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December 18, 2020

Embracing Impermanence in the Face of Suffering & Change.

“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.” ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

An aversion to change and impermanence is a part of the human condition. 

There is a tendency to go into fear when there is a change of any sort. Job change, living arrangement change, societal change, parental change, or the loss of a loved one.

I can speak for myself and tell you that I existed most of my life that way, and sometimes my humanness takes me back there for a visit. I just choose not to unpack there and stay.

One of the beliefs that I ascribe to teach is that I don’t know what anything is for. I don’t know what any change is for; I don’t know what any loss is for.

As much as I love to know what things are for “right now,” I sometimes get caught up in trying to figure out the secrets of the universe. And I am always brought to my knees, and I must surrender to the notion that more will be revealed. And so it is.

On March 13, 2018, my dad passed away suddenly, the day after his 72nd birthday. Never in my life did I think that our relationship would be healed and there would be reciprocal love that was expressed between us.

But that change did happen, and I was absolutely torn up at his passing. I felt we weren’t given enough time to live our new way of life.

Because of his passing, I have shown up for my life in ways that I never have before. My natural inclination in the past would have been to implode and self-destruct—that didn’t happen.

I shared a heartfelt eulogy at his memorial. I was able to be present for others. I’ve realized that I can stay sober through gut-wrenching pain. I’ve faced my abandonment issues before they caused me to retreat and stay “safely” isolated; I’ve leaned into healthy relationships with friends and family.

I’ve grown up. I’ve remembered impermanence.

I am writing this because, today, I got the news that a high school friend was diagnosed with CJD (Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease). It’s a fatal disease that impacts only one in a million people.

I will not disclose her name out of respect for her family. This woman is an amazing wife, mother, friend, and one of those giving spirits you come across only a few times in a lifetime.

Her time here is quite limited. I asked myself, why. Why her? 

I’ve let myself feel all the feels (as I’m sure I will continue to do). But I also remind myself of the impermanence of things and that I don’t know what anything is for.

I used to feel guilt around the concept of impermanence. Almost like I was doing whatever change had taken place a disservice by not lamenting on it for longer.

This year at Thanksgiving, my family and I shared memories of my dad. We laughed. I cried. It was healing.

I know that he is with others who left the Earth before him. For that matter, I believe he is all around me in perfect love.

And that gives me solace; I know that, amidst all this impermanence, I will join him and my loved ones someday too.

I think the art of impermanence is a practice. There is no one way to comprehend it or live it.

That is what makes it such a beautiful individual part of the journey.

One that we can travel together until a change occurs again. In peace and love.

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