The only constant is change. I know this to be true, and yet, like most humans, I find change frightening and uncomfortable, so I resist it even as it is unfolding.
In a mindful leadership course last month, our guide introduced the meditation mantra, “Nothing needs to change right now.” As that temporary reality resonated in my body, my muscles relaxed, I exhaled breath I didn’t know I’d been holding, and I sat straighter as a weight floated off my shoulders. Since then, I have carved out a few minutes each day to sit quietly in this unchanging place. It feels like getting off a merry-go-round; the surroundings still seem to be spinning but I know that I am standing still. There is a moment of residual dizziness, and then, peace. Unfortunately, these calm minutes always pass too quickly. Soon my To Do list resumes its assault and I am thrust back into the world of constant change.
Amongst the endless shifting changes that slowly reshape our individual worlds like the river that persistently smooths the boulders along its banks, there are times of rapid change that may alter the river’s course entirety. Sometimes there is no warning of the storm to come, but often there are clouds on the horizon.
My eldest is starting kindergarten in September. I realize this is not Earth-shattering, but it will mark a shift in the dynamic of our family. With a school-aged child our vacations will be restricted to school holidays, and our quality time with our son will be limited to a few hours in the late afternoon and evening most days. No longer will our three musketeers be off having adventures together; their leader will be conspicuously absent. And unlike at the cooperative preschool where we know what he’s doing and who he’s with the couple hours a day our son is out of sight, starting in September, we will simply put our sweet little boy on a school bus and meet it seven hours later. We do not know what challenges kindergarten will bring – bullies, peer pressure, new rules, homework, tests, etc. – but we do know that it will change our family’s daily life.
Since we can see the change coming but cannot stop it, the best I can do is to hit, “Pause.” To set aside some time when nothing needs to change. So tomorrow I will tidy my office, clean out my gym locker, and empty our fridge. We are pushing “pause” on the relentless business of our daily lives. For the next three months, my family has no plans, no agenda, no obligations. We are traveling to the other side of the world with just a few outfits and a lunchbox full of Lego.
The are plenty of things my family and I want to do with this time – read and journal more, build a mud kitchen and a fairy garden, establish a habit of family meetings, try to cook and eat new foods, etc. – but nothing that we must do. As a purpose-driven person, I do not think there has ever been a time in my life when I was not actively trying to achieve something. It’s possible we will get bored. We may get sick of each other. We will definitely become tired of our very limited wardrobes. We will be homesick for our friendly cul-de-sac and DC “family” at times. But when the dizziness passes, we will be together as a family in a way we never have before. No more competing interests or conflicting schedules. No more hurrying from one commitment to the next. For three whole months, nothing needs to change. Instead of human doings, we will relish the chance to be simply human beings. And because we are not trying to change anything, I suspect we may grow in a way that is more true to ourselves than if we’d spent the summer learning to swim, ride a bike, speak Spanish … I will report back on this grand experiment.