When I was little, I used to hug and not let go.
Every year, sometimes twice if we were lucky, we’d all pile into my mom’s green minivan and take the trek from Los Angeles to Orange County, an hour-long journey that seemed like an eternity. And for a day, sometimes two if we were lucky, we’d visit Disneyland and time would stop. I would see Minnie or Pluto or Goofy and in that moment, my life would be perfect.
I am in family photos around the world. I don’t have to see them to know they exist. I would see those characters, the constants in my life, those faces that were unable to change or be anything but love incarnate. And I would wrap my arms around them and bury my little three-year-old head in their synthetic fur coat, and in that moment I felt time was paused and I was loved. Sweet, right? Yeah, until my mom and dad had taken the picture of me and I wouldn’t leave their side. I’d stand there next to them on watch, god forbid they hugged another kid, god forbid someone else became their new favorite person – god forbid they forgot about me when I went away.
I once heard that the way the universe tests us is how we deal with the extremes: nothing happening at all or everything happening all at once. And when it happens, boy does it happen. Sometimes I feel the world is moving so fast around me and I am just scrambling to keep up. I just wish life would slow down – I wish that my grandparents would stop getting older, I wish that my childhood friends could stay frozen in time with their braces and their freckles and awkward hairdos. I love the constant movement of life into our dreams, but wouldn’t it be sweet if things could just slow down?
The go-with-the-flow attitude has never resonated with me. I am a thinker, an overthinker, an analytical emotional creature with a brain in my heart and vice versa. So when change comes my way, I would be a liar if I said I didn’t freak out a little. So much to think about! So much to analyze! So much to affect my heart and my brain simultaneously! It’s so exciting! …Until it’s not.
I don’t like change. I never have. It’s not the actual change per se but acclimating to change; what change represents. Change is the start of depression, change is a death. Change is a wave goodbye; it’s always a goodbye. It’s a broken promise, a muffled guarantee. It means displacement and adjustment and a picture with another little kid at Disneyland who will be forgotten as soon as I was. Change bring up this fear in me, this constant underlying fear of the reality that I am on this adventure of my life alone.
There is a grieving process that goes along with change. Whether you are moving into a new apartment or landing a new job, found the love of your life or got your heart broken, whether the change is positive or negative or simply a linear move into something different, there is always a loss of routine and what has been expected to be normal. It’s the classic idea of Before And After. And many times, we either hug tightly to the former or speed into the latter.
When tackling a problem, we become so used to action. How do I fix this? But when change happens, the best step we can take is to submit to it in its entirety. The thing about change is that even if it’s out of the darkness into the light, out of the yearning and into the having – change is change. There is a loss of normalcy involved, and too often we don’t allow ourselves to both celebrate and grieve that former status-quo, as well as accept the unknown. In the mourning and the joy is where we’ll find our forever. Because that’s all there is, really, isn’t there? Just a constant stream of change.
Change cannot be sped through. Whether we like it or not, we’ve got to absorb it, digest it, then go from there. We can’t slow down life, but we can slow down the way we choose to process it – and honor every single second.
Expect a learning curve. There will be mistakes, but they will only solidify your new schedule and this new part of your life’s experience. Notice the emotions the change evokes. Up in the air? Ground yourself by probing as to why this particular change is making you a bit more flighty than usual. Feeling pessimistic and resistant? Ask yourself what in your life, pre-change, you are worried will disappear. What about your reaction is informing how you choose to be proactive in your new situation?
And then, all of the sudden…it’s not change any more. The waters settle. The winds blow in a steady stream instead of a startling gust. The change settles into your routine and your body and you realize, That wasn’t so bad. With practice, it doesn’t necessarily become easier, but your tendency to either cling suffocatingly tight or speed through to Phase Two naturally dissipates. You become your experience instead of simply being on the ride of experience.
Take a deep breath. Look around you. Notice the trees, the bugs, the little dandelion weed that pops up between the concrete walls that line your laundry room. It’s all there, you have it all, you are enough, you are whole. Loosen the tight grip of your hug and you’ll find that it lingers. It always lingers, no matter how old you get or who you meet or where life takes you – and it will take you everywhere. Slow down. You are not alone.