I like the familiar. Given the choice between Safeway and our City Market, I always choose CM—my lieblings grocery store. And often on the way to Denver we drive through McDonalds. This morning, early before dawn, I drove through for my routine Egg McMuffin, secure in this one fast food choice—after all, the egg is from one chicken and the bacon is from Canada. The predictable is safe and good.
As I sipped my weak McDonald’s tea and munched on my sandwich, the morning lights—the Golden Arches and Christmas lights—guided my way to the mountain pass. The colorful lights of the season: I think they say, “This is home.”
Every year the lights and traditions of the season are a constant. For all of my life a Christmas Eve church service has been our only Christmas outing. That will continue for all of my days, I think. Yet my life and all of our lives are filled with change that swirls around the steady norms that we like so much.
How many times have I said to friends, “I hate change.” But this week while reading The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander, I had an awakening: My life has been filled with change and much of it has been wonderful. Why do I think I fear it.
When I started this blog in April 2013, I said this wouldn’t be about me. But tonight I am breaking my own rule and writing about myself. Yet I am thinking about many of us seniors who have experienced our children leaving home and wondering what will be next.
When our daughter moved to Portland, Oregon, oh, how I was so unsure of that. But I loved visiting Portland. Then she moved to Berkeley, and I enjoyed getting a taste of San Francisco.
Now she’s in Missouri with her husband. Wow! What a change. And how wonderful that has been for our family, especially for her 92 year-old grandmother.
And speaking of change: when Mom’s move to an assisted living facility was impending, I could hardly allow myself to think of it. Now I see her healthy and happy. I’ve gotten to know her friends, enough that they ask me about the Colorado snow and what is new in our world.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of the calamities of change as opportunity for growth. I remember his essay from college reading, and when my father was ill during that time, I could not think of this calamitous change in my life as a positive, but Emerson was right. It just took time for me to know it.
Closer to home, last week I heard Erika talk about change through the metaphor of Tetris, a puzzle video game. Things in life build up, sometimes to near crises, and then suddenly the pieces reconfigure, fit together in new ways and provide relief. This is perhaps not exactly how she said it in her women’s book group, but I interpreted it in part as a new way of looking at change. Sometimes things are going along swimmingly, the new comes upon us, ready or not. At first it’s disorienting, sad, a breaking apart of the ways that we love. But oh, what joy can come from the new and unexpected.
I don’t know why Light of the World encouraged me to get back to my blog. Something about Alexander’s prose spoke to me, the beauty and sadness of her life. Like many of you, I am often going through tough times. So I look for answers. I look for lines in books that will move me forward through the changes and the hurts.
I don’t know what will be next. There’s no way in the world I could make an educated guess, but finally, I am ready to think that I will like it, I will really like it. Christmas lights and church on Christmas Eve will always be my constant, but the rest of life, well, I’m ready and hoping for the joy and wonder of it all.