Some people make changes gradually. That’s never been my way. I’ve moved long distances, changed professions, left lovers, and never once have I done it frivolously. Sometimes changes have come unwelcome. Thrust out of my warm coccoon and into freefall, I have not gone without a struggle. Lately I have been thinking about how hard it is to say goodbye; today it soothes me to think of resting, stewarding energies and looking ahead.
I love the excitement of looking forward to something new. Like the anticipation of the first day of school or the promise of cushioning a stark, clean space into home, every stepping out is once again the transcendent faith and hope of the fool stepping off the edge of the cliff. When I left New York, friends looked at me askance and asked, “How can you leave the security of your job, your friends, your routine?” Was it addiction to excitement? The sense that I had taken from New York all I wanted and could only one-up the experience by putting New York itself in play? More likely, the fear of stagnation overweighted the fear of moving on, tipping the balance toward promise.
There is always an adjustment period. A solemn child, I have long been accustomed to spending time alone. I get lonely from time to time, but I know well that it won’t kill me. I have now dealt with so many goodbyes that I can almost feel the rhythm—three years to mourn a lost love, three years to feel at home in a new place. By middle age, we all have comforted friends who have suffered loss, and abandoned or displaced lovers are more the norm at this age than aged parents or sick children. Some friends, mostly competitive men, have vowed that they would beat the three-year mark, and I always hope they will and cheer them on. But usually misplaced bravado gives way—in time—to a sad reprise of the same old dance. The three-year rule is not really a rule, you see, but rather a preponderance of observations of the physics of emotion. Better not to fight it, better to take the time to breathe in, awaiting the day it feels natural to look forward again.
The amazing thing is that not once when I have seized the brass ring of some big new challenge, NOT ONCE have I regretted the change, and this leads me to conclude—my more cautious friends notwithstanding—that I have not taken too many chances, maybe in fact not as many as I should.
Two years now in Vermont, eighteen months in a new job, a year in a new house, and I am starting to feel at home. I’m breathing deep, feeling the oxygen fill up my lungs, replenish my strength. Nowhere near the next big step off the next big cliff, right now I am content just to be.
Thanks to Jon, for finding the correct quote and citation for one of my favorite poems:
We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
“Little Gidding”, the fourth of the Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot