Accepting Life’s Changes

With every major milestone, I have experienced a period of adjustment.

Posted Mar 16, 2019

With every major milestone in my life, I have experienced a period of adjustment. Of course, having children was the biggest change. First, there were two of us, able to come and go, make spur-of-the-moment plans, stay up late, sleep later the next day, and then suddenly all of this was forever altered. After getting used to this new being in our house, life with the three of us became the new normal, to the point where we could only vaguely remember life without our child. With our two subsequent little ones, I needed to adjust again. Everyone says once you have one child, it’s not that different having another. Sure, the loss of some freedoms has already been accepted, but I found that having two required major changes in schedules, resulting in even more depleted energy (mine). By our third, I felt as if I were a juggler with constant balls in the air and many dropping. A huge change that I adjusted to, of course, because it was overall a wonderful gift to have my three little boys.

As a mom of young kids, I remember feeling at loose ends at the completion of the school year, which suddenly meant a new summer schedule and yet another change. When I adjusted to this different routine, it was time for my boys to return to school and start the craziness of carpools, homework, and after-school activities all over again. Over the three months, I had adapted to the relaxed pace of the summer and all that it entailed, and suddenly I was back in the rat race, which was ironically once comfortable, yet I had to adjust all over again.

Unlike having children, having grandchildren required absolutely no adjustment. This has been one of the only changes in my life that I assumed effortlessly and without some form of trepidation. My role of Nana is truly a gift. Because I am not the parent, my function is different and far easier and overall more fun (yes, parenting can be fun, but if I am, to be honest, the diligence and tremendous responsibility required to do everything as well as possible places limitations on the overall feeling of delight). There can be no greater joy than seeing one’s child become a loving parent and then, as a grandparent, to be given the opportunity to watch over and play with these new little souls. My grandson and granddaughter have given me another way in which to become young again and watch the world unfold through their little eyes. I cherish this change every day.

Another profound change is my role as a fairly recent retiree. I had defined myself as an English professor for four decades. Suddenly, I must use the "past tense" in describing my career and profession. One of my friends stated that she plans to use the present tense when referring to her career despite retiring one day, but I disagree. The act of teaching, for me, is completed; it has ended. I cannot say that I am still a teacher, for I do not actively teach in a classroom. This has been a very difficult adjustment, for I loved the act and art of teaching and adored my students. Perhaps, then, there are some changes that I might never fully accept.

Another interesting change has been the recent title of "author." In our society, for some strange reason, we can write for our entire lives, but unless our words are published, we aren’t viewed as "authors." I have always been a writer. Suddenly, though, I am also an author. This new designation carries with it a tremendous responsibility to make sure my writing finds a place "out there" in the world for others to read — a joyful yet mystifying change.

But age does not necessarily make for an easier transition to the overall idea of change. I once had to transform from a daughter who was worried about and cared for to a daughter who became the worrier of my parents and protector of my fragile, wheelchair-ridden father. I could never fully adjust to this change — becoming the daughter of elderly, infirm parents. My memory kept playing tricks on me, bringing me back to happier, healthier days of my parents’ activities and full lives — the type of full life I am living now. I did my best to recreate a new vision of my mother and father, the one that required me to have inordinate patience as they became old and ill, yet there was a part of me that kept returning to another time, to a time when my parents were healthy and strong. It was always a bittersweet tug-of-war, one I never quite won.

bjaffe/blogger
The author and her husband still young-at-heart
Source: bjaffe/blogger

And of course, one of the immense changes in my own aging, which is a slow process reinforced by comparing my current photos with those from the past (even from a couple of years ago) and my new aches and pains. But I acknowledge that it is a gift to age, for the alternative is very sad, indeed. My husband looks in the mirror and sees the same aging process in himself, but together we look into each other’s eyes and see the same younger people we once were and remember, which is greatly comforting.

I am truly grateful for the changes with which life provides us, for they come with incredible lessons of growth and learning — and also amazing rewards. Yes, perhaps life, for me, is to slowly accept change in all its forms and to continue on gloriously, despite the powerful desire to longingly look back into the past. I once heard someone say, “It’s fine to look back, but we shouldn't stare.” I have made it a point to focus on my present day without spending too much time looking back or gazing ahead.

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