The visual – driving slowly down Belmont’s Davis Road in Hamilton, my bulging silver Honda Accord internally cutting threads loose after ten years. My Honda Accord is Hamilton because I believe that everything should have a name, especially a car. If it has some form of energy, it should have a name.
“Haven’t I done this before?” and yet it was harder than any physical move I’ve ever made. My ADD brain was wired with anxiety and thoughts of previous moves, i.e., 5 moves within England alone, three within Australia, 8 within South Africa, 3 within Israel, 8 other country moves and 7 states……the list goes on.
Was I merely a freer spirit in those days? Back then, did I have the small town girl innocence of Loretta Lynn or Suzanne Vega’s “I’m too displaced in this world to worry.” Maybe Joni Mitchell in 1977?
Perhaps there was too much “meaning” behind leaving New England, as if I was a traitor to the foundation that was responsible for my strength and sense of balance. You know, the foundation that leaves imprints of wondrous leaves in October, blueberry picking in August, lazy hammock days by a lake in Maine, cross country skiing followed by fireside philosophical chats, stuck at a friend’s house during a January snowstorm, reading a novel in an Adirondack chair in upstate NY.
The barking dog, the tight-lipped neighbor who calls the police on local kids playing kick the can in the street, long lines at Dunkin Donuts, Car Talk on Saturdays, baking pies with grandmothers, so many questions, so few answers.
It dawned on me just how many people had touched me as I drove north on the 93 and 128 one last time. I knew at least one person who lived off every exit between Boston and the New Hampshire border.
And then there were the extended Blodgett family cousins, uncles, aunts and those wanted for things better left unsaid, in upstate NY. A sister, no, two and a niece I hardly knew. The brother and mother I met only once and an alcoholic father who is now too old to seize any of his unrealized dreams. And just hundreds of small town hearts and minds in the background wanting to be awaken.
While tradition and geneology has always been important to me, family has become what I have created over the years in the 11 countries and 7 states I have lived in – every experience and every departure has been filled with endless encounters worth remembering and reliving. I stayed in Boston longer than any other place and despite always feeling displaced, there was a large imprint and history here that was hard to let go of. And yet letting go is exactly when you wake up and there’s a renewal yet again.
Traditionally, we have always been a nation constantly in transition. Old World families began with a place and New World families began with an act of migration. Drawn forward by the faith that better things lay beyond the horizon, Americans always lived a life marked by frequent changes.
I love Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French student of American life’s entry in his 1831 diary: “Born often under another sky, placed in the middle of an always moving scene, himself driven by the irresistible torrent which draws all about him, the American has no time to tie himself to anything, he grows accustomed only to change, and ends by regarding it as the natural state of man. He feels the need of it, more, he loves it; for the instability, instead of meaning disaster to him, seems to only give birth only to miracles all about him.”
Sounds like modern day Scorpian and Sagittarian Americans to me. Today, the pace of change disorients us to some degree. Many of us have lost faith that a new change will bring us a better life. Yet transitions are an inevitable and critical part of our lives. It’s only when we’re acutely aware of one approaching and actually act on it however that we can use the transition as a tool for identifying our own personal developmental chronology.
I read the excerpt below in the book by Bridges called Transitions on a plane recently. It resonated with me, so much so, that I condensed and combined parts of it. I love this dramatic read:
For Odysseus has reached the point in his development where he must begin to turn back on himself those forces which he has been directing outward at the world. Throughout Odysseus’s long journey home, he is confronted by one distraction after another, each of which has its meaning in the context of life’s second half.
There is the song of the Sirens, which symbolizes the self-destruction lurking beneath the beguiling surface of all that calls upon us to turn aside.
There is the Lotus Fruit, which stands for all that makes us forget the journey itself and our real destination.
There is Calypso’s promise: “Stay with me and you need never grow old.” That fantasy – that we can stop the on-going process of life transitions – represents the most tempting and illusory promise of all.
At the mythic level, outside interlopers correspond to all the inner confusions and distractions that block our inner homecoming – all those usurpers that move in to run things whenever our awareness absents itself. Just as we are about to reclaim the inner kingdom of selfhood, home at last from the long journey, we discover not only that there is no welcoming committee on the dock to meet us but that we must fight our way into our rightful place.
So in the end, the homeward journey of life’s second half demands three things of us: First that we unlearn the whole style of mastering the world that we used to take us through the first half of life. Second, that we resist the longings to abandon the developmental journey and refuse the invitations to stay forever at some attractive stopping place. And third, that we recognize that it will take real effort to regain the inner “home.”
The transitions of life’s second half offer a special kind of opportunity to break with the social conditioning that has carried us successfully this far and to do something really new and different. It is a season more in tune than the earlier ones with the deeper promptings of the spirit.
This suggests that whatever else transition may give to or take away from our lives, it leads us at some point into our own best time of life and then later leads us out of it again. This is no more true than the sense that spring is a season of gain and fall a season of loss. Each is essential to the cycle and the cycle is the only context in which the specific changes along the way have any real meaning.