To live is to change. Whether such change is directed from the inside-out through reflection, thoughtfulness and study, or from the outside-in through environmental shifts, life is a constantly moving beast we hold onto with smiles and gritted teeth. The difficulty with change is not found merely in the situation itself, though clearly this can be felt as small to monumental in that moment. What occurs with change is not bound within that moment however and it is in the ripple effects that our relational lives are most deeply known.
Consider that new job or home, losing a job or home, gaining a new friend or losing an old one, going through a dark emotional time or riding the high of a powerful experience; these are all events changing our lives and splashing over the sides of our personal stories. A new job and friends will bring about new social connections and shift our internal stories. A loss of a job or a friend will also funnel the power of change. Oliver Wendall-Holmes said:
“I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving; To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it – but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”
We cannot help but move our own lives within the flow of this relational reality. To attempt standing in one place in the midst of any of this is to be tossed about like flotsam in the sea rather than calmly shifting our balance at the wheel of our own ship.
That flow of relational life is how Daniel Siegel defines relationships, the form of which changing as the flow of information and energy moves. What used to be impossible to imagine becomes inevitable and what seemed inevitable becomes highly unlikely within this flow expressed through change. What new interests never before considered come about with a new intimate relationship? Consider how behavior that was once considered “not the real me,” becomes normal with new work and social environments? Mindfully reflect on verbal phrases picked up from friends and co-workers, jokes and stories retold that would not have been heard elsewhere and how people who are together for longer start acting more alike.
With these questions and thoughts being pondered, is it any wonder then why change is stressful and can feel overwhelming? Let the answer to this be both a thunderous yes and a powerful acceptance of such being normal. The wonder and privilege of living relational lives is how very much the limits of our imagination are largely due to the extent of our social connections. This means the difficulty that seems insurmountable awaits only a shift in those very connections to become less burdensome.
This process can involve searching for new people, but it can also be found in expanding the images we have of ourselves and those who are connected to us. The phrase “I didn’t know that about you” should not be bound to exasperation about a loved one, but a ringing cry of wonder at each and every new discovered facet of another and the connection between. We are much more, individually and together, than the current limits of our imagination would have us believe. To explore that potentiality is to ride the flow of our relational lives and not be tossed about when the sea churns.
© David Teachout