Over the years, I remember hearing my grandmothers say many times that life seems to go faster as you age. I never really understood that when I was young, but somehow lately, I think I’m starting to get it. It strikes me that as I age (soon to be 57), I have a greater sense of the impermanence of all things. When I was younger, it seemed like all things would last a long time. Yet as life goes on, I notice how things can change in the blink of an eye, how quickly what counted on can disappear, how often I am faced with a new circumstance.
This morning I put my 81-year-old mother on a plane to fly back home to Kentucky after being with us for the holidays. It was wonderful to have her here. She has endured enormous change in her life over the last several years. During my father’s long illness, literally every day brought something new. Sometimes it was a celebration that he was well enough to enjoy an outing, other times it was facing the next serious challenge. Since his death a year and a half ago, she has learned to travel alone, take care of finances, and cook for one. I am struck by her courage and commitment to create a new life going forward. No small thing to have to do at 81 years old.
What I am understanding today about time moving faster is that frequent change in circumstances creates the illusion that time is speeding up. When change occurs, something is often lost, or just is no longer, and something new is created. It is our choice whether we focus on the loss or on the new. It is our choice whether we focus on what we no longer have or no longer can do, or give our energy to co-creating a new circumstance with whatever life brings next. Tenderness and compassion are important. Focusing on the new co-creation doesn’t have to mean denial of the loss. It is important to honor what has been but is no longer – to bless it and thank it for the gifts it provided – and then to move on into where life is asking us to go next – giving our attention to “what wants to happen” in the next unfolding. This process may take an hour or it may take a year. Giving ourselves time for the process actually can accelerate the healing.
The root of the word “heal” is the old English word haelen, which means “to make whole.” We make ourselves whole by riding the waves of change and co-creating with the ever unfolding potential. It’s about aligning yourself with the flow of life. When we focus on the loss or what is no longer, a split occurs within us as part of us is hanging on to what was while another part is trying to figure out how to navigate a new set of circumstances. On the other hand, when we acknowledge the loss, honor it, grieve its passing, and let the unfolding of life continue, then we find our way toward the next opportunity for co-creation.
Certainly not all change is welcome. Some changes are painfully difficult. Yet today as I watched my mother make her way toward the airport security gate with the aid of an airline attendant to begin her journey home alone, I saw first-hand what is possible when you choose to focus on the life you want to create rather than on the difficulty and pain. Change is inevitable. However, how we choose to respond to it isn’t.
The new year of 2012 is sure to bring a lot of changes, some perhaps bigger than any we have experienced thus far. We can prepare ourselves by setting clear intention about how we will meet change–to honor the passing of the old, and step into co-creation with the new. My grandmothers were right–time is speeding up as I get older. Yet with practice, we can also keep getting more adept at riding the waves.