If You Don’t Like the Weather . . .

 . . . in [fill in the blank], wait five minutes. It will change. I’ve lived in several different parts of the United States, and although I have found great differences between Denver and Nashville, Michigan and Missouri, the one thing all those places have in common is that locals will use that phrase.  If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. It will change. 

But, that’s about rain and wind.  What about life changes? Those don’t exactly come along every five minutes.  Do they? Well, maybe not every five minutes, but each one of us goes through many transformations in the course of a lifetime. 

Some changes happen like an explosion.  Maybe a happy explosion, but still abruptly, instantaneously, out of the blue. You win the lottery. You get an unexpected promotion. You go viral on social media. You lose a friend. 

My father passed away unexpectedly when he was just 71 years old. That news came like an explosion. Like a tsunami of grief. 

Some changes happen like erosion. Slowly over time, without even feeling the movement, you shift. Life is different. It may not feel different from yesterday, but if you could place today and one day years ago side by side, the change would be stark and undeniable. 

Spiritual transformation can be explosive or erosive or maybe even both. It can be eruptive, emotive, elegant, electric, . . . it all depends on the weather.  And the good news is, if you don’t like your interior weather or the type of spiritual evolution it’s bringing, you can change it.  Every five minutes, if you feel like it.  

The slow change of erosion comes about from hearing the same messages, engaging in the same practices and rituals, reading, learning, meditating, and letting our awareness unfold gently like a flower.  It is the gentle erosion of the ego that slowly uncovers the true self. 

The fast change of spiritual explosion can happen at any moment that we completely uncover the flame of our essence and reach the enlightenment that is the knowledge of our true selves. This instantaneous awakening often gets a lot of attention, a lot of books written about it, a lot of seminars and workshops created to help bring it about.  But I have found that it often happens after years of that slow erosive work. Enlightenment might appear to be a sudden occurrence, but it usually comes after years of preparation. 

We simmer before we boil. 

My First Best Friend

Well, I have awoken from my turkey coma and have a few quiet moments to purge some thoughts.  This time of year always makes me reflective.  I think about family and personal history and events, both joyous and traumatic, that I have been witness to and/or participant in.  From now until, oh, about January 5th or so I will be never too far from some memory or the other.  Probably not the best testimony for “living in the moment,” but true all the same. 

So I have decided to begin a series of Memoir Posts, sprinkled throughout other posts and occurring simply as they come to me.  And so we begin.

I had my first broken heart when I was six years old.

My family was moving from Indianapolis, IN, to Saginaw, MI, because my father had chosen the nomadic profession of ministry.  Some ministers’ families stay put, or so I hear, but we had about a four-year expiration date on most of our hometowns.  We had moved to Indianapolis from my birthplace of Metropolis, IL, when I was two.  I didn’t remember enough about Southern Illinois to miss it.  But, at six I had formed attachments and felt the pain of them being torn asunder.

I only remember two things about Beth Ann Barker, her name and the fact that I cried for her as our Plymouth Duster left the Indianapolis city limits.  And even as I write that sentence, other snippets come to me.  Her father’s name was Ronald; we called him Ronald McDonald.  I believe I had attempted a sleep-over at Beth Ann’s house once, but cried so for my parents that they came to get me in the middle of the night (it was probably 9:00 p.m., but my memory is that it was the middle of the night).  I think she had an older brother, but that memory is as unclear as a Rorschach blot.

Beyond that, nothing.  I couldn’t even tell you what Beth Ann looked like at that age, let alone pick her out of a line-up today.  I don’t remember her house or her clothes or even the color of her hair.  I just remember that she was my friend and I had to leave her and would probably never see her again.

That scenario would play out time and time again in my life.  Four years later when we left Saginaw, two-and-a-half-years after that when we left Springfield, MO, then leaving Bay City, leaving Saginaw Part II, leaving Denver.   Crying over Beth Ann, crying over Martha, crying over Denise and Michael, crying over Jerilyn, crying over Stephanie.  My heart breaking again and again.

It’s no wonder I had to work so hard to grasp any sense of continuity in my adult life.  Every now and then, Susie and I will be in Kohl’s or Target or Kroger and she will run into an old friend and stop and chat.  After the conversation ends and the old friend walks away, Susie will say something like “We went to high school together,” or “I’ve known her since kindergarten.”  The idea of going into the grocery store and happening upon someone whose thread first wove into the tapestry of my life 40 years ago is as difficult for me to imagine as vacationing on Mars.

As a young adult, I changed (insert any of the following: colleges, jobs, houses, partners) like I changed socks.  Change was not something I had to learn to accept.  It was familiar and oddly constant.   But it eventually became as old and tiresome as living 50 years in the same house you were born in.  I became bored with change and sought something new and interesting: stability.

I have now lived in this house for six years.  I have had same job for nine years (and the same “second” job for 11).  I have had the same partner for seven-and-a-half years.

I don’t want to move.  I don’t want a different job.  And, as Paul Newman used to say about Joanne Woodward, why would I want hamburger when I’ve got steak at home?

The carousel ride has turned into a porch swing.  I embrace the change of seasons as I watch them from the same spot year after year.  I don’t miss the irony in the fact that Interstate 40 is in my backyard, that I can sit on my deck and watch others in motion while I sip tea.

And sometimes as I sit there, I remember just how much it shattered my heart to leave Beth Ann Barker.

The Fifth Spring

          I never really appreciated change until I stood still.   When you’re moving, moving things seem motionless.  Like going down the highway at 65 miles per hour right next to a car going precisely 65 miles per hour, your own journey and those journeys taking place around you can seem almost imperceptible. 

          Until I was 39 I was a nomad.  I had never lived in one house longer than two years.   By the time I was 18, I had lived in five different states and attended eight different schools.  Being the eternal optimist I tried to see the benefit in this.  I decided that it had made me flexible, which it had.  It taught me that there are options.  I believe it helped me be a “big picture” person because I had not been limited by geography and could understand there was more beyond the horizon than just a setting sun.   What I learned from moving is that I can initiate change.  I am never stuck.

          When I was 39, Susie and I bought our house on Central Pike and I am now in my fifth spring here.   As odd as it sounds, I have learned that trees really do grow.  I remember when we first moved in and the tippy-top of one tree was even with the railing of the second-story deck.  It’s now a good eight feet higher than the deck.  Trees grow.  Who knew?   In constant motion, I had never seen that miracle of nature.

          Some trees died in the drought last year and we’ve cut them down.  The half-dead sycamore lost a few big limbs in the last storm.  The rhododendrons were eaten by the deer last fall.   New rose bushes line the driveway and non-stop begonias welcome visitors at the front door.  I suppose I would have believed you if you said that a yard would change over time.  I just never knew how drastically.

          Until I stopped moving, I never truly knew that change existed whether someone initiated it or not.  It is not a “something” that happens, an event separate from other events.  Change is inherent in the very nature of nature.  It is the action mechanism of all life energy.  It happens continuously and creates a chain reaction from micro to macro, from conscious thought to internalization, from feeling to spiritual knowing.   It is the energy of our cells, the perpetuation of a forest, the erosive carving of a river, the journey to our own center.

          And it is best observed when we sit still.