Sunday, April 26, 2009

Transitional thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions.

I’m sure this is related to the recent situation here at home, what with joblessness and job-searching and the [now-at-least-temporarily-eliminated] possibility of role reversals between Todd and me. And I’m certain that I’m still thinking about changes in part because Todd is still in the midst of transition, and will be for a while; he’s started a new job, at a new company, in a different field of work. He’s trying to absorb a lot of information as quickly as possible, and he talks about how overwhelming it is when he gets home—so I’m experiencing the transition vicariously, if you will.

I suppose I’m also thinking about it because of changes within our church, some long past, some recent, some current and upcoming. They all make me ponder what the future holds for this body of believers, many of whom have taught us much and have become friends on the journey.

And I’m faced with undeniable transitions in my son, of course—every day he grows, learns a skill, discovers a new pastime or toy or treat to embrace. He’s a walking change machine. And there are some changes in me, although not nearly so pleasant to observe: lines, droops, the occasional wiry gray hair…but enough about that.

I’ve always been one to scoff at people who fear change. I claim to love change, to accept it and even seek and encourage it when need be. And I still believe that is true. Change is healthy; as our pastor reminded us today, “Healthy things grow, and growing things change.” So true. But age and experience have added a new dimension to my comprehension of the side effects of change. Whereas I used to see transitions as refreshing and a little bit dizzying, now I also see the downside: transitions reveal fissures in the big picture—some tiny, some not so—and those fissures often grow and lead to more transition. It’s almost as if change is the catalyst for more change.

And why not? I recall my pregnancy (although I honestly try not to), and being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The nurse likened pregnancy to an extended stress test of sorts, explaining that often, a pregnant state reveals other issues that are or will likely soon be amiss in the woman’s body. She recalled cases of pregnant woman uncovering not just diabetic tendencies, but beginning stages of heart problems and even multiple sclerosis. That huge change the expectant female body goes through is just the sort of stressful transition to cause other tiny cracks to grow and spread until they, too, are discernable, diagnosable concerns of their own. They weren’t really caused by pregnancy, they probably would have happened anyway at some point, but there it is—pregnancy can egg on other ailments until they all start showing up as an ugly package deal. Transition begets transition—at least in that case it does.

So, perhaps every change is a mini-stress test, and often it reveals the fissures that are hidden in the infrastructure but would have waited quietly until later if not forced into noticeable existence by the stress of the first change. Does it happen that way in relationships? In work situations? In neighborhoods, government, communities and culture? I think so.

Maybe that’s the way life is supposed to be. If transitions didn’t build on each other and didn’t happen in clusters, then there’d never be any down time between clusters where you could catch your breath and be comforted by the thought that you have a slight clue what tomorrow will bring. Or maybe I’m just fooling myself; maybe there is no such thing as down time, and probably none of us will ever have a clue what tomorrow will bring. Maybe when you stop transitioning, when change stops occurring in your life, then you’re done.

Could it be that simple? Change or stop living?

Wow. Too deep for me. I think the sudden heat outside has gone to my head.


Facie said...

I HATE change and try to avoid it at all costs (probably a reason why I stayed at my last job so long). But, fortunately, I do adjust to it rather well when it does come my way.

Perhaps if I embraced your thought of change or die (okay, you did not say it that way exactly), I would be better off.

Now off to enjoy my transition time (or is my being at home a change?!), gray hairs, some aches, and wrinkles coming with me.

Chris H. said...

I have a hard time with change. Several years ago, I bought a neat little something at an artisan shop (it "spoke" to me) -- a smooth river rock with the face of the sun sculpted onto it and a simple painted message: change. It's the reminder I need that nothing stays the same, and the encouragement I need to be strong enough to change with it. I'm still working at it!

Mel said...

hey! I don't always succeed at embracing change. I wish I were better at it. sometimes I prefer the idea of it to the reality. ; ) I like the idea of a little "piece" to remind me of the necessity of flexibility, like that little rock with a sun...