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.
Janet I love your depth and your son’s that you have taught so well.
Thank you Michelle. I know from our conversations that you share that depth as well – it’s good to be embracing it rather than hating it! Thanks for your encouragement.
Loved this! Love your family and you…your change gives hope!
Mary Jane, I’ve been grateful for your love and support for years – thank you!
Dear Janet, I loved this post. You made me cry. Insightful what you wrote about judging ourselves instead of observing. I will send this on to my friends who are still new to the empty or almost empty nest. Thank you.
I hate how difficult it feels not to judge ourselves, I have a feeling this will be a life-long challenge. Thank you for your kind words!
Janet, your words are an invitation and a reminder to take time to stop and listen to what is being said, both internally and externally…and to hope. I love your post!
Thanks, Ellen! Good to see your lovely face here as well.
Oh Janet, thank you for sharing your face with us too.
When you shared what Matthew said to you my jaw dropped. Wise beyond his years.
I hear wanting order amidst the change and I see you relinquishing control to your Father. And it’s still hard.
Order, me? Hah! You know me well, as well as that struggle. It’s a worthy one, and yes, hard!
I loved your examples of the way that we judge our thinking and our hearts. The curiousity you invited in how you engaged was refreshing!
Thanks, I find it good to speak it out loud – it’s a little easier sometimes to see the untruth of it. Sometimes.
I read this with tears streaming down my face. Thank you for sharing honestly and vulnerably…it touched my heart deeply!
I love hearing the places we all connect to each other’s hearts. I know you’ve lived this a lot, especially in the last year with your boys and their families. Thanks for your words!
After a long and difficult day at work, I entered my home beyond weary, going through the motions of logging onto my computer, slogging my way through a couple of tasks that had to get done when I ran into this post. Timely and poignant…Your heart gave my tears permission to flow, the tension falling away. The result of my cardiac arrest is a temporary loss of brain functioning (especially the organizing left brain-which I didn’t need to lose any more of!!!) and as I enter another semester of school and attempt to learn computer programs, intake procedures, people’s names and numbers for my practicum sight I am reminded my healing is slow…God’s time is not mine. I don’t like having a brain that can’t hold information well. It makes me feel small, vulnerable, and incompetant, lacking…feeling defective. You have reminded me to be still with it all. To get rest, to be kind and ask the question of “what do I do” how this monumental change is affectint my life. You reminded me that I am worthy of this kind of tenderness and that I can offer goodness even in the midst of my struggles to live with a part of me missing!!! What I do is stiffen, brace, dive head-first into the storm of change. You reminded me I need to soften, lean into my Savior, ask for help, and wait and hope….thank you!