Impermanence & Letting Go
If there’s one certainty in life, say the Buddhist teachings, things change…always…and at some point. Pema Chodrin says the “teachings (of impermanence) encourage us to relax gradually and wholeheartedly into the ordinary obvious truth of change.”
This teaching has been on my radar for, consciously, the past six or so years as I’ve said good-bye to my mom and my dad and my job. But, I’ve said hello to a beautiful, healthy relationship, a new job where I’m appreciated and “seen”, and most importantly, and I believe this informs every other aspect of my life, hello to a creative life with writing and photography that was simply waiting for me to open the door.
I’ve said good-bye to my twenty-five year old, who tripped and fell a few times and now is living with “the love of his life”. Good-bye to a monthly menstrual cycle that put me to my knees on more than many occasions; hello (and almost) good-bye to hot flashes, memory loss and emotional swings that made PMS look like a cake walk.
And the good-bye I’m walking down the street hand in hand with now is the letting go of my youngest son Ian, now 17. He’ll be 18 next February. I adore him…what can I say? From the moment I helped him up to the surface of the water in a small kiddie pool that we somehow fit into our bedroom back in 1995 after 3 hours of very intense labor. ( I had called the midwife around 9pm and she said, “oh don’t worry, you’ve got time, I’ll be there for you. When you get in the nice warm water, the contractions will slow down). Ha-ha, Ian was born two and a half hours later sans midwife.
No one can ever tell you or describe for you the level at which you can love your own child. I’m starting to understand, that for me, that feeling of love is so big there isn’t a container large enough to hold it…and anyway, why would I?
Ian was such an easy baby and then I got divorced and he went to school and he met the world head on, who told him in no uncertain terms that if you are different, the world will challenge you every step of the way. And yet, through it all he has remained completely true to himself. I’ve often described him as a young man who walks to the beat of his own drum. And well, I suppose I raised him this way… wanting to be free and not be told by anyone what to do (you’re not the boss of me)…um…eh hem….I have to admit that is a part of his genetic makeup…indeed.
This is his last year living at home. Every moment I have with him I record as the “possible last” something I will do with him; holding his head after he had his wisdom teeth extracted a few months ago, letting me take care of him. Listening to him as he shares his realization that death happens to us all after witnessing one of his best friend’s crack his head open from skate boarding. And today…today he asked me to give him this very sophisticated haircut…way beyond my abilities as house hair cutter. But, somehow, miraculously, with him showing me several pictures for examples, it turned out smashing; another “possible last” moment.
When Ian smiles it makes my heart sing. He let me take his picture today, something he NEVER lets me do. A letting go that I understand will take a lifetime.
And so Pema says about impermanence, “…What it means is that we begin to understand that we’re not the only one who can’t keep it all together. We no longer believe that there are people who have managed to avoid uncertainty.