Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Movement of Change

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” ~ Unknown

For this week's paper, I wrote about a woman who recently turned 101 year's old. Her name is Gertrude.

But she's known as Elsie. She still remembered when World War I ended. She remembered when her neighbor's son came home one day when the war was over, taking his parents entirely off-guard. Back then, communication was scarce, so they didn't know what had happened to him yet. But there he was, just strolling across the field.

Imagine that.

The whole idea of being on this earth for over a century amazes me. While I tend to look at most people as walking, animated stories, poetry, novels ... to me, this woman represents a beautiful saga. I mean, to think of all the things she witnessed changing around her. To imagine she was born at a time only 40 years after the telephone was invented and here she is in the world of smartphones, social media and text messaging.

She also was only ever married once, to a man who left her widowed with two sons early on after passing from a heart attack in the 1950s. I didn't ask why she never remarried, but it's definitely an interesting fact to mull over. Maybe because she was pretty independent from what I learned, attending college and doing secretarial work for law firms as well as volunteering to do book keeping at her local church for over two decades.

It got me thinking about the things I've witnessed change around me, even in my 28 years here. Sometimes, I long for the simpler times in my life, when I was a kid and only had to worry about brushing my teeth, combing my hair, minding my manners and doing well in school. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that time period, when climbing a tree and hanging out on its limb for hours was the high point of my day. When digging in the dirt to see how deep I had to go before I reached a layer of clay was a fulfilling "accomplishment." Or when I would lay in the grass and gaze up at the clouds, imagining an entire story from their shapes, and that was the funnest part of my day.

However, women like Elsie remind me that you may not be able to "go back" to a simpler life, but you'll always have those memories to look back on, you'll always have those chapters to turn back to and, perhaps more significant than anything else in my life right now, that change is, indeed, inevitable.

That it doesn't have to be bad ... that it could be wonderful and it could lead to many wonderful things. In Elsie's case, 9 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild. To live over a century of life on this planet and treasure troves of memories, milestones, historical moments in this country and in her personal life.

For me, change has been terrifying. For me, recently, it's been about rebuilding myself after going through a pretty rough patch. It's been about rediscovering who I am again while meeting a new version of myself, a less tattered, skittish, lost and hollow version. A stronger, healthier, more confident and much more animated version. That's what my change and these recent chapters have been about.

For Elsie, I couldn't imagine losing my husband and then living on for over a half century longer and still going. Who knows what else she's endured, what her low points were, what her highest points were. But it's beautiful to imagine. And while I know some of my lowest points already, I also remember high ones and look forward to more of them.

Because after all, change, whether over several decades or just a few years, is movement ...

And movement is life.