“We are bathing in mystery and confusion on many subjects, and I think that will always be our destiny. The universe will always be much richer than our ability to understand it.” ~Carl Sagan
Yesterday, I woke up with three new moles on my abdomen and about eighteen new grey hairs.
Ok, so I didn’t actually count the moles or the hairs and I’m likely exaggerating about both, but it is true that I seem to be getting older at an increasingly rapid rate these days. And this is a truth about which I have decidedly mixed emotions.
Because aging is weird, y’all.
And I’m not even that old yet. Or am I? I honestly don’t even know for sure what counts as old anymore. Because I remember thinking that my parents were OMG SO OLD when they were in their 30s, but now I’m in my 30s and I still feel like I’m a kid.
Anyone else experience this?
When my mom was my age, she had a 17 year-old daughter and a 15 year-old daughter (hey, that was me!) and was one hundred percent an adult. Adult all the way. And she was old, remember?
Or was she?
Maybe when she was my age, she still felt like a kid, too. Maybe she was making it up as she went along as much as I feel like I’m making it up as I go along. Maybe she still is.
Maybe none of us ever actually feel like adults who have their shit totally together. Maybe?
One of the things I’ve noticed as I get older is that some of what used to worry me has actually started to comfort me instead. Most notably, the inevitability of change. Because while change can be uncomfortable and challenging and sometimes terrifying, it can also be a relief to realize that whatever it is you’re feeling right now will always and unavoidably morph into something different.
I had a teacher once who suggested I not get too attached to the peaks and valleys of my emotional experience, pointing out that a) most of life happens in the space between those two extremes, and b) everything is always in the process of evolving into something else.
When he said this, I was in the throes of a particularly painful bout of depression and I found his words to be exceedingly comforting in light of my current emotional experience.
And yet, when we’re riding a peak of awesomeness and life feels like it’s lining up nicely, it can be a little less enticing to engage with the idea that things will not always feel so ideal. Acknowledging the constancy of change when we’re feeling stoked about where we are now can feel like a recipe for some serious disappointment.
Maybe it is? But maybe it can be a comfort even in those moments.
Because maybe we only truly understand joy in contrast to a lack of the same.
And maybe (probably) if we were permitted to exist solely in a place of uninterrupted joy, that joy would lose its luster a little bit and we would not appreciate it in quite the same way as we do when we know it is temporary.
The physicist Alan Lightman once wrote, “From all the physical and sociological evidence, the world appears to run not on absolutes but on relatives, context, change, impermanence, and multiplicity. Nothing is fixed. All is in flux.”
Our emotions. Our relationships. Our hair. All in constant flux.
We can choose to be fearful of the impermanence, to resist it, to white-knuckle our way through life, holding on so tightly to anything good we suffocate our capacity to be present to our own experiences in the process.
The other option? Embrace change.
As much as possible. Bookmark beauty in our brains when we encounter it, but loosen our grip and allow it to pass through, making space for whatever might arise in its wake.
And remember that there is always more beauty — and joy and love and awe and all of it — where that came from. It will make its way back around to us.