Change is hanging over us, as low-slung and threatening as the storms this week. And although it’s exciting, it isn’t always easy to navigate. I’ve described the chaos in our house-under-construction, and the upheaval in our lives as we graduate, go to college, move in and out, etc.
Even in positive circumstances, which these are, such transitions are stressful. We lose our balance. We can’t eat or focus. We go in too many directions. We can’t sleep. We’re uncomfortable and uncertain. We keep lists, or double-check information, trying to maintain a feeling of control. Yet is seems as if we’re caught in a current, and can’t find solid ground.
If you’re like me, you try to balance it all, but something gets away from you. Maybe you forget things. Details. Appointments. Items on the shopping lists. To-do tasks. You drop something.
Splat. Plonk. It sinks into the waters rising around you, lost, and causes ripples.
And it doesn’t take much of a ripple to trigger tempers and moods, does it? To deflate enthusiasm or leech away limited reserves of energy, focus, and patience. To release a tsunami instead.
On overcast days, as the weather itself broods and gathers pressure, it feels as if the world is in the same pensive mood. Waiting. Grumbly. Wanting to let loose.
A few days ago, I stood in line at Zumi’s. Some customers were complaining about another rainy day.
Then I witnessed one woman rush outside as it started pouring down. She looked up into the sky, flung out her arms and welcomed the torrents. “Thank goodness it’s finally raining!”
She was right. We needed the rain. We needed the release.
Hard to believe that a few weeks ago, it was unseasonably warm. Even unbearably hot. Sunny and scalding. Our town was already enforcing a water ban in May. Imagine how dry and barren the river will become in the next few months, how low the water levels in the town wells will dip, as the truth of summer’s heat and focus burns bright in the weeks ahead.
We need to be quenched. To get wet. Whether it’s warm and misty on humid days, or cold and sheeting on more bitter ones, we ought to be exposed to and saturated by the elements.
Yes, it’s a heavy mood inside my house, my family. And out there, sometimes, in the wider world. Grey. Cranky.
We could use a little release of pressure. In our case, it might come out as a storm of emotions. Or a letting go in the form of exhaustion and a craving for sleep. Environmentally, it hangs over us as a ponderous gathering of clouds, bursting with water that we require to live.
I’m telling myself to dance inside the downpour, when it comes. To welcome it. To revel in it, as I saw another woman do just days ago.
But admittedly, I’m reluctant. I’d rather stay safe and dry.
All those emotions, when they come rushing out of me or someone else inside my family, feel like a flash flood. Of words. Of body language. Of feelings. Too much all at once. Overwhelming.
And yet, they are real. Honest. They are sometimes how we connect. Not gently. Not tenderly. But powerfully. In a way that requires some response. And the ability to stay afloat.
So I’ll have to let those emotions, with their bursts of language and accompanying actions, wash over me. And then I’ll touch bottom, push up, tread water, and keep my head above the rising tide, and immerse myself in this shivery wet discomfort of change and connection.
After all, the reason I can swim is because my mother insisted on all of us taking lessons. She’d never learned, but wanted all of us to become safe and confident in water.
Yet when I was a little girl, although I could easily cross the pool pulling and kicking and breathing, I was afraid to go off the diving board. I refused to jump, unless she was in the deep water, waiting for me.
And she couldn’t swim. Yet. So I waited. And my mother took enough adult swimming lessons to learn to tread water. To scull her hands and feet in the bright, clear, scary volume of the deep end. Then she could “catch” me when I jumped off … or rather, bob around nearby as I plunged down into its blue chlorinated depths and floated up again, panicky but exuberant.
Back then, I was too afraid to trust anyone else. So she overcame her own fears, her own lack of skill as an adult, to make me feel safe enough to reach for something more.
Even as a young student, I knew the measure of what my mom had achieved, to help me. Later I’d grow up to be a lifeguard and swimming instructor for several years … and I give much credit to my mother’s love and discipline, her commitment to learn a skill she’d never mastered as a child, at least well enough to be there when I asked her to help me. And to want more for me, and all of her children.
I remember that diving lesson all over again.
I know that I, too, have gone places I couldn’t imagine, because I would do what was required for my own child. Here I am, all over again, challenged.
Awed by compassion and commitment that we have for our family and loved ones, and how much risk we will take for each other, just to connect. To help each other move forward. Embrace change. To make it safely to the other shore, the solid ground, and a place of growth and transformation.
I’ll admit, though, that sometimes I’d like to bask in some sunshine, a bit of a hot-day burn on my nose, content inside a fuzzy warm towel, wiggling sandy beach toes. As a treat.