A tree in my yard, recently uprooted in some of the season’s storms. On inspection at its roots, was a large underground boulder. Though the tree looked strong and secure, hidden at its core was the element of its destruction. The boulder itself did not topple the tree however. The miniscule movement of the surrounding dirt, soaked with the moisture of the rain caused the boulder to become unstable. That coupled with the terrific wind thrashing the top of the tree, precipitated its demise. The tiny movement of the soil brought crashing down a huge poplar tree, changing the landscape of my backyard.
Change is one of those words that many fear or dread. Even those that believe change can be good and look forward to an exciting event, experience heightened feelings of anxiety and worry. What most do not realize is that even if the change is considered good, it still represents saying goodbye to something.
For example, you get married. Good change, right? Starting a new form of a relationship with someone you love and care about. Beginning a life with a friend. Setting up a world you have both dreamed about and planned. What could be negative in any way?
Believe it or not, you are saying goodbye to the role and definition of who you were before the marriage. Even if you have been in the relationship for a number of months or years and already feel defined as a partner in that relationship, you are still beginning a different phase. Questions about finances, family planning, new roles, medical and estate planning, all may be affected by the new stage.
Or what if you are expecting a child? This is a wonderful event in most family’s lives. Anticipation is high, many events mark the way, and then a little bundle arrives. But one of the distinctive marks of new parenthood, even if this isn’t your first child, is the amount of change and the large number of things you must leave behind for this choice. I’m not sure this is an element that is often described well when discussions of postpartum depression arise. You are leaving behind who you were before the responsibility of the child came into the picture. No matter how much you have anticipated and planned, prayed for and worked towards this birth, you will experience some grief. At the very least, you will experience the grief that comes from the loss of sleep and time.
Of course, each of these events are huge changes. Big trees falling over in the yard changes. But what of the tiny changes? What of the slow decline of a loved one’s health, the everyday growth of the child, the passage of the seasons? Each of these can represent changes that often sneak up on us in ways unacknowledged by the outside world.
Change is a fact of life, but one of the things I find striking sometimes, is it often seems those who have the most practice at change, are often the most unhappy or stubborn about allowing it to occur. As much change as older generations have experienced, I often wonder why the practice doesn’t make it easier for them. Maybe they just get tired of going through the task of processing.
How should we navigate change? First by acknowledging the positives of the movement forward, however small they may be, and then acknowledging the things we leave behind. Each step is the opportunity to be in a new place, a new definition of ourselves, a new outlook on the world. We may think trying to stand still will keep things from changing, but the world is going to balk us on this no matter what we try to do, so we might as well find a way to be that willow tree that bends in the wind.
A friend of mine recently discussed the idea of a fire during the next full moon, the blood moon. The blood moon is also known as the shedding moon. The friend wants us to write down things we need to work at letting go, and burn them in the fire. Sometimes, I don’t believe there are enough rituals like this to acknowledge the changes we experience. There are big rituals around death, and there are rituals in celebration of good changes, but the ending of relationships, or the changing of their framework usually happens in whispers, sighs, or the quiet privacy of our homes or inner worlds.
A great therapy tool is providing rituals around saying goodbye. After all, isn’t change just another word for saying goodbye to some things and possibly saying hello to others. Finding a way to honor what went before, gives it and yourself a resting place for what we are leaving. It is almost an assurance that you are not forgetting or tossing things aside, but you are moving forward.
The blood moon fire will use some of the branches from that blown down tree. Somehow it seems fitting to honor the tree this way. We will send off into the ether, surrounding its withering leaves and still strong trunk, the representations of the things we need to let go in our years of tumultuous change. We will honor, with one of the most basic elements, the heat and forging of new, as well as the ashes of the old. The things we are leaving behind will be blessed, and then we move forward.