Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A month of gifts, day 29: The Gift of Change and Endings

This year has been one of tremendous growth and change. And most of that time, I’ve been fighting it, trying to hold on to life as it was, life as I intended it to be. The more I struggled, though, the harder it became to keep everything together, especially myself. And then I read this amazing chapter in Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She talks about the tendency we have to try obsessively to fill whatever hollowness we find in ourselves, how we can become nothing but grasping hands and hungry mouths. It was such a riveting image, and one that resonated with my experiences. I’ve felt myself grabbing at things and people, trying to stuff them into the gaping holes in my heart so I didn’t have to feel all the scary things that were looming behind me.

In general, I think it’s human nature to fear change, to avoid it as much as possible. Let’s face it: even when it turns out for the best in the end, the process can be disruptive and painful. It often means leaving behind cherished places or beliefs or even people. Some of those losses can never be replaced, some of those griefs never heal, even if you find yourself in a better place in the end.

Yet change, like death and taxes, is one of life’s inevitabilities. If we freeze in the headlights, like deer, we may think we’re hiding from all that scariness, but we’re not. We’re only holding still as fate bears down on us.

Change, and the inevitable endings associated with it, is one of those things that a friend of mine calls “The blessings we don’t enjoy.” At least, not when we’re in the middle of the process. It’s only afterward, when we can see the whole situation and appreciate how far we’ve come and what we’ve learned, that all the growing pains seem worthwhile.

So, like I said, I’ve been fighting change for a while. Some of it is spiritual in nature, as I found myself adrift after some distressing stuff at church. It felt like my spiritual side had been ripped down to the foundations; I found myself questioning even the most basic assumptions I’d made about the universe and my place in it. (It’s the kind of situation that I wish I’d gone through in my twenties, like normal people. I keep thinking, “Aren’t I too old for this nonsense? No? Well, crap.”) There’s been a lot of sorrow, a lot of anger. But now I’m starting to feel little inklings of hope again. I don’t know where they’ll lead me. But I’d like to believe there’s some purpose to all of this, and that all my well intentioned religious beliefs imploded because only in that utter destruction could I grow. I hope that somewhere out there, Someone who knows way more than me is nodding and saying, “Now the real work can begin.”

Some of the struggle has to do with my writing career, or lack thereof. On an intellectual level, I can appreciate the revolutionary nature of this time, and the artistic ferment that’s going on. It’s exciting! It’s also super discouraging. A few years ago, I realized I would never, ever have the kind of writing career I dreamed of when I was starting out. That world, unfortunately, just doesn’t exist anymore. And I can also accept, on that intellectual level, that this means not just loss but opportunity.
Oh, but try to tell that to my wounded heart. As Anne of Green Gables would say, “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.”

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about courage, and creativity, and trying to understand what it is I’m looking for and what I need to hope for. It’s not an easy journey. Being a goal-oriented, driven sort of person, all this uncertainty has been excruciating. But I suspect that, like the physical therapy exercises I’ve been doing for my injured shoulder, it’s the painful parts that will help me get to where I want to be. Only by stretching through the stiffness that’s been caused by guarding myself too long 
can I become something more than I am right at this moment.

This is me, standing at the brink of something I hope will be amazing, and true, and beautiful. This is me, ready to let go of the comfortable so I can embrace something magical.

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