Leaning In to Change

During yoga classes, my teachers would often remind me — usually amid an especially prolonged chair pose — to be mindful not to rush through the transitions. “They’re often even more important to be present within than the poses themselves,” they would say in that melodic yogi voice that makes everything sound poetic. Sometimes I would forget the minute the last word came out of their mouth, so rushed was I to alleviate the shakes and pains of my muscles, but on good days, their words would sink deep into my little heart, inspiring me to slowly move with extra depth and care into the next posture.

It’s such a basic idea, the concept of being present within the transitions of life, and yet amongst the upheaval brought on by change, presentness and grace are often the first thing out my window as I want nothing more than to hit a definitive destination.

Change. It’s both one of the most exciting words in the English language as well as one of the most terrifying.

While a huge amount of the change this year has been unpredictable, I’ve been feeling lately as though we’re entering a period where change is inevitability marked on our calendars, waiting patiently for us to approach. Election day, the onset of winter in the city, the potential of a second wave hitting New York City, the moving of friends — I’ve been struggling this past month to not brace for the potential impact these events may or may not have on my future self. Because as it turns out, over worrying rarely