Change. I grew up hating that word and knowing I didn’t handle change well; then as an adult learned that I had to welcome change, embrace change, love change if I was going to be a healthy, well-adjusted person. This mandate left me feeling like a failure when I tried unsuccessfully to dismiss the internal angst that was always present for me when facing change.
Change in how I view change and the way I handle it began after hearing a speaker talk about contemplation and a stance of curiosity rather than judgment. Greg Boyd shared how often the questions he asked internally were ones with judgment attached: “Why do I do ____ this way?” with the judgment that “this way” is not good, therefore, I am not good. Instead, he began asking how he did something. He became an observer and a learner, rather than a judge.
Instead of going down the familiar path of “Why is change so hard for me?” I am asking “How do I do change?” The past year has brought significant change in our family, with our oldest son going off to college last September, followed by our second son this fall. Our house that has been full of boys and energy and wildness and testosterone and men has become quieter, with a different energy. Katie and I now tip the balance towards feminine rather than masculine with only Chris to weigh against.
As I contemplated this new reality over the summer, my heart was heavy; I felt an oppressive weight more days than not. I lost sight of asking how and instead began to turn on myself and ask why I was having such a hard time, why I couldn’t pull myself together, why I was so sad when the boys were still here for the summer, why I was having such a hard time dealing with this when other friends in similar situations were fine. There was no kindness to be found for my heart, no permission to feel the struggle and the loss, no space to grieve or even enjoy all that was still present and true.
In the midst of my sadness I sat with a friend who knows me well, who reads my face without me saying a word, and she reminded me of kindness, grieving, remembering where I have loved well. I’ve been drawn back to my journal from The Allender Center this spring, where we talked about ending, leaving, dying: words that fit the change my heart was feeling. We were challenged to think about how we want to bring our face and our bodies to others as we leave; to grieve with a sorrow unto life and desire, not death and regret; and to hold the face of the other before God in prayer.
And so, in the past few weeks I’ve stood back long enough to see how I do leaving: I get anxious, unsettled, frantically looking for places I can restore some order because internally I am undone by the radical shift in balance. I lose sight of the big picture, immersing myself in the details, hoping to reduce the overwhelming sense that holding all of it brings. And, I’ve also seen change as I remember kindness and grieving unto life.
One particular afternoon stands out in my memory: Matthew had left something undone that I had reminded him about several times, I was feeling justified in my angry tirade about his irresponsibility. I was defensive, he was defensive; I was ready to walk away when I was stopped short by the tears I saw brimming in his eyes. He said, “Mom, I know this leaving thing is hard for you, and it’s hard for me too. I want to enjoy the rest of our time together, but it’s really hard to be with you when you’re so edgy.” My defensiveness crumbled as I heard his heart, so tender like mine, struggling like mine. I wasn’t quite ready to let go of regret, and made a sarcastic remark about my behavior winning me the mom of the year award. To which my wise-beyond-his-years son replied, “Actually it does, because we wouldn’t be having this conversation if you hadn’t taught me how.”
On Sunday, when we said our final goodbyes, I held my face with my tears before my son, allowing him to read the love and pride and sorrow that were all there. I am remembering the many moments of loving well, including the ones where loving well required asking forgiveness for my failures to love, and I am holding both my sons’ faces before God as I talk to Him about all my heart is feeling.
None of this has transformed change into something easy for me. I am learning that my sensitive heart that feels deeply is affected deeply by change; so blessing the depth means allowing myself time to feel and move through it in my own unique way.
Janet Stark is a woman learning to embrace her depth and sensitivity. Inspired by Mary pondering things in her heart, Janet writes about her experiences here. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband of 25 years, as well as her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. She is a life-long lover of words and looks forward to reading and sharing at Red Tent Living.