Through all my foolish years
Except that life keeps runnin' in cycles
First there's laughter, then those tears
-Frank Sinatra "Cycles"
When I was in 2nd grade, in Mrs. Duerksen's class, we did a project called, “In 12 Years...”. In it, my class full of 7- and 8-year-olds projected what our lives would look like in 12 years in sentences and pictures. All of our submissions were immortalized in a laminated sheet for us to take home. Our aspirations were varied: pharmacists, dino-scientists, gutter repairers, and much more. Apparently, when I was 7, I decided that I would be “marriad” and a movie star by the time I was 19. This is funny on a lot of levels, most notably because I can't ever remember a time I actually wanted to be a movie star, but also because 19 is just so young! Clearly, my perspective on adulthood was a lot different when I was 7. In actuality, when I was 19, I worked as an office manager for a landscaping company very near my hometown, volunteered with teenagers from my church, moved into my first apartment on my own, and ended up working 3 jobs just trying to make ends meet. It may not have been my best year in retrospect.
I found myself thinking about this project last night when I realized how cyclical adulthood really is. For the last 5 or 6 years, I have been very much the same person, with similar joys, struggles, fears, and aspirations and not a lot of change. While my home, job, and community have changed in that time, I am, at my core, essentially the same. As a person who believes that progress is important in life, that leaves me feeling like something of a failure. I have to constantly focus on the “soft” changes in my life, the growth in my inner being, to feel validated. It's especially hard for me when my friends' lives continue to change in leaps and bounds – career advancement, major moves, marriages, children, major purchases and investments.
The cycle I find myself restarting now is about remembering to hold things loosely. Part of being a (perpetually?) single woman is learning to be good on your own. It's something that delights my introvert's heart – to be able to enjoy my own company and sometimes even prefer it to being with others, to be independent and strong – but in recent weeks and months I've developed some relationships that are comfortable and casual, that make time spent with these friends sweet and low-key. I can call in my sweaty gym clothes at 8pm on a weeknight and just hang out and chat for an hour or two with no plan or expectations. It's soothing to have people in your life who accept you for who you are without any agenda.
Progress, though, impedes comfort. I think it might be its sole job, actually. And I'm reminded that the only things you can hold tightly are those that are intrinsic to your person. Everything else is at risk, fleeting and subject to change.
I should probably have mastered this practice by now. Losing Blaine so early in life has made me acutely aware of my own fallibility, of my body's ability to betray, and of the unfathomably unreliable nature of human life. We're born, we live, and we die – and that living part can be cut terribly short. This experience breeds fierce appreciation for those things that I love, whether I act on it appropriately or not.
Now, I just have to move from understanding of unexpected change to accepting and letting go. I will be okay – there's no question of that – but I want to be great. I want to feel only happiness and never loss when joy comes into the life of my friends, and that comes as a result of a selflessness I fear I may never have. But I can try.
And you know the plans that you have for me
And you can't plan the end and not plan the means
And so I suppose I just need some peace
Just to get me to sleep
-Caedmon's Call "Table for Two"