Before Andrew, I was in relationship with someone who couldn’t stomach change. Life was (happily) limited to New York’s five boroughs and even a haircut could cause a panic attack.
Meanwhile, my hair was long one day, cropped the next, and blue on the third.
We had completely different attitudes toward change.
During college I studied philosophy. While neither Heidegger nor Kant made a lasting impression, a quote from Heraclitus has stuck hard: you can’t step in the same river twice.
(Classics majors: calm down—I know there are many interpretations of the original Greek. But you have to admit, no matter how you parse the words, that’s the gist of it).
On the surface, Heraclitus doesn’t quite make sense—you can step in a river over and over again.
But the river changes, water flows; it’s not the same river.
On some fundamental level this has always made perfect sense to me. I’ve molded my life around the inevitability of change and crafted a career around helping others through their own transitions.
A few days back I was recording The Lunar Lab Podcast with my friend Becca Piastrelli and I announced off-the-cuff: I’m Change’s whore.
But that’s not totally true ’cause, honestly? Change doesn’t need to pay me—I’ll do it for free.Change is the special sauce keeping life fresh. It's easy to become complacent, to no longer see the… Click To Tweet
Which is why, left to my own devices, I would rearrange the furniture weekly.
I want to keep seeing everything. I want to pause and inhale the world over and over again.
As it is, I have little altars everywhere, small things I can rearrange at will without disturbing the larger patterns of our days.
This morning I made a farewell breakfast for one of my closest friends. As I sautéed veggies and cut thick slabs of avocado, my mind traveled back to our friendship’s inconsequential beginnings through the afternoon a few years back when I invited her to visit for the weekend… and she accepted.
She was beginning a midlife transformation. Her twenty-year marriage was threadbare and her kids were heading toward their college years. My home became her refuge and I had a front-row seat as she began to shift the foundations of her life.
On Wednesday night she pulled-up with a U-haul hitched to her Tahoe. My house was the first stop on her journey from Charlotte, NC to her new home in Boulder, CO.
Her change is my change; there will be far fewer lazy afternoons chatting over too many cups of tea and who knows if I’ll ever again get to ask Does the house smell like dog? (She’d always assured me it didn’t, and I’d always pull out the essential oils anyway.)
Our texts and chats this past week, as she sold everything on Craigslist to get her life down to car-sized proportions, have me thinking about what we hold on to and what we let go of as we dance through this life.What I've learned for certain: we can't hold on to people, all we can do is give them a front-row seat… Click To Tweet
There’s a gorgeous scene in Robert Hellenga’s book The Sixteen Pleasures, in which an antiquarian at a large auction house is asked how he can handle treasures every day and not want to grasp and grab for each one. He offers the image of standing in a river and marveling at all the beautiful things as they flow past.
(I am not doing Hellenga justice. But I’ve owned about sixteen copies of The Sixteen Pleasures and each time I pick up a new one, it flows from me to someone else. I can’t give you the richness of the scene as it was written but I can perhaps entice you to read the book!)
How do you handle change?
– Are you the still-point in an ever-flowing river?
– Are you carried by the current?
– Are you racing ahead in a tricked-out, high-speed motor boat?
An aside: That relationship with the provincial New Yorker? It was doomed from word go. Those of us who want to ride the rapids can be a bit of a burden for those who are still.
How we handle change can tell us quite a bit about the plants that will support our lives.
Those still-point folks can get stagnant and need a bit of zing: a touch of ginger or a hint of ginseng. Perhaps some dandelion root or sarsaparilla.
The ones who race ahead tend to burn through their body’s resources and can use the support of amla, alfalfa, or ashwaghanda. Their nervous systems often need relief, spelled p-a-s-s-i-o-n-f-l-o-w-e-r or l-e-m-o-n-b-a-l-m. And if they (or you!) have run on adrenaline and become over-reactive, licorice and baikel skullcap can gently set things right.
And those that ride the current? Even they can get seasick. A touch of chamomile, catnip, and ginger will do the trick.
What’s your change style? Tell me below.