Friday, December 26, 2008
"We are given changes all the time. We can either cling to security, or we can let ourselves feel exposed, as if we had just been born, as if we had just popped out into the brightness of life and were completely naked. Maybe this sounds too uncomfortable or frightening, but...it's our chance to realize that this mundane world is all there is, and we could see it with new eyes and at long last wake up from our ancient sleep of preconceptions."--Pema Chodron
I like change when it means a better job, a different vacation destination, a new Ben & Jerry's flavor. Otherwise, change frightens me. It's a constant worry. I may have some things now (a good job, a loving husband, ten fingers to type this blog) but tomorrow something could be gone.
Friends I thought I'd have forever are falling away. I'm at a time in my life when most of my friends are having kids. M and I aren't planning on having children, and for the most part I'm OK with that decision because there are many other things I want to do in my life, and as wonderful and special as it may be to be a mother (or so I'm told; I mean, who would admit otherwise?), I am hopeful that there will be other experiences in my life that will turn out to be equally good.
The thing that bothers me most about my friends who are in a family way is that I worry about losing them. I know, that sounds wickedly selfish of me. Of course I am happy that they're taking a new step in life, a positive one that will enrich their days in new and exciting ways. Let's face it, having a baby is probably the most momentous thing that can happen to a person, up there with marriage and Cancer. But right now, I have to admit, I view these new children as potential threats. These little ones will be oh-so-cute and oh-so-charming. They will captivate their parents to the point that I'll go months or even years without hearing from them. And when we do talk, what will we talk about? Naturally, they will want to talk about their kids--who said their first word, what Johnny or Mary had for breakfast, or the way Tommy is already reading. And what will I say? Oh, that's great that little Joanie can make a fist--by the way, I went shopping today and got the best bargain on a cashmere sweater! I'm afraid that my friends won't relate to me anymore, will gravitate toward their other friends with kids, or like bubbles, float away into the friendship ether only to be heard from at Christmas when they send holiday photos of their family--"Happy Holidays from the Trumbulls!"--with no personalized note. Or worse, I'll start getting those cloyingly sweet mimeographed newsletters detailing vacations and lost baby teeth, Timmy's first fart, etc, etc.
I'll admit, I'm somewhat envious, too. It's like these friends have been handed a key to the same exclusive gated community but when the gatekeeper gets to me, he shakes his head and throws away my key. It's also my fear of change. When change means potentially losing something or someone for whom I care about, I get scared witless. I already feel like I've lost some friends by moving to Boston--I cling to the few who are left, and it's hard to accept that they're changing, too. They're not standing still like friend replicas. They're in motion, advancing further and further down the path, and I'm not there to share it. Worse, I'm not making the same choices as they are, so I feel left behind. It's like when all my friends went to prom and I stayed home filling out college applications. They were in one group (the ones who had been asked to the prom) and I was in the other (the one who was gawky and awkward and too scared to go alone).
Perhaps the answer is focusing on the ways that I'm changing, too. Though I'm not having children, I'm learning new skills in a career that I love, I'm finding out new things about marriage all the time, I'm developing a spiritual side, I'm rediscovering the pleasures of helping others who need me. I'm becoming less snarky and cynical and more open to the prospect of a glass-half-full kind of life. These changes may not involve toilet training a child for the first time, but hopefully they will keep me busy and will be good fodder for conversation when my friends get tired of baby talk.
Change is inevitable. We gain, we lose, we just have to keep adjusting our sails and our expectations.