I saw the look on your face, the one that told me my response to you was oh so inconvenient and not at all what you had planned.
It said, without words, “You’ve changed.”
Have I? How very observant of you.
I understand why you are still expecting the reactions and compliance you used to get—because you are living in a relatively unchanged state. Nothing big or dramatic has happened in your life lately. You’re a bit bored with your routine. And so, the tiniest of things becomes your mountain. A mountain you want everyone else to “climb” the way you are.
But that no longer works for me. I have experienced a different life these past several years.
And yes, it has changed me.
Some say for the better. My closest friends have seen me struggle, and in that struggle, earn a strength that is more than rock solid. I know what I can do. I know who my God is. I know why I’m here. That’s a rock solid foundation.
One which leaves me little time for the inane, the petty, the time wasters. I don’t always get it right but I’m getting there.
So that executive at work that likes to send what she considers “scary” emails to “motivate” her team? Those don’t scare me anymore. They just seem silly and distasteful.
When mothers with far too much time on their hands want to form committees to make a school event into a more than 100-hour project? I’m no longer there. We only have so many hours in a day and if I’m not working or with my kids then I’m going to take a well-earned break.
When you make a snide remark at book club when those of us who work show up for the holiday party and not much else, I want to ask you to go back to middle school and resolve those mean-girl issues that plague you. Really? At forty-something, you’re still there? I left it years ago.
In short, yes, I have changed.
I no longer have time for your bullshit. And your opinion of me has ceased to be a deciding factor in my choices.
Freeing? Oh yes. But this freedom came at a price.
I have watched my parents die. That changes you. You see what it comes to at the end and that there’s no going back to get any of the missed opportunities back. You can’t go back to a lazy Sunday morning and enjoy it. You can’t go back to your kids at certain ages and spend more time, be more patient, teach better lessons. You can’t even have a damn meaningless conversation—because on the clock you’re now on, nothing is meaningless.
I have faced an empty room, devoid of furniture and the accoutrements that made it home, and the fear that comes with knowing you are the only one who can fill that room again. And that it will take you time and the kindness of friends as well as strangers to do so. That changes you. When you’re down to the basics, you get clear really fast on what’s important. And what you can do without.
I have seen a promise to stick together forever made null and void. That changes you. You realize we come into this world alone and we leave it alone. And anything in between is not guaranteed. So you do the best you can and realize the in between is all about your learning. And growing. And that really, there isn’t much time to do that. Days may be long, but the years are short.
So you’ll just have to forgive me if your imagined work crisis, PTA busy work and petty attendance records no longer hold my attention. Or, don’t forgive me. I’ve realized that has more to do with you than me.
I began, some time ago, to lose patience with some of the current scenery in my life. I realized the inane conversation at the cocktail party bores me to tears. I instead search out fellow seekers—people who know why they’re here, know there is another level to who we are, laugh sincerely, cry without shame, listen with intention. They may be at the cocktail party, on an airplane or in my living room–no matter. They’re real. They’re interesting. They’re doing more than just marking time here.
I’ve ended up leaving a lot behind.
Pema Chodron says, “You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”
How very sensible of her.
If you can keep this in mind sans hubris or bitterness, if you can keep it humble but real, well that’s just the bomb. Life sometimes shows you that you are the sky by sending a lot of rough weather your way. You realize, when the storms have subsided, that you are still here. For some of us, that’s what it takes.
What I have found, however, is that my mother’s folksy saying proves true: When God closes a door, he opens a window.
I’m seeing what is on the other side of that window. And yes, it requires the strength and stamina to fly—or to jump without knowing what you will land on.
The difference, after any trial by fire, is that you know you will land.
And you will brush yourself off, moving into a new adventure, leaving behind people and activities that no longer suit you.
They will mewl about it. Cast disappointed glances your way. Waste time talking about it in a less than understanding way.
But you will be a few thousand feet up and beyond that. Enjoying a view that just a few years ago you wouldn’t have dreamed was possible.
Yes, you are changed. And if they find you that way, all the better.