The Impermanence of All Things

“Nothing is meant for forever and that’s okay.” –Grandma Charlene Scott

 

                That was the last, major pearl of wisdom I was blessed with by my grandmother and it wasn’t but a couple of weeks later that she passed away.  I didn’t realize how cryptic she was being until after the fact and it was a stark epiphany of the impermanence of all things.  The only constant in life is change and no one and nothing is exempt from that reality.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  But as human beings, we have this instinctual tendency to try to hold on to things and make them last forever.  Then we become upset when things eventually come to an end.

                Over the past five years or so, I have become less sentimental about things.  I don’t wish or long for things to last forever and I have no interest in reliving any moments from my past.  It’s not that I don’t regard my memories and the relationships connected to them as sacred and beautiful.  I have simply found it unnecessary to remain enslaved to them in an unhealthy way.  Not only because I know that either ideal is impossible but they are meant to be what they were and nothing more.  Life goes on whether we want it to do so or not.

                In our minds, we tend to do a great deal of time travelling.  We will go to the past and stay there for whatever reason and it doesn’t matter which memory we stay in.  We will allow ourselves to remain captive and loyal to those moments, no matter how dark, bleak or painful they are because we like think our pain is our “badge of honor” when it is truly a badge of victimhood.  For example, I used to hang on to the pain of being a fatherless child with a kung-fu grip, thinking letting go meant betraying his memory.  But I’m happy to report that giving up the victim badge didn’t diminish my love for him or his presence when I call on him.  And I don’t know a person who hasn’t worn that badge at some point in their lives.

And then there are the good memories; the ones where we were so joyous and effervescent that we beam at their very thought.  This is just as harmful as hanging on the bad memories because those beautiful memories become the measuring stick to any and every new moment that comes our way and we wait for it to outshine our past memories instead of letting these new moments shine brightly in their own right.  We have all heard someone at some point in talking about their past and they end up saying something to effect of “Those were the best times of my life and I don’t see how anything could top that.”  And they are right only because they won’t give the present a fair chance.  And the sad truth is the universe is always listening.

Then there’s the other side of the timeline is travelling into the future.  We are either fearing the  worst case scenario that our imaginations can drum up to the point of emotional paralysis.  We will wait to see how bad things will get before we decide to give ourselves a chance.  Or we are so eager to get to the next thing that we bulldoze the present moment for it.  It is like we will focus more so on the horizon and neglect the twenty yards in front of us.

                Until roughly five years ago, I learned to know impermanence as God’s sick and twisted joke when my father passed away.  I feared and loathed impermanence for what it “took” for me.  It played with my emotions and insecurities for most of my life, especially when I would stumble into a euphoric moment, filled with love, peace and joy. And I am blessed to say that I have had many of those moments that I shared with some incredible people and I will never forget them.

But the funny thing is this: those moments never made any promises of forever nor were they ever obligated to last that long, if at all.  All they were meant to be were moments in time.  Nothing more and nothing less.  Simply and purely there for us to enjoy without worrying about the eventual end.  Notice that the greatest moments of our lives happened when we were not even aware they were happening.  We were so lost and wrapped up in the folds of them.  But they never made any mention of staying anywhere beyond the corners of our mind, just simply being.

In planning and preparing for my move to California, a new chapter that I am equally excited and nervous for, my lack of sentiment has intensified since I decided to road-trip across the country.  I have given away and sold some of my most prized possessions, which were relatively few.  But mostly, I was carrying around a lot of stuff that I didn’t really need.  It has been such a liberating experience to let go of it all. It has translated to my emotional life.  I stopped carrying the guilt and the grudges that were serving no helpful purpose in my life.  It has freed me up to be more open and giving with my time with the people in my life.  But more importantly, it has made saying good-bye so much easier.

At a certain point, I stopped looking at impermanence as this entity to be feared and started to from truly enjoying life because we are constantly holding our breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Or we can choose to resolve ourselves to enjoying something to fullest with knowledge that it will fade into time somewhere and be gracious enough to let it pass with dignity and honor for its purpose in our lives.

In an incredibly uncertain world where moments of joy and peace can be scarce, it is imperative to live life without fearing the end because (spoiler alert!!) no one makes it out alive.  I want to say that there isn’t anything wrong with reflecting on the past or contemplating the future.  The trick is to not stay lost in either place and give the present the chance to be as amazing and powerful as it can be before fading into the past.  I can’t and won’t change anything that has happened up to this point and I have no idea what awaits me in California and it doesn’t matter to me.  All I know is I can’t afford to deny myself the beauty and wonder of what’s happening now.
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