Monday, April 02, 2007

You say goodbye, I say hello. Hello Hello...

(The Beatles)

"People change and forget to tell each other." That's a quote from one of the meditations in Mediatations for women who do too much. I'll maybe try to find out who said it. Right now I think I just need to get this out.

I'm not a gracious person when it comes to goodbyes. I want to stay in a place forever, stay friends forever, people to not move away or make decisions that change the status quo.

Case in point: I have not moved for twelve years, I didn't even move when I left this garret for my parent's house for three years. I kept the apartment because a) I didn't want to change 2) I knew I wanted to come back, and finally, because it made sense at the time.

I hate goodbyes. I, who have said a final-seeming goodbye to someone at least once every three years of my life--they're moving or I'm moving. I, who often have associated these final-seeming goodbyes with the telling of secrets (appropriately and inappropiately). I, who have feared abandonment, who still fears it, deeply.

I have stayed in relationships longer than I should have because I didn't want the change. I have stayed so long that when I ended it, the other person had no idea that I'd been thinking of ending it for months.

Even though I'm not exactly happy with where my life is going right now in some departments, I don't want to rock the boat, add or subtract something, for fear of CHANGE.

For my first semester of my senior year of college, I had a paper on my wall. On it were these words: Change is the only constant, in different color markers. It was the worst year and the most full of changes of all my college years (well, except for my freshman year.) (It did have some "it was the best of times" moments too, don't you worry your pretty little head.)

Change is the only constant. You can never walk in the same river twice. That's Hereclitus, my favorite Greek philosopher. I think he was pre-Plato. I think there's a name for that.

If things don't bend, they become brittle. If things don't change, there is a stale odor. And yet, I resist change. I know change is healthy, and yet, I resist it. Tooth and nail, I cling to the familiar.

All that to say: I am watching my friends move on. They are changing jobs, getting deeper in love, they are getting engaged, married, having first babies, having second ones. This is wonderful. I applaud them for where they are going. I do. I am. But the selfish part of me that clings to what is familiar says no! You have to stay here, with me. We'll be crochety old ladies with arthritus and we'll sit on the front porch and watch the world go by. We'll hate everyone and everything, but we'll have each other and it will be the same and familiar!!

See how crazy this is? See how worked up I get? And why? Because if you're changing and I'm staying the same, maybe we can't be friends anymore. Or if I'm changing and you're staying the same, maybe I'll leave you in the dust. Or maybe we're both changing, just in different ways, in different directions and that's scary too.

Meanwhile, I am changing: I'm becoming a better librarian, I'm trying new things, meeting new people, moving furniture around, and always and forever changing purses, sometimes on a daily basis. For me, the girl who moved again and again, this staying in one place is a real change for me. For me, the girl who worked for Fox Books for four years in which she sent out resumes every six months, to be at a job that I can imagine retiring from. Over half of my life was spent in the three year cycle: move somewhere, get to know it, get ready to leave. This not moving, this staying put, it is for me, a change. Maybe I'll stick around. Put down some roots.

I didn't really see how this had anything to do with Lent (and I did say I'd be writing about Lent this week) but it does. I am Peter. At the Transfiguration, I want to build a tent and stay there. When Jesus says he must suffer, I say, you know what, you don't really have to do that. And yet, when he is a criminal, being taken off by soldiers, I deny once, twice, three times that I even knew thee. It hurts less. Go. Just go. We were never friends. I don't know what you're talking about.

A movie image just came to me, of the little boy in Jerry Maguire, when Dorothy is about to drive off to San Diego for "that job." And Jerry tries to say goodbye and the boy says "Go. Just go ahead and go," fighting back tears, pretending he doesn't care, but caring, deeply.

Also, if you're changing/leaving and that's a part of a healthy decision on your part, and I'm not-changing/staying, am I being unhealthy? The mind plays all these questions, baiting the heart, saying, "You must! You should! Why aren't you?"

  • Keeping up with the Joneses?
  • Shopping retail?
  • Drinking free trade coffee only?
  • Finding a boyfriend, getting married, having babies?
  • Reading these books?
  • Blogging less?
  • Blogging more?

And none of these things are the point!! If making bread is your thing, go! Make bread. Knit! Have babies! I applaud you. I'll be over here, re-reading the Jennifer Weiner oevre, blogging at my own pace, living my life at my own pace, shopping at Goodwill, giving away perfectly good Ikea shelving, thinking about an MFA in Writing, rearranging furniture, being a darn good librarian...

Which brings me to a man I love. He has been in and out of my life since I was four, and he's still here, very much alive on Channel 13, even though he's been dead almost five years.

I love Fred Rogers. Of all the shows I think I missed out on the most as a child, I think his is the one. I remember watching Mr. Rogers in our living room in kindergarten and well, when we moved to Germany in the fall, he just wasn't there. Thankfully, he made shows until I was a library student, and I actually met him once...but I think if I'd had him there with me in Bonn, when the kids made fun of my last name, if I'd had him in Tegucigalpa when the kids made fun of my non-talented kickball playing...

