By Donaia De Marco
March seems to be a month of subtle changes. One day when I was speaking to a man in a wheelchair who was living in an institution and had done so for forty years, I was informed that March was his favorite month because that's when the most change occurred out his window. I was flabbergasted! To me March meant that winter kept marching on…more snow when we were tired of it, then cold slush and deep puddles when some sunny days come to tantalize us. Then just when we are digging out our warm weather jackets, more blasts of wind-chills come streaking down from Canada.
Perhaps March is a metaphor for our own transition process. What happens for me is that when I know change is going to happen, I get rambunctious. I have to keep reminding myself that March is winter ending, but I'm so ready to get on with the new that I get irritated with something finishing out its natural process. Madeleine L'Engle wrote in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, " The principal part of faith is patience." How's that for a grounding peace of change?
When change is so gradual as to appear imperceptible, then change seems nonexistent (except for someone so limited in space as to be restricted to a wheelchair and an institution). Like him, we feel trapped in a life of no foreseeable exits, and we move around frustrated and angry. Unlike him, in March we gripe about when this is ever going to end…knowing that it will end. Of course, our aggravation prevents us from being quiet and still enough to notice the little changes that are evident all around us. When things look the same, they tend to feel the same…or is it the other way around…when things feel the same, they tend to look the same?
But change can also be sudden like a deadly medical diagnosis, an accident, a loved one leaving. Change is sudden when that germinating seed suddenly sprouts through the ground or when the straining bud suddenly opens. What a delightful surprise! Of course, all surprises aren't delightful especially if we are not willing or able to relinquish our control of ourselves. Some believe that "freedom is a terrible gift because we have to suffer the agony of choice." Surprises require real courage and commitment to excavate the blessing. But, my God, choosing to appreciate our blessings is the key that opens the door to the vitality of Holy Spirit…the Comforter who soothes and saves our sanity.
What we have to remember is that change is happening all the time. It is a requisite of life. We are growing, developing organisms, and we live in a teeming matrix of ever-expanding possibility. But we have been conditioned to expect certain things from our everyday lives. Some of us require certain things to make us feel safe like locked doors, car alarms, germ-free environments, a person by our side in bed, money in the bank, President's who adhere to our standards of morality. Our lives become rigidly focused on security …job security, social security, health & life insurance, safe schools, safe neighbors, sterile food. However, in spite of our attempts at uniformity and security, we live in a world where cultures are moving closer and closer together via the media, and we are influencing each other more and more. The world is fast changing no matter how hard we condemn and try to put on the brakes. This morning I caught the lyrics of a Richard Marx song on the car radio. He sang, " This ever-changing world pushes us through another door."
When we fear diversity, we experience "a numbing down of America." Aliveness and spontaneity are the crux of spiritual life. A life of "same old, same old" deadens the senses. Ever notice how you don't notice anything on your drive home any more? Ever notice that when you are looking for something you expect it can be right under your nose in a form you don't expect. The other day I ran my hands all over the walls of a dark room looking for the light switch when all along it was hanging on a pull chain above my head. What you find may not be what you were looking for. Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book Living Buddha, Living Christ, "We are not capable of being alive in the present moment. We always postpone being alive to the future, we don't know exactly when."
Well, aren't we the silly ones! Bob in his wheelchair at the Dever State School taught me a lesson in 1977 that I have only recently come to learn. I see March as the approach of any turning point…a time when I can catch glimpses of the new if I get still and quiet enough. No longer does this end time make me impatient. It strengthens my faith. I realize that seeing something through to completion is essential and that completion comes in its own time. I can now appreciate the paradox of change in all its graduation and then sudden appearance. "Love changes shape as our perspective grows," Bette Midler sings in a song. So does life if we become more expansive and inclusive.
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