Thursday, May 12, 2016

Slightly Disjointed Thoughts on Time and Change

Sometimes it's hard to reconcile who I was with who I am now. The past doesn't seem intangible to me because it ebbs and flows through me to the present, to the future, and then back through to the past again. Like the rising of the tides, I will be emotionally healthy and focused on "here," but my eyes will be fixed on "to be," and slowly, as the water shifts, my hands reach back to gently touch "then."

I've heard depression described as the inability to move from the past and anxiety as the inability to face the future. The answer to both of those ailments is to focus on the present. Considering I struggle with both of these time-distorted issues, I've studied a lot about what it may mean to live in the present.

Conflicting gray area rules often run me ragged as I search for solutions. Dear reader, you will understand what I'm referring to because when we attempt a well-balance, moderate life, we face juxtapositions. We are told to live in the present, but we're told to plan our futures. We're told to live in the present, but we're told to never forget our past. We're told to live in the present, but we're told to not procrastinate. We're told to live in the present, but we're told to record our memories.

Ebbing and flowing between the three seems to be something of a solution I've encountered because I'm able to reach back to the past to retrieve lessons learned and memories shared, while at the same time I can reach forward to what is to be and imagine what my life may become. When I was young, I practiced the piano so that I may enlarge my talent and increase my abilities. The abilities I searched for did not lie in front of me, but down the path, in an obscure future. When I share stories about my youth with my children, I am overcome with nostalgia, and I revisit a long past reality that created who I have become.

The danger is when I become fixated upon the past: ruminating over past mistakes, agonizing over regret, wondering about what-if's, believing the best times may have been behind me, or pouring over journals and photos without a purpose. There is also danger when I give into worry about the future. When I allow myself to become paralyzed by choices, worry about things that may or may not happen, or decline from making plans altogether because of more what-if's.

One of the greatest things I have ever learned is truth about change. It is only inevitable in the physical sense; biology has taken care of that. But change in a person's character, intelligence, experience, and relationships can only be accomplished when it is welcomed. It has to be a choice. And change can be (and is mostly, I would argue) very, very difficult. It is full of pain, and as mortal humans, we can't abide pain as easily as we believe we can. We hide our pain under masks of anger, addiction, humor, and even the window shades of our houses.

Recently, we have been working with one of our children to help curb a streak of dishonesty and lack of work we know this child has the potential to accomplish. It's hard work because change is hard work! There have been many tears, raised voices, punishments, and resignations. I'm so grateful for the presence and rock-like foundation of my husband, because I retreat from pain and discipline, even when I know it is warranted and needed. Consistency with children is really difficult, and yet it is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. As I've been pondering about our situation with our child, I have come face to face with that truth about change: it really, honestly is a choice. We could choose to let our child remain a child and grow into a child-like adult, incapable of taking care of her/himself. Or we can choose to implement some true love and draw boundaries, not apologize for expectations, and encourage the strength needed to grow and learn. 

I've read the letters I wrote to myself as a teenager and knowingly realize how naive I had been-- no, not naive in dreaming or hoping, but naive in the way that what I know now supersedes what I knew then. Knowledge gained through experience and experience gained through time... it's all connected. I surmise that when I am much older, I will also look back at this time of my life and realize, again, how naive I am. Not because it is wrong to be naive, but because that is the purpose of life: to grow, to learn, to understand.

This truth is also why I believe in an after-life. I spend my life --hopefully 80 years or more -- learning, growing, changing, experiencing, and gathering as much information as my brain will allow. I let it shift my perspectives and change my opinions, even as it forges deeply embedded integrity and character. I learn to love and serve, to give of my time and abilities to help those around me. Here's what I would ask of you, dear reader: Why would I wear out my life seeking growth, finding talents, attaining knowledge, and forging a great and wonderful change in myself if I was to simply die with all of it inside of me? There has to be a reason for all of it. (And honestly, I already know the reason, and it's spectacular!)

Time and change; present, past, future... I'm slowly figuring out what that means for me each day. I'm attempting to draw myself out of the past and retreat myself from an unknown future, ever yearning to live in the present. I'm allowing myself to become a better version of myself, and I'm discovering --most importantly, most fervently, most clumsily --how to let Jesus Christ be the one to teach me, to help me, and to save me. He is the most willing, most loving, and most capable to change me, but He can't if I won't let Him --it's a choice, remember? And, dear reader, I have spent enumerable hours refusing Him and His help because I don't like the pain, I don't like the change, and I don't like the idea that I'm broken. How silly, is it not? To stand before someone who loves me more than anyone in the world, who is perfect and incapable of guile, and to tell Him that, "no, thanks! I'm good. I'd rather stay broken and learn nothing!" But that is what I have done, that is what I do, and that is what I will forget and do again in the future. Gratefully, He waits patiently and blesses me along the way, anyway. And when I'm ready, and go to Him, I find that He's already started on my schooling --He never truly stopped, either.

So, dear reader, I can safely say that --for today, at least --I am welcome to the changes and knowledge I need to grow. I welcome the memories and anticipate future choices. I will be grateful for this moment, this hour, this day, and this life. I'm overcome with abundance of good fortune, and I need to do something with these blessings I've been given. I need to stretch myself open and find what lies inside so I may help others.... That will be a post for another day, though.

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