Sunday, February 13, 2005

The More Things Change

I’ve heard before that more things change, the more they stay the same. It didn’t ring true to me, though, for a long time. Throughout high school, college, the early married years with Scott and then the whiz-bang zippy years of infant and toddler raising, it seemed to me that nothing ever stayed the same. I filled my dorm room and then the bedrooms in rental houses with roommates and eventually Scott’s and my own homes with Victorian laces, flea-market antique furniture, African violets like my grandmother’s and quilts pieced by my great-grandmother and Scott’s grandmother, in an effort to capture, I suppose, some of the hominess and security that seemed to be so rapidly slipping away as my independence increased. Lately, having been settled in this old farmhouse for eight-plus years, our daughters attending school in town and old enough to not require second-by-second monitoring when they’re home, I find myself with the time to consider the things in my life that are irrevocably changed and the things that have, against all likelihood, remained unshaken despite years of neglect and in some cases even outright denial, the things that have, indeed, become more solidly and inexplicably a part of me than ever.

Some of these things are small details whose unchanging high rank in my affections is not much more than, perhaps, coincidence, or they’re things that really aren’t surprising at all. That I would continue to love walks through fields and woods after spending ten years away from the country isn’t particularly shocking.

One discovery that did cause me to sit back on my heels and blink, however, was made when I picked up an old blank book in which, somewhere around the age of fifteen, I began copying down poems I especially liked. I had no intentions whatsoever of writing poetry then. In fact, the one poetry class I took in high school I despised and swore to never make the mistake of voluntarily taking another, let alone ever trying to write the dreadful stuff. Still, here in this blue velvet bound volume with its embossed silver cover, I find carefully copied works by Emily Dickinson, Richard Wilbur, Mary Oliver, Edna St. Vincent Millay and W. S. Merwin, all unfamiliar names to me at the time the poems were copied. Twenty-some years later, having completely forgotten about this little book in the interim, books by most of these poets line my shelves. Obviously, something has not changed at all, has instead grown stronger and steadier for the time passed.

I’ve been trying lately to slow down on the inside, to take needed time to consider what always has been and what has legitimately become truly important to me, and what is simply extra window-dressing I’ve accumulated through various stages of my life thus far. It’s not an easy process, nor always a comfortable one. I’m being forced to make some painful admissions about my own motivations and the despicable practice of people-pleasing, for one thing. For another, I often find myself in the very lonely position of caring especially deeply about things most other people seem to disregard, at best. Whoever would have thought that living an authentic life would be so difficult?

Scott is going in and out of the back door, and through the opening, I can hear the spring peepers calling down by the creek. Sitting on the back step in the dusk and listening seems especially important tonight. A must.


David said...

The older I get the more I see the truth in the old saw. I've come to understand what people meant when they'd tell me that one's character doesn't change, essentially, just as Aristotle said when he wrote, 'character is fate.'

I'm easily spooked by reading my old journals. I find my younger self struggling with questions that occupy me to this day, and often with more intelligence, energy and exactitude than I muster nowadays. I find differences between my old I and new I, of course. But, the differences often point not to CHANGE in my character, rather, they point to how I have, in later years, begun to reclaim the self that first emerged when I was a pre-teen; the self that I tried for so long TO change, but in the end, could not. For which I am thankful, ultimately.

Toad said...

Right now I am on that step in the calm of dusk with you. Though I have almost forgotten the sound of peepers, I'm sure I can hear them. Thank you for that moment of peace. I needed it tonight.

I wish you luck in you discoveries of what has changed, what hasn't, and what must and must not. This will not be an easy journey and doesn't seem like one that will be short. If I may request that you not change something, it would be the warped sense of humor that inspired your stories when I was little, and now comes through in our conversations and wonderings. That has always been one of my most favorite things about you. Such imagination is not bestowed on all of us. :)

Cindy said...

David--Reading one's old journals is an odd sort of experience, isn't it? I wonder if there are certain questions each of us are given to explore in life? If we're intended to spend our lives uncovering progressive layers of understanding in areas specific to each of us? I'd like to think so; it would free me up from feeling socially/religiously obligated to mess around with the ones for which I really have no interest or patience.

Toad--Thank you so much for the SPACE you give me with that comment! For the encouragement to explore and do what I need to, without trying to box me in with any expectations of what those things might be. Oh, tremendously thank you!

As for changing the warped sense of humor, I doubt that would be at all possible. It seems somehow to be totally irreversible--genetic, most likely. Totally hopeless.