I was probably all of six years old, crying, as my mother packed her suitcase. She was going to her uncle’s funeral and leaving me home for a few days. I cried and begged to go, not so much because the funeral interested me but because I wanted my mother. I wanted permanence. Her presence, like a rock, always there.
I held on to a soooooo-over relationship in my twenties, one that didn’t really even make me happy anymore. Not so much because I couldn’t live without this man (obviously I could, I’m still kicking) but because I had engraved in my mind that he was IT. And I wanted the permanence of his presence, of that surety.
I watch friends hold on to marriages because of this same longing for something that lasts. Doesn’t matter if he drinks, does drugs, loses the family savings, kills her with his sarcasm and selfishness—she’ll be damned if she’ll go back on that promise. She wants permanence.
Well who doesn’t?
Even the daredevils, the change mongers, want some root that grounds them. Something unflinching, unchangeable and impermeable to the fickleness of human nature.
And yet, the universe shows us permanence is a boondoggle. As I run through the woods, I see the fallen tree, ancient and huge, decaying and turning back to the earth. I see the remains of some poor small animal the coyote bested. I attend funerals for fathers and sons and mothers and best friends—some taken long before anyone was willing to let them go.
I remember willing myself to remember every detail of my father’s profile as he lay dying. I play his voice back in my head far too often so I don’t lose the sound of it. And yet, even just two years after his death, I’ve lost bits here and there.
I take in the little-boy smell every time I hug my youngest. But it’s fading. And his propensity for accepting motherly hugs will too—at least for a while.
As my oldest gets ready to leave a beautiful, nurturing school that has been his home away from home for the past five years, I think we both cling to its bubble. Every time I hear, Let’s Be Still, I think of his thoughts at graduation. And I tear up. I wish I could freeze time for him so he could return to this safe place years from now. But I can’t.
When we hold tightly, thinking we can keep the moment, the person, the thing—many times we just drag the whole lot through unnecessary pain, pain greater than that the initial letting go would have caused.
Change and failure are the universe’s gentle ways of saying, “Not that way, but this.” If we listen, at first blush, it’s a gentle whisper. But those of us stuck on permanence might end up with the one-two punch. If whispers don’t work, don’t put it past your Creator to turn up the volume.
So, for today, I promise myself to be in the moment. To know that moment is fleeting and ever-changing. And to learn to accept that universal truth with grace, if not love.