Vol 3, Issue 7: Coping with change, moving and loss

I’m not alone in that I’m currently navigating the sometimes stormy seas of change. At this moment in time, we are all walking across the threshold of the unknown. As the days become darker and the temperature drops, it is difficult to escape the feeling that our lives are not also being eclipsed by a deeper, shared sense of darkness,  a kind that lacks a coherent map or cartography of understanding. As the leaves burn in their last ember of colour before falling, my gaze is drawn towards the connection between the network of trees and the seasons that hold them. Like the trees, we are also affected by the turn of the seasons, the cyclical churning of the natural world.  Like the rhythms of  nature, I can feel myself being changed by forces beyond my conscious control.  I’m seeing my identity differently. I’m feeling parts shed and fall away whilst finding it difficult not to reach out and grasp for what can no longer be. I’m waiting, sometimes curiously, sometimes despondently, for new moments of hope to arrive, for new ways forward to present themselves. On many days, I feel little more than a creature muddling through a dark and mysterious country, where the ask to be anything other than that feels too much. Too cruel.

It is difficult for us to be in such in-between spaces. Being in such depths of the unknown can feel a lot like stumbling through an overgrown path at night, not knowing which way to turn. It is challenging, to be to be undone by change. But change is always going on within us, in the elements, the energies, in our bodies and our being. Tides rise and fall and we are not unaffected by these altering states. There are changes that we plan for, the kinds we yearn for, and often, there are the losses that changes brings, in spite of our prayers and desires. There are many kinds that work in our favour and then there are types that we never could have imagined happening to us. Why do we find change so difficult? And is there another way to perceive this process rather than something that brings immense challenge and upheaval? 

Moving house is one such change that can make people feel unsettled and out of place. It can lead us to say goodbye to things that were always going to leave too soon and end too quickly. When I said goodbye to my childhood home for the last time, I saw the whole thing pan out as though I was two people with two different sets of eyes. One was bruised and sad and aching. She felt so jilted by the inevitability of endings that she couldn’t even speak to her closest friends, could barely even look at herself in the mirror. But the other saw the move from a taller height, as though watching the  transition play out from an alternative realm of understanding. There were chances, in each packed up room, to watch the kind of life that was being packed up. Each scrap of paper, each old photograph thrown away was like an offering to what no longer needed be a part of her life anymore.

 Usually with such moves, people are so overcome with mental stress and admin and the endless stream of tasks to complete that such an approach may seem an impossible way of seeing. But as I slowed down my movements, time slowed down too. I spoke to the side of myself that lay beyond anxiety, worry and sadness. The more I did, the more I realised that the voice of anxiety was wanting for such impossible things; for things to always stay the same in an ever changing world, for feelings not to be felt or to arise out of hardship, for life to be clearly drawn out and contained and therefore, separate to the living bodies we inhabit. Longing for these things has become so normalised in our cultural and private conversations, that we don’t always see how they are actually abnormal, unnatural and almost entirely non sensical. It is like asking for the grass to stop growing, for the wind to recall its motion, for winter frost to form without the cold.  

And so, I tried to let words form around the room, I packed old books and letters away as though they were  prayers forming in between myself and the difficult experience that my family and I were going through. As with any change, the transition carried on playing out long after the removal vans had taken everything away, long after we drove out the drive for the last time, and new rooms were settled into, decorated, made to feel like home, and then changed again.  I believe that we all have access to this other pair of eyes, though changing the way we see may feel uncomfortable when we have been accustomed to a kind of learnt blindness for a long time. Perhaps it is the ghosts of absent friends and loved ones, lending us their perspective on the the shimmering, delicate walls we live inside during our time here on earth that help us to see thing clearly. Maybe they are trying to get us to see how miraculous and fragile it all is, how our experience is threaded together by the way we look at things. 

I’d like to tell you about the happy ending. About the improved circumstance. I’d like to tell you give you the kind of resolved conclusion that you often read about in stories.  I’d like to tell you that for every piece that broke and fell away, a new one came to build a better version. After moving house, moving to a new city, the *P***£%%**^**C* (see bottom of page) happened. And I find myself met again with the possibility of moving house and moving to another new city. Beneath my feet the ground has not solidified but it is still sliding, sometimes shaking and quaking.  

I’m not sure if we’re ever really done in our undoing. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find a new, improved and right way to live.  But what I can tell you, is that I have found a new way to see, and perhaps that is the lesson that our global community is being asked to learn at this time. When one change happens, the rest of life doesn’t accept the intensity and scale of the upheaval that we’ve been through, and provide softened cushions for us to land delicately and gracefully on top of. Often, or as has been the case in my own life, you will fall down deeper ravines, and find more obfuscated landscapes to muddle through, before rising back up to a new beginning. And such journeys become so indebted to the dark, when we search for an immediate get out, an ultimate source of illumination, things get trickier and more confining. You might find that light sometimes. You might, but it will usually be elusive from a distance and if you draw closer to it, it will become artificial. We actually can’t escape the dark, this deep plain we call the unknown, at least not until we explore it. Learn to live there, even make friends with it. Just as our lives before the *P***£%%**^**C  weren’t always as rosy as we describe them, this new terrain that we are existing in isn’t as desolate as we imagine.

Nothing is ever one sided.  Life is open ended.  A wounding is also an opening, an ending, a chance at renewal. A loss is also a route. A doubt is perhaps, an assumption that you are tiring of making. Maybe we can begin to entertain the idea that change is working in our favour.  What we receive is usually more delicate, fragile and beautiful than what we reached for. What we won’t ever comprehend is more quiet and soft and welcoming  than that which we so ardently seek to know. 

It takes time to heal. To grow back. To arrive at the door of yourself again and really know the person that exists beneath the awning. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, I’m just reminding you that you aren’t alone. I’m reminding you there’s no rush to prop back up as quickly as possible, and mould yourself into a new shape. The search for entirely solid ground in a groundless reality is arduous, and in reality, impossible.  I prefer to think of change as kind, because it is. I’ve felt it. It might not be the sort of kindness that we expect, and is often packaged differently to how we might have imagined. Gifts of insight aren’t intricately decorated and they are often difficult to unravel. But if you keep trying, you’ll find something. Trust me. Keep taking away the layers of cushioning, let your hands feel the crinkle of papers as they peel  back and reveal what lies at the centre you, living in awe at the changes you found the strength and capacity to endure. 

As a child I built nests to deal with these sorts of things. I used to think it was a quirk of childhood innocence, habits of a small child not wanting to feel afraid, turning away from the scary storms that went on outside of her bedroom. I filled it with books, toys and blankets, everything I needed to feel safe, to be content and absorbed. Each time we’d move, I’d take to nest building. I’d gather everything I needed, close the door  and reside there, happy to be left alone. I’m realising that the child in me wasn’t juvenile in her attempts to soothe herself, but actually seeing into what many of us overlook. She was not trying to escape the pain and tumult of her life, but making herself better equipped to face it. Her nest was a temple  erected in the dark. Whatever change you find confronting you in this moment, whether it be a change in relationship status, an altering of circumstance, a shift in perspective, I implore you to find whatever it is that strengthens, nourishes and protects you; whatever it is you need to grow and rest delicately, and perhaps even build a nest of your very own. 

It’s Your Life 

And I had run around in circles so many times, 
Not realising that I’d made a break 
In the dividing lines, 
Between what everyone thought of as ‘me.’ 
And what my life was crying out for, 
Dying for me to be. 

This piece was initially published on the 13th October 2020.

*pandemic

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