Saturday, September 11, 2010

Turn and Face the Strain

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who struggle with transitions and those who embrace change.

When it comes to transitions, I hide, I deny, I run as fast as I can in the other direction until the change swallows me whole. Then, like Jonah, I sit in the dark counting whale teeth until life spits me out before those digestive juices can do their job. It's not a brilliant strategy, but it's mine.

Normally, I cling to my imperfect strategy and it gets me by until things settle back into a predictable routine, but this fall, this season of change, finds me overwhelmed by the sheer number of transitions.

My twins graduated from high school in June are now in their new roles: one as a part-time community college student also exploring his opportunities through the new high school Transition House (I'm not making that up); the other as a full-time student at a schmancy east-coast school where she is learning to look down her nose at us Midwesterners even as we speak. They have handled their respective transitions quite smoothly (damn my superior parenting skills).

Me, not so much.

The next boy literally has one foot in the high school (for math) and the other in the middle school, while the youngest is working toward that great Jewish transition, becoming a bar mitzvah in April. They're doing well.

Me, not so much.

The oldest son got married this summer; the elder girl just got a new job and moved to a new city. They actually sought out these changes.

Me, not so much.

I wish I still embraced change with the joy and anticipation of my adolescents. Their lives have been blessed enough that they believe all change is good. I can still touch that feeling in my memories of the first days of college. So when did my feelings about change change?

I can tell you exactly. When I was a kid and even into adulthood, I loved roller coasters. The rush and swoop, the climb and fall, the tingle up the spine as your stomach rolls along the curves and your brain floats high above it all. I could get off of one ride and run to the next, panting and laughing and wanting more.

Then sometime between my last two pregnancies, my body lost its equilibrium. Maybe it was carrying those alien beings around in my womb. Maybe it was three pregnancies of hyperemesis that made the idea of flirting with G-forces somewhat less appealing. Maybe it was simply the fact that I was now responsible for other human beings (how boring is that?). In any case, I really can't do roller coasters any more without throwing up.

In a college philosophy class, we spent a great deal of energy on the constancy of change, the perception of time, and the seeming acceleration of both. If we're lucky, when we're young change means new schools, new jobs, new friends, new relationships, new places to live, and new things to see and do. But now I know that many of the changes to come in my life will be sad ones, irrevocable and final.

In just a few days, I'll be forced to acknowledge a "significant" birthday. My usual tactics of duck and cover have been working pretty well, unless I make the mistake of looking in a mirror. Just a bit ago, my friend Kate gave herself a fabulous "significant" birthday party, complete with dancing to songs where I actually knew the words. I swore then and there that I would not hide, but would welcome the dawn of a new age with just such a festive event.

Too bad the forces of transition have seen fit to throw the start of school (four schools, mind you), a 2,000-mile round-trip delivery, the Jewish high holidays and a ton of work in my path. It's hard to plan a party when you will be fasting on the Saturday before and your big day falls on a Monday.

I've watched in awe as my children have embraced the changes in their lives. I've seen my parents plan well, choosing their transitions instead of waiting for changes to be forced upon them. I've also seen the trauma that the denial of inevitable changes can bring.

Change will come, whether we're ready or not.

Change will come, whether it is celebrated or not.

So why not celebrate?

It may not be on the day (or even the week or month), but my significant change will be celebrated. In the meantime, I'll just keep riding that virtual roller coast known as my life.

How do you handle transitions, big or small? Tips and tricks are welcome here. And in case you haven't noticed, I have made a few changes around the old blog as my own private celebration. What do you think?