by then. I found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and impossible to stay away from that same bed with its heating pad and two willing dog companions as each gray day unfolded. I mean, it was Christmas and I was going to be with none of my kids or grandkids, not for months. Granted, I had just gone to visit them the month before, but I already deeply missed them and I’d never been away from the little ones, who really aren’t that little anymore, on Christmas. And I was living in a state I loved but that was 2,000 miles away from the state where I’d built a life for thirty-eight years.

I was missing all kinds of things and people I had loved and many that I had taken for granted. I still planned on making a big Christmas dinner, but it would only be a dinner for three: my husband, his father, and me. And it had rained for weeks in a state that should have been a winter wonderland by then. My roof leaked. The yard was a mud hole. The holding tank had filled up just that very morning, setting off an alarm almost as offensive as the smell in the mud hole yard, and nobody likes to call Pat’s Crap Pumping Service on Christmas Eve. My solar Christmas lights obviously wouldn’t turn on because there’d been no sun forever. My pink fudge didn’t set. I wasn’t writing. What was there to get up for?

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I took this picture at the Kenosha Museum, but it represents my dilemma quite well I think.

 

 

And then came Sammy, and Sammy wanted to get home for Christmas. He hadn’t been able to rent a car with his out-of-state driver’s license. My husband suggested the airport. Could he get a flight? We would drive him. Sammy didn’t know if he could get a flight, but it was his best chance. Soon, Sammy, my husband, Atticus, our other dog, Diesel, and myself were all crowded into my little blue Beetle headed for the airport. It was about a half hour drive going in the opposite direction from the mud hole, making the round trip to pick up my husband something like two hours.

I’m a nervous driver when it comes to driving on freeways or anywhere near a city, but I found myself relaxing as Sammy told his story. He had left Africa at twelve-years-old, alone. He was the only member of his family who was able to emigrate. He lived in a small town in Utah and attended high school there. He loves America. He said that “the father Bush was the president when I came, so I liked him. He let me come to America. I couldn’t understand when Clinton suddenly got the job. How can someone replace the president?”

He said the president in his former country had been in power for twenty-five years and there was nothing anyone could do to change it. His family was afraid when Sammy would visit because Sammy had learned about free speech and they thought he’d get killed for speaking out about how bad things were there. He said, too, that Americans are the nicest, most helpful people in the world. He said that in other countries people won’t even give you directions, much less a ride to the airport. I think Sammy is a little partial to America and that there are lots of nice people everywhere, but it was still nice to hear.

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I love stamps, and writing, and letters…

He teared up when I asked him if his children believed in Santa. I cried, too. My husband was in the back seat with the two dogs, but the car is so small that his face was only a few inches behind us. I glanced back at him and his eyes were bright blue with tears. Suddenly, it was starting to feel like Christmas.

Sammy got a flight and Mike and I headed home. By this time we too hungry to go home and cook the special dinner we’d planned just for the two of us so we began searching for an open restaurant. We stopped at two places that had their lights on and doors open, but they were having private parties and weren’t serving the public. It was Christmas Eve, sorry. So we did the unthinkable and drove through a MacDonald’s. We got cheeseburgers for the dogs, too.

When we arrived home, we waded through the mud and entered the front door. We both remarked on how cozy the little cottage looked. We each poured a glass of wine, his red and mine white, and Mike checked his phone. There was a message from Sammy.

Merry Christmas and Thank You. I’ll talk to you soon. It was a pretty good Christmas. Wishing all of you a good New Year with lots of random Sammys to bless you.

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This may be an old New Year’s hat, but it’s a Goody.

 

 

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Filed under Christmas, Depression, Gratitude, Humor, New Year's