Change makes life worth living

Spring has sprung and with it the change of time. I have to say that I am pretty happy about that. I will miss neither the cold nor the darkness. There is nothing particularly unique in all of this. Our lives are full of change. As the earth revolves, nature rotates with it. Human interactions alter things as well. Unfortunately, this most recent turn of events excepted, much of the time such transformation is disruptive, difficult, or disheartening.

My youth was latent with disruption. When I was 18, I had moved 21 times. I was born in Kansas, lived there for three months, and never returned. I graduated high school in Germany; within a month we recrossed the Atlantic and I prepared to go to college in a place I had never even visited. I continued that nomad existence for another fifteen years in my own military career. I am now settled; moves are measured in decades rather than months.

The difficulties are inherent in the disruption. Every move entailed the making and un-making of personal bonds. We would become “fast” friends (really fast), but it was superficial. He was my best buddy one day, gone the next, never to be seen again unless by happenstance. The only long-term relationships from my formative years were with other vagabonds from the military. Somehow, I have stayed close with several other “army brats” (dependent children) from high school that ended up at West Point and with whom I served in our careers.

Sadly, our own human nature also drives disruptive forces in our lives. People simply do not fill our lofty and often unrealistic expectations (as we do for them in return). Love blossoms and fades. We lose focus on what was once so enamoring and begin to see others (but often not ourselves) in the light of who we flawed humans really are. Many of us have heard the words, “It’s not you, it’s me…” If I am true to myself…it generally was “me.” Deep down inside (when I am willing to be internally honest), I know that I disappoint myself more often than others do. A sad, but true commentary on life.

All too often, this leads to disheartenment and pain. The loss of a loved one or a sudden illness (something we have grappled with for the last few years) is devastating. Even the (relatively) less significant events (e.g., the breakup of a relationship) can cause debilitating grief. Too many times these are self-inflicted injuries. My numerous bumps and bruises would indicate that I may be a slow learner.

Lest one gets the feeling that I am having melancholy musings, I recognize that change can also be positive, as in the emergence of life anew with Spring. As the lyrics from Semisonic’s song, “Closing Time” state, “…every new beginning, Comes from some other beginning’s end…” Change is both the provider and the un-provider: It provides opportunity and the impetus for improvement, but un-provides normalcy and the perceived security of the status quo.

Change is also full of risk. It can be “scary,” but it creates the “edge” that makes life worth living. I am reminded of the prose from the Great Gatsby, “for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath… compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face … with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.” Life is so full and rich when we let it be.

Yet so often we romanticize and hold on to that which has departed. Robert Frost, one of the great chroniclers of human experience, expressed this eloquently in his poem, “Reluctance.” “Ah, when to the heart of man; Was it ever less than a treason; To go with the drift of things; To yield with a grace to reason; And bow and accept the end; Of a love or a season?”

We may kick and resist. We may curse the random vagaries that infest our life. We may scream to the heavens for remediation of our catastrophes. We may beseech God to fix our flaws. Often it seems to fall on deaf ears. Nothing seems to satisfice.

So, we are left with the remains of the day, be it good or bad. Through my travails, I take comfort in the sage advice my mother gave me (and I tried to pass on to my own progeny), “Things have a way of working out in the end.” And so, they do.

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