So in this current crisis, I think that Mr. Rogers would have a song to sing to me about not wanting to change, to grow. I don't want to change! I don't want to grow! And you shouldn't either!

Do you hear him, in the corner of the room, softly singing? "It's you I like. It's not the things you wear. It's not the way you do your hair, but it's you I like."

When I was in Warsaw, some of the darkest times of my life (haven't written much about that side of Warsaw, have I?) I would make myself smile in the mirror by singing "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood..." (i have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. i've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with YOU.)

Here's one about growing and changing, though:

"You're Growing"
You used to creep and crawl real well
But then you learned to walk real well.
There was a time you'd coo and cry
But then you learned to talk and, my!
You almost always try.
You almost always do your best.
I like the way you're growing up.
It's fun, that's all.

You're growing, you're growing,
You're growing in and out.
You're growing, you're growing,
You're growing all about.

Your hands are getting bigger now.
Your arms and legs are longer now.
You even sense your insides grow
When Mom and Dad refuse you. So
You're learning how to wait now.
It's great to hope and wait somehow.
I like the way you're growing up.
It's fun, that's all.

Your friends are getting better now.
They're better every day somehow.
You used to stay at home to play
But now you even play away.
You do important things now.
Your friends and you do big things now.
I like the way you're growing up.
It's fun, that's all.

Someday you'll be a grown-up, too
And have some children grow up, too.
Then you can love them in and out
And tell them stories all about
The times when you were their size,
The times when you found great surprise
In growing up. And they will sing
It's fun, that's all.

I had a conversation with an old friend after church on Sunday. We hadn't talked in ages, as he goes to Bellefield and I to the Open Door. He and his wife are moving to Washington, PA, where he'll be a resident, to finish up his medical training. How have you been, he asked. And somewhere in the telling him, I blurted out this: "I'm watching all my friends get married, have kids, move on." And bless his heart, this is what he said. "I bet that's hard." NOT, "You'll find someone." NOT, "hang in there." No. He validated where. I. was. He wept with the weeping, even though I wasn't literally weeping, nor was he (though I am now, writing this, tasting the tears as they fall down my face to my lips.)

Wow. That feels better. A year ago, I came home from Massachussets after having spent two weeks there: one at a library conference and one at a friend's house. I spent April Fool's morning picking up trash in Highland Park with Nick and Lauren, who live in ENGLAND now, talk about changing and moving. My Massachusets friend and I are estranged right now. I'm actually estranged from three other key people from last year this time. One I doubt will ever rekindle, but the others are question marks. And if you have read this far, you know that I don't like question marks. Exclamation points, yes. Periods, commas, yes. But question marks? Something's not certain? I'm not too crazy about those things.

Somehow this post wants to end with some more poetry, so I'll cull some key lines from a man called merely "The Preacher."

For, there is:

A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,

A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,

For there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)*

*I took a few liberties by using two translations (The Message and the NIV) and choosing only verses I wanted to highlight and by putting the first verse last.


alyssa said...

I'm headed to bed, but thought I'd stop by and see if you'd written anything today (is that really a question?!) Anyway, I'm glad I did. This post is wonderful. Wonderful. You let me in to how you're feeling w/o making me feel bad about where I am at. Does that make sense?

So, I understand. I often agree about change. I always agree about Mr. Rogers. I'm glad you let us in to hear from YOU tonight.

Thanks, SL :)

Amy said...

There is a book called the Seat of the Soul by Zukav (or something like that). I hated this book when I first read it, and I still don't agree with all of it, but he makes the point that we enter into relationships with a common goal. We get together with people who challenge us and cause us to learn and to grow. And at some point or another, one or the other person might stop growing, or might not want to move from where they are (spiritually) or they might start growing in a different way. It is hard to deal with, but sometimes we have to recognize that that relationship has served is purpose and now we need to bond with someone else who will continue to help us grow.

Change is hard. (Read M.Scott Peck's the Road Less Traveled for more on that one) but it is through change that we grow and that we become better.

Sarah Louise said...

A&A: Thanks! I'll probably skip the books you mentioned tho--I find that self help books are generally unhelpful--they're crazymakers for me.


Won't you be my neighbor??

Iamthebookworm said...

What a great post!

Katrina said...

What a great post! I feel like I know you a little bit more now (and isn't that a weird thing to say about someone on the internet?) This was such a perfect picture of how it is to resist change, and I think you're not alone in feeling that way.

If only all change could be guaranteed to be good change, I might not kick and scream so much as I get dragged along for the ride.

Sarah Louise said...

bookworm: thanks!

Katrina: so with you on the "if all change was good change." and this whole "getting to know folks" on the Internet is a strange animal, but I support it.

Heidi Renee said...

what a great insightful post sl - i feel like i know you a bit better now.

i too miss dear old fred. i really thought that living in PA would allow me to meet him finally. he was my best friend growing up.

i thought of you this weekend when i snagged a pristine paperback copy of dicey's song for my daughter at the thrift store. i thought 'oh sarah louise would be so proud of me" :)

i want to be the kind of friend that says 'i bet that's hard' too. you're in my prayers.