“The only thing that is constant is change” – Heraclitus
I heard this quote while I was travelling this past summer listening to a self guided tour on nature. It really struck a chord with me and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since then. It is so true. Change is constant. It is the only thing that is actually lifelong.
Here’s what’s also true: I hate change. I have a hard time adjusting to it. I like everything to be as it always was. Change is scary and the unknown that comes from change makes me feel anxious. I may put on a brave face but sometimes thinking about changes makes it hard to breathe. It’s a heavy weight on my chest that can feel suffocating.
Here’s the next truth: things change regardless if you’re ready or not. However, even if it feels terrible at the time, change is necessary and you will adjust. Hopefully, even thrive. I can remember not wanting the change of graduating at any point in my schooling (elementary, highschool, university – twice). I wanted everything to stay the same. I cried moving away for university because I didn’t want to leave Mike. I even cried when we moved into our house together because it was such a big change (yes, he knew this – he understood me). All these changes were scary but needed in order to grow and become the person I became. Sometimes I wanted to just stay. No more changes, Life, just let me be. But where would I be if the changes didn’t happen? I imagine stuck in a life that was well below my years and my capabilities.
Similarly, I’ve had over a year of extreme change in my life now too. I didn’t want the change but I never had a choice. It was brutally forced upon me. I resisted the change for a while. Maybe longer than I should have and maybe I missed out on some opportunities but I had to do it on my own time. I held onto a life and identify that was no longer there. I would think, “what would Mike want?” when I made decisions even though I was the only one to live with the good or bad that came from it. I would hear a new good song on the radio and think, “no, no new songs, Mike will never hear it.” Tango wrecked the duvet cover and I left it ripped for a while unable to think of something new. The seasons would change and I would have a really hard time with the constant visual reminder that the world was changing without him and I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want the change. I just wanted to stay. But stay in what? What I wanted was not there and never would be. I couldn’t stay in a life that didn’t exist. I had to change.
It became too hard to live my old life and be my old self in my new life. It wasn’t matching up and it started to just not feel right. The change started on the inside for me. My perspective started to shift. I started to take some small risks and try new things. It was nothing drastic that others might have noticed but it was noticeable to me. I could feel myself changing. It was scary but at this point everything was scary and uncomfortable so adding more disorientation wasn’t something that pushed me more off the edge than I already was.
The last thing to change for me was my physical environment. I left the house the way it was. I made some small changes slowly like replacing signs and quotes on love that just made me mad. I left up pictures, I left his closet and belongings, I left up hooks with his initials. I don’t think it was that I was emotionally stuck but I can understand how an outsider looking in may have seen it that way. Keeping the house the same gave me the freedom to adjust internally in a safe physical space. It allowed me the grace to go out into the world and test out my new self but be to come back to a little bit of familiarity. All the changes at once are hard. Having the house the same softened the changes. It wasn’t that I intended to keep it that way forever. I wanted to be ready.
I travelled quite a bit this summer and after coming back from my first trip at the beginning of July I started to feel the tug that I was ready to change my space. After returning from a trip in August I knew that I was ready for my house to reflect me. It had become too painful to come back to a house that looked like Mike and I lived there instead of just me. I knew I had to make it mine, just like I’ve been doing with my life, but that didn’t make it easy to do. Nothing about any of this is ever easy. It’s a challenge but I finally felt ready to face it. I cleaned out the closet, hung up new hooks, changed any remaining “love” signs, put up more recent pictures and just added some more of my own touches. I still have a few pictures of Mike up. He’s always a part of me. It’s just not as overwhelming and everywhere as a reminder of what I no longer have. The changes feel surprisingly okay. It feels like me.
Given the difficulty I have with change, I must admit that for that exact reason I hate Fall; a season where change is so apparent. I know it is almost everyone’s favourite season but I have always really hated it. I hate the days becoming shorter. I hate the cold setting in and not knowing what temperature to expect. More than anything, I hate that I have to leave behind the warmth, comfort, and happiness of summer. I’d like it to stay. I would have liked Mike to stay. I would have liked other things to stay too. I know I have to accept change. I am trying. As fall sets in this year I feel more of the nervousness that comes with it for me. However, this year and last year a bit too I’ve also taken more notice in the trees and leaves. The changing leaves show how beautiful change and letting go can really be. It needs to happen; I have to stop resisting. I might have held on for too long but I know now that I need to let go and look for the beauty of my fall. In letting go, Fall also shows that no matter how much change there is and how needed it is to let go you can never really lose what is real and true. The roots, trunks, and branches stay. Mike stays a part of me forever. While fall and winter may threaten the tree, the roots stay strong. They know the cold is there but that there will be a warmer time coming. Then, when it’s time, they bloom again. Different buds, same roots; a unique, beautiful, complex combination of old and new.