“Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful uncomfortableness directly correlates to your happiness and general well-being. See what I just did there? I saved you thousands of dollars on self-help books. If you can surf your life rather than plant your feet, you will be happier.” –Amy Poehler
I realized as I sat down to write this blog that I just wrote about change a few weeks back. I also realized it’s been, indeed, a few weeks back since I’ve written. I hate that. I’m better when I’m writing. Better mom. Better employee. Better human. But sometimes, truthfully, it’s easier to binge on a few episodes of House via Netflix, because omigod, if Greg House can make it in this world (even if in a Vicodin-induced haze of glory), then just about anyone can. Right?!?
I haven’t only been watching House. Promise. I’ve also been listening, at my sister’s suggestion, to Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. I’m not a huge book-on-tape kinda girl. I’d rather actually read the words and feel the paper…but Joy said, “No, you have to listen. It’s so much better that way.”
Joy was right, and so my apologies to those who have seen me walking the dog, jogging or driving while either laughing hysterically, nodding my head in vigorous agreement or, sometimes, evening wiping tears away. The thing about comedy, which Poehler knows and channels so well, is that it exists right next to tragedy. Tears and laughter, both, have gotten me (and her) through this life.
This morning was a “Amy brings Julie to tears” moment. As she read a few beautifully done pages on change, on how it hurts, on how it helps us grow, on how scary it can be, on how it is necessary and constant, I could barely keep up with my own thoughts, so fast my brain was flipping through memories and hopes.
I’ve known change all my life–by the time I was a freshman in high school I’d lived in 4 different states and 6 (7?) different cities. And after that came another state, and another few cities. In some sense, I’m deeply grateful–I’ve got folks all over the country I could call in a travel emergency. In another sense, it’s no wonder that I’ve planted both feet firmly in the 502. Louisville’s home now. And I long for it to stay that way for a good long while.
Still, no matter where my feet are…change. There is very little in my life–personally or professionally–that looks like it did 5 years ago. The change has, as it almost always is, been necessary and constant. But it has also been far from easy. Far from comfortable. Far from what I’d wanted or imagined or planned.
And yet, it is. And in the process of leaving what I knew/who I used to be and becoming where I am/who I will be, I’ve hurt. And stretched. And sometimes wanted to crawl under a pile of blankets and hide. But I’ve also shed some skin that needed shedding (figuratively of course). Discovered things about myself I didn’t know. Leaned in to the reality of the moments I found myself in and tried, hard, to hold on, to believe that something good and whole and wonderful was/is coming.
After all, it is always the trees that can bend that survive a late-May Ohio Valley thunderstorm.
In a recent email to a friend and mentor of mine, I wrote these words (in regards to a conversation about change and newness), “Holy hell…I just want to stay put for a while.” And in many ways, I do. But life has taught me, even in my mere 40 years, that such staying put–it does not happen. Even if we stay in the same town our whole life long, things change. People. Places. Relationships. Ideas. Concepts. Ways of being. It’s all, at any moment, up for grabs.
When I was a little girl, we lived in South Texas, just 20 miles from Matagorda Beach in Matagorda County. And most Sunday afternoons during the hot Texas summers were spent at this beach. Beautiful it was not (think dark brown water and occasional tiny oil slicks)…but wild and inviting it often was. And sometimes, if the weather and waves were just right, Dad would take Joy and me out just past the first small breakers–to where the water came up to his chest and we’d have to swim along next to him, his strong arms helping us along.
And then a wave would come, and I’d straighten my long (even then) body up and throw my arms wide and kick my legs back, and I’d dive in to the wave, and let it carry me, squealing happily, all the way to shore. I loved it. And I’d do it over and over until my eyes stung and my lips cracked from all the salt water.
And every time, I’d feel so light, so free, so able to to anything at all. No solid ground, just the water, and me, sailing across it.
“If you can surf your life, rather than plant your feet, you will be happier….” Poehler wrote.
Because the truth is that things happen. Things change. Life moves. With or without you. And as for me, I want to move with it–right along with the changing tide. I want to body surf it, so that I end up on the shore, exhilarated and grateful and content for the joy of the journey.
The truth is also that I am very fortunate. I know this. I speak from the point of one privileged to have known emotional and physical safety for the vast majority of her life. Because no matter what change has happened, no matter how broken I’ve felt, no matter how beaten down by those very waves I sometimes have been, the most important things, the things that truly ground me–friends, family, faith–these things have remained. And have propped me up, held me close, and promised that one day, I’d ride waves again.
I am nothing, folks, if not a product of a community. Of this, I am certain.
Dear God change can be so very awful and hard. And Dear God it can be so very beautiful. The trick is, as Poehler says in ways much funnier and crass than me, to go with it. To navigate it. To trust that you’re where you meant to be, even if just for today.
Because tomorrow it could all be so different.