I am wise enough to know that change is inevitable, but anxious enough to worry that it will occur. I despise the unknown, surprises that threaten my control. I used to laugh and brush off my mother’s accusations that I am a control freak, but she was one hundred percent correct in pegging me as someone who possesses a need to take charge. I am able to vividly remember the exact moment when my happy-go-lucky take on life became anxious and it was not on the occasion of my father’s death as some may suspect, but rather when my world was upended by an unexpected move to California only months before his demise.
I hated that long distance excursion. Nothing about it felt right. There was a tension hanging over my family that I was unable to explain but felt deeply. When things turned out badly and we ultimately returned home to our friends and family we were all exhausted from the frenetic swings our emotions. The change that was supposed to be exciting had sapped us all and made me fearful of living without routine from that moment forward. When my father died only weeks after we came back to where we had begun my abhorrence of change felt even more justified and thus began my long and often futile attempts to avoid the almost certain adaptations that are an integral and necessary part of living.
In my sixty odd years since that time I’ve been ambivalent about change. I know that it is not just inevitable but often quite good, and yet I have always felt a reluctance to trust the winds of change. I have so often associated them with violence as when I watched my mother’s personality alter because of her mental illness, I witnessed the horrors of political changes that ended in war, assassination, and terror. I’ve even seen the climate of my youth change so utterly over time that my city filled with flood waters. I watched as our society has changed into a kind of tribal warfare pitting one group against another with little or no reason. I’ve seen the pride that once defined my country become a kind of self loathing in many quarters. I have observed the mutations of viruses and disease bringing misery and fear to mankind.
So it is that I selfishly wish that change would take a holiday so that I might enjoy the kinds of moments that I felt for a time when my mother created a safe haven for me and my brothers after my father died. She cloaked us in a routine and innocence that made us feel secure. Those were lovely times that were certainly destined to eventually disappear but I often long to experience them just one more time.
I patterned my adult life after the ways of my mother. I tried to create a kind of haven for my family. I did my best to make our home a happy place where the unexpected rarely came to call but those efforts often fell flat. Illness, death, financial worries refused to leave us alone and the world kept changing in spite of my efforts to keep it the way I wanted it to be.
My nest became empty and I had to watch over my children and then my grandchildren from afar. I tried to create continuity, traditions. I wanted everything to stay the same even as I knew that it would not. I selfishly wanted to run from change rather than attempting to adapt to it. Time and again I was forced by circumstance to accept the evolution of ideas and ways of doing things. Nothing ever really remains the same no matter how much we wish it to be so. Each of us has to endure many challenges, much loss. We watch as the old routines give way to the new. It’s not all bad. Some of it is rather good. I know that, and yet I dread the thought of doing things differently than I always have. I like continuity. It soothes me.
My grandfather often cautioned me to take each day and each challenge as it comes. He was a survivor who was ready to revise his life at a moment’s notice. He faced difficulties head on and did whatever necessary to deal with them. Often that meant being flexible and finding a grain of optimism in even the most seemingly hopeless situations. I suppose that the key to his long and mostly healthy life was that he let go of the past, enjoyed the present, and never worried about what the future might bring. He was a believer in progress and he understood that change had the power of making things better for all of humankind. He did not fear it, but instead embraced it.
Like so many who have lived for almost three quarters of a century I desire to spend the closing chapter of my life in a state of peace and quiet. I savor tranquility but I also know that the new world will belong to the young and that there are indeed changes that we need if we are all to survive. I will try to set aside own selfish desires for an unchanging uncomplicated ending to my story. I have learned that while change is often painful it is also the most inevitable aspect of our humanity. Only a tiny child actually believes that it is good to hang on to the past. I must open my heart to the possibilities that will not only make the future brighter for the rest of the world but, will no doubt bring me happy surprises as well.