We’ve all seen the image. Maybe a Facebook friend posts it along with an inspirational quote below the image of a woman standing on the beach, her arms wide-spread, maybe a scarf is billowing in the breeze. Of course, she’s beautiful, young, and thin. She’s healthy and strong. Of course, she is. She is powerful, because she is embracing change. The quote is always about change. Maybe one of these:
“Change or die.” – Alan Deutschman
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Charles Darwin
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
Think about how many times you’ve seen similar images in advertising or on social media encouraging you to make changes in your life. The idea of embracing change, changing who you are, is being pushed down our throats. Our lives are filled with subtle messages of “if only.” If only I lost weight, or exercised regularly my life would be better. If my husband took a certain pill, we would become passionate. Maybe we’d even have matching outdoor bathtubs to watch the sunset as we sipped on a glass of wine. Our world is filled with images and suggestions of what we need to change in order to make our lives happier, maybe even perfect. We have become a society addicted to change. We have forgotten how to be satisfied with what we have or being who we are.
My own life has certainly been full of changes. Many of those changes have been unwelcome in my life. T and I once had a cynical and depressing private joke that tragedy hit our lives on a 15-month cycle. Someone would die, be seriously injured, or seriously ill, and our lives would be turned upside down. The calm before the next storm hit seemed to be on a 15-month cycle. Thankfully, not every change that came into our lives has been tragic. In the midst of terrible tragedies and loss, we were blessed with happy changes, too. Four beautiful children have brought us an endless amount of happiness and love even in the midst of our very worst times.
Almost two years ago now, which is almost impossible to image, we changed absolutely everything in our lives. It would be accurate to say that we, or at least I did, picked up and moved. I’m sure that’s how our friends and family saw our move, but it was much more complicated than that. We sold two homes; one my childhood home, and the other the home where we raised our children. We quit our jobs and embarked on new careers in a new and very different place. On one hand, it was an easy move to make. We were ready for change. We embraced the change. But on the other hand, it was excruciatingly difficult and emotional. Our family lived apart for six months. Leaving behind the entire lives we once knew hasn’t been an easy thing to do. I still get homesick sometimes, but on the whole, this move has been a good thing for both of us and for our entire family.
Over the past few months, T and I have had an ongoing conversation. “What next?” Now that we know we are capable of making such dramatic and positive changes in our lives, we are ready to chart the course for the next change. We have unknowingly created momentum. After years of feeling stuck in one place, we shook up the status quo in our lives. Our conversations keep circling back to that question that lies just beneath the surface like an ember waiting for us to fan it into flames once again. “What next?”
We have purchased a house, and we have enjoyed painting each room. We crank up the music and work together as we have done for years. This is how we relax on the weekends. We moved on to remodel the kitchen and replace light fixtures. Now we’re in the beginning stages of a basement remodeling project. Last night, T talked about completely gutting and remodeling the master bathroom next.
“Didn’t you and Dad buy this house because it didn’t need any work, Mom.” said one of my sons during his stay at Christmastime. I told him that we’re enjoying each project. These are easy projects when we compare them to ones we previously tackled on our big, 100 year old house back “home.”
When we’re not working on the house, the question comes up again and again. “What next?” So we talk about taking a trip. Maybe a trip is what we need, and we’ll fill an hour discussing possible locations and what dates might work into both of our schedules.
The question of the permanency of our situation comes up almost as often as the “What next?” question. Do we like it here? Is this where we’ll stay? Do we want Lola to go to such a large high school? Do we want to raise her in a city and so very differently than we raised our other children? Should we stay here for a while and come up with an exit plan…..a what next plan?
To say that I’ve been feeling unsettled is an understatement. I work hard, and then I come home and work hard. Quiet, calm moments have been few and far between these past two years. Changing, moving, and adjusting – not only for myself, but worrying about how those around me are adjusting – has been a bit exhausting. Pushing myself from one thing to the next, one project to the next, has been my way of keeping the thoughts and exhaustion at bay.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about just BEING. It finally hit me. I don’t have to keep changing every single day. I don’t have to have a grand plan for next year or the year after that right now. I can sit in a chair and read a book. I can watch a movie and eat a bowl of popcorn. I can have a conversation that isn’t productive at all. I can just BE.
Last weekend, T and I watched about a dozen episodes of Hotel Impossible. We watched a couple of movies. We played Yahtzee. Basically, we did nothing but hang out in the living room.
Relaxing for an entire weekend felt strange. I was excited to get back to work on Monday and to get back into a more productive routine. But isn’t that what weekends are supposed to be all about? Downtime, a time to relax and refresh our minds and bodies, is something that feels new and unfamiliar to me. I’m not sure why, but I feel a strange sense of distrust at the idea of relaxing. Is this really something I should be doing?
T and I have agreed to put a hiatus on the question of “What next?” The future has a way of revealing itself no matter how carefully we plan or where we expect the path to lead us.