I set out this week to write about a completely different topic, but events overtook me, and I found myself contemplating a different aspect of the human existence. A loved one had to go in for surgery suddenly and I found myself unexpectedly in a situation that took me out of the comfort of my daily life. It was not just my routine that was thrown out, but my emotions were stirred, if not shaken, and I felt like I was in the ‘Twilight Zone’. (For younger readers, an episode of Black Mirror😉). There are always risks associated with surgery and naturally thoughts of losing a loved one surfaced in my mind. It was not just the thought of loss that jilted me. I realised that a deeper emotion stirred up within me. The daunting prospect of having to deal with change. The thought of having to deal with not having that person there doing what they always do in the normal course of my daily life. The knock-on effect their absence would have on so many aspects of my life and the lives of our family was an overwhelming thought. Studies have revealed that death and divorce are amongst the highest stress causers. Even moving from one place to another has been recognised as a high stress causer. All these events have one thing in common, they involve change in living conditions, finances, relationships, and countless other things that make up the pattern of a person’s life.
As human beings we are comforted by consistency and pattern, yet the very essence of life involves constant change. We move from the warmth and comfort of our mothers’ wombs into the stark reality of the world. We cry in agony at the first sudden change to our condition. The journey from birth to adolescence, adulthood, middle-age and old age involves a series of physiological, hormonal, psychological changes to our minds and bodies, changes to our living conditions as we move from our parental homes to our own homes with new families and then become grandparents, grand uncles and aunts or just grand! The cycle of existence is characterised by constant movement and change. At each stage we seem to cherish the comfort of the normalcy of the situation, become emotional when we move to the next and then settle down again to a new pattern. We cry at graduations, weddings, births and other milestone events. The changes that come with these customary rites of passage evoke mixed emotions of sweet sorrow. Changes that come from negative life experiences especially unexpected changes, can more aptly be associated with distress. The fear of loss is inevitably accompanied by the fear of change, possibly due to the fear of not knowing how that change will affect you.
This innate human resistance to change is an interesting contradiction given the constantly changing environment we live in. What I find even more interesting is that this same contradiction exists in nature. The sun rises and sets, the tides ebb and flow, the planets rotate on their axis, all with perfect precision. The seasons change. The weather changes constantly and every day looks different, depending on whether the sun is shining, whether its overcast or just moderate and balmy. The changes in nature are steady, constant and expected. When we are confronted with extraordinary phenomenon in the weather patterns, like floods or extreme cold fronts, extreme events like tornados or tsunamis, the sudden impact evokes great anxiety distress and sometimes destruction. Similarly, unexpected or unpleasant changes in our lives have great emotional impact.
I have always tried to prepare myself mentally for unexpected loss and trauma, by visualising and submitting to the worst I can imagine. Yet when the hint of it crosses my path, I find myself experiencing the fear and emotions I have been trying to avoid. Perhaps it is a necessary step in the process of embracing the change. However if we are to become a part of the change we have to let go of the negative emotions and transition with ease. I believe that the patterns of nature, what I refer to as God’s laws, teach us firstly that we have no control. It also teaches us that there are distinct patterns which fit together in a wondrous mosaic of unity, like a flawless orchestra led by the best conductor. It is the mixture and combination of the different tempos notes and sounds that create the beautiful music. Imagine if we have only rain, there would be floods. If we had only sun there would be drought. Every condition, we experience is necessary for our existence. Without the lows we would not appreciate the highs, without the cold, we would not know warmth. After the storm we experience the calm. Without death, we could not appreciate life. Exposure to the opposites, should engender gratitude for the benefits that each situation brings with it.
Being in the throes of the reality that my dearest loved ones may not outlive me is heart wrenching. It is however, something over which I have no control. I take solace in the trees and the flowers that lose their bloom and brightness at the end of their season. They look as if they will never grow again, yet they revive and bloom as if they had never died. This is the greatest indicator from God that His pattern includes rebirth, regrowth and always presents something to be grateful for. We die, and it seems impossible that we could ever regain life in any form, yet nature shows us otherwise. We fear only because we do not know what lies the other side for us. How can we free ourselves of the fear? To understand the mechanics of any instrument, machine or system, one always must refer to the manual of the designer. The creator of the mechanism. Everything is controlled by something or someone. A boat cannot row itself unless it has a machine which also has a controller. We naturally must revert to the ultimate creator and controller of nature and all the phenomenon that we experience. This means we must relinquish control, albeit the illusion of control. What do we replace it with? Trust? That means we must go with it submit to it, trust the process. Trust the controller, the Creator of it all. We get shaken up every now and then with global events and threats, almost as a reminder that there is much out there more powerful and intelligent than we are. There is much to appreciate in this vast expanse of our tiny existence in the cosmos. If He chooses to take away someone we love and cause a change our lives, it would be easier to accept that change and that loss, if we trust that He revives, He calms after the storm, He controls, and He loves. Without the virtues of gratitude and trust, a bleak existence awaits us…
Always with love and wishing peace,