I’m not sure who said it, but I think often of the quote: “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” When I was younger, I always had the idea that smooth sailing was just over the next wave crest, that the present challenge of whatever choppy life crisis I was dealing with would (and could) be dealt with and then the life I wanted to live could begin. I was well into my thirties before I realized that I don’t think it works this way…that life IS the ebbs and flows, the peaks and valleys, the daily challenges that don’t really ever stop at all…like that beautiful line from Christina Rossetti’s poem about the road going uphill all the way. I know this is not original thinking, but the notion hit me with the “blinding glimpse of the glaringly obvious” that has a visceral- and changing- effect.
It was the desire to live a more fulfilling, more authentic life that prompted the move from eastern Long Island to western Massachusetts. And while it is true that “wherever you go, there you are” it is also the case that a change in geography can re-route old patterns of thinking, habits, and ruts. Driving around the Pioneer Valley on my exploratory missions to find a place to live, I could almost feel new brain cells developing as I tried to suss out the lay of the land and the different vibes of different towns.
When I finally leapt, the net did appear, though not in the way I thought it would. (In retrospect, I realize I didn’t think, I acted: I was ‘done with the compass, done with the chart” as Emily says (her words are palpable here, they seep into your soul after a while). I got caught in the net that appeared, ensnared in it, bogged down by all the effort I had exerted to make the move happen. (All that paperwork involved in buying a house! Packing up forty-five years of stuff, leaving my job of a dozen years, the place that had brought me along as a teacher, where my daughter and I had spent a decade of learning together, and where I had built up a fairly lucrative tutoring gig in the summers). I was not expecting to be sidelined by depression, a trifecta of midlife crisis, empty nest syndrome and dark night of the soul all rolled into one. It didn’t help that I had no job, and I was pretty sure that if I had a financial planner, her advice would not be to live off my home equity loan for the next year. The feeling I had when I had bought my first house six years before was that of being totally stoked about my achievement: that I, a single mother who did not get child support or have a parent or a rich aunt or uncle to help out with the down payment, had managed to buy my own little corner of the earth that would always be mine as long as I paid the bank $650 every month; it was a victorious feeling and I was proud of myself. Perhaps I should have remembered that pride goeth before a fall…I have ruminated long and hard on the paradoxical applications of giving something your all and yet not being attached to outcome, of walking the mystical path with practical feet.
In any case, my feeling about this new place was nothing like that. As family members and friends congratulated me on the great find, the sweet spot, the beauty of the brook bordering the property, the wide open meadow, all the fencing and landscaping already in place, and the functionality of the studio building on the property, I nodded and smiled, but inwardly, all I could think about what that I had overextended myself. Yes, it was a great deal by Hamptons standards and with Hamptons tutoring income, but it was still a hefty chunk of change to come up with each month, and the thought of opening the daycare I had so airily announced I would start was exhausting and unappealing at the moment. All I wanted to do was cry and sleep.
I named the place Everyday Grace Farm and desperately wanted to start farming it. But just exactly how do you farm grace? I yearned for the plentiful abundance that I was sure the universe wanted for me if only I could allow it to happen. Instead I got all the mundane everyday bills and headaches, the dishes and chores. Six acres to mow and the weeds grew so fast. Where does good old third chakra will come into play? First the gesture, then the grace. I thought I had made the gesture by getting here. But I was ruefully realizing it was only the beginning of starting all over again. It was not the most auspicious start. Or maybe it was; like the lotus whose beautiful blossoms are rooted in mud, my deep, if not deeply thought out, desire for change set the wheels in motion. Change is inevitable. My growth, it appeared, was up to me.