- by Mary Brandejsky Creighton -
Musings Along the Way
Going through piles of papers recently I discovered these paragraphs written about five years ago. I had been seeing a therapist once a week, and found I could communicate to her most completely about certain things through writing. I had just come home from a trip through Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. Arches National Park, the Navaho Nation, Mesa Verde National Park, the wilds of West Texas, all presented images evoking the power of change — its vastness and mystery. In the final paragraph I speak about my brother. He died two years ago. Our relationship has not ended, but changed. Of course the process of which this essay is but a tiny portion is not ended either. I have changed the final sentence to reflect more clearly what I want today.
Change is the play of light over ancient seabeds, now dry and hard with the colors of rust and copper turning to red, purple, mauve. Change is the wind blowing over sculptures of stone, moving monoliths grain by grain through space and time. Change is water moving in rivers that slice through rock, softness inexorably kissing away boulders, scales, particles, molecules--streams continuing their twisting velvet meanderings through millions of years as the earth rises to surround, but never wholly to swallow. Change is the earth splitting suddenly to make a rift, the river flowing long before this cataclysm reduced to passing through rather than creating the resulting valley.
The rather cynical dean of a large school of music once proclaimed to a friend of mine that people never change. At first hearing, I rejected this notion. It undermined everything I believed about growth and development. Now, I wonder if change is actually the illumination of what is there from the beginning, psychic wind and water working to reveal something that is of its essence dynamic, as difficult to capture and hold as the sparkle of light on water.
Change for me has been growing consciousness of the external shell which I developed for whatever reasons, and which came to feel so constricting, so fraudulent, so foreign, that I had to throw it off in a manner that must have seemed cataclysmic to those who had known me for a long time. Once I threw off the shell, I collected its shards and placed them around me for protection, and to have something with which to “meet the faces that we meet,” but things could never be as they once were. I knew the shell for what it was, and was painfully aware of the emptiness beneath.
The past five or six years have been a process of what?? I don't know whether to say rebuilding or just building. I guess rebuilding is the best word, but this time not just an exterior, but an interior. And maybe building is not the right word at all. Perhaps it's best to say illuminating the interior so that it can shine through between openings in the shards. My hope is that over time this interior energy will work on the remainders of my shell, much as light, wind and water transform the ancient seabeds of Utah, Arizona, the Navaho Nation.
A double rainbow in far West Texas, the miraculous passage of a roadrunner across the road (he did it just as the child in me learned he was supposed to-it hasn't been simply cartoon fiction after all), baptism in the rapids of the Colorado River, a moon carefully watched for a week exploding to full at the perfect moment, next to Venus in a cobalt blue-washed sky above Mother Earth's red stonewindows, arches, spires-my recent experiences of change have felt like blessings like these. The same morning meditations I have used for some time to try to dissolve feelings of anxiety or terror offer relief in five or ten minutes rather than an entire day. Humility feels like a gift rather than a punishment. I know that I am both warm, loving, generous and tender, and cold, hateful, stingy and cruel. I spend long moments trying to develop my capacity for compassion, carefully analyzing the psychological precursors to the hurts I have felt, and have come to what feels like acalm, lucid conclusion that anger at the inevitable is a waste of time, only to explode in the next second when my husband suddenly drives the car over a series of ruts in the road. In the face of all this complexity and contradiction, I am feeling more joy and acceptance and less terror and pain.
My brother has recently been diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. The disease has progressed to the most dangerous stage of development, and he has been given a 50% chance of recovery. There is nothing like the cold, hard reality of death to work a change in the contours of one's life vision. I want to do as I believe Stephen Covey suggests, to live life within the context of its end, to become as aware, accepting and active as I can be within, around and through change —before I become a particle of sand blowing in the wind.