Tuesday, July 17, 2012

change is in the wind


Ceremony and ritual march us carefully right through the center of our deepest fears about change. - Elizabeth Gilbert

Ritual closure is much needed for most of us at the end of all major transitions in life. Because we have lost any sense of the need for such rites of passage, most of our people have no clear crossovers… Western people are a ritually starved people, and in this are different than most of human history. -
Richard Rohr


Nate and I have been talking about Big Future Things over the last few weeks. It’s hard to talk about marriage without also talking about babies, home ownership, and finances – or in our case, home ownership without talking about finances, marriage, and babies. These are all exciting and, bottom line, joyful occurrences – and they are some of the biggest stressors of adult life. Why stress clusters like this, I don’t know.

He deals with the stress of all of this by minimizing movement and being in the present. I adore this about him and need it like water. I deal with the stress by pushing myself for rapid forward movement. I’ve always jumped into things, then let the hard parts of the processing catch up with me. Maybe it’s because I’m a Midwesterner. We don’t always know what to do with emotions, so during times of many of them being churned up, we Just Keep Doing Something (and my feelings stay in my subconscious, where they have manifested as tornado dreams since I was 9 years old). Oh, feeling scared? Doubting? Grieving? Next step of the plan! Just push forward! It’s the only way our ancestors made it through winter for hundreds of years!

(We also hide our deepest gladness. Sure, I will bounce with happiness for others, but when it comes to things I'm feeling, and feeling deeply - I can be intensely private and bashful, which is why sometimes writing feels like my only outlet. I will show you my fear, but I will not make my delicate Scandinavian hope vulnerable to the inevitable buffeting of life.)

I am trying to slow down. I am succeeding sometimes. I zoom up, then let go. Zoom again, then let go again. I hope to be chiller by the time I’m 40.

Change is exciting, a reason for living. None of us would be here if our parents hadn’t been enthralled by it at some point – but it’s also freaking terrifying. Because it never doesn’t involve loss. (I know, that’s a double negative.) You become a teenager, you leave behind a body of no hormones, no drama. You buy a house, you leave behind the freedom of mobility. You marry a person, you leave behind being the only captain of your destiny. You have a baby, you lose the innocence of not having to know what God feels like.

But every death has a resurrection, too. Every single one. (Because of this pattern in life, I trust the Big Pattern of the hardest loss of all – death – being followed by Inexplicable Good.) You become a teenager: you open to the marvel of sexuality. You buy a house: the tree of your life thrives from having roots. You marry a person: you share the beauty and burdens of life, and double your pleasure. You have a baby: you know what God feels like.

The transcendent part of us thrives on the positives of growth; the earthbound part of us needs to grieve every negative we experience. It is okay to grieve. It is okay to see the shadow, as long as it doesn’t obscure the light.

I finally get why Jewish people smash a glass in their marriage ceremonies. A breaking is taking place. Funny, though, the image I have in my mind is of the community surrounding the breaking with singing, dancing, and cheering. We navigate the scariness of change so much easier when we know that many others have traveled this path before us successfully, and that there are others traveling it with us. Nate's parents want to come visit to look at houses alongside us, and I've been calling my dad for advice, and it helps.

I struggle to connect with community, and I work to find rituals, at the very least small personal ones, that help me process. Tomorrow night I’m having a girls’ night with friends, a couple of whom are engaged. I might bring some empty beer bottles for us to smash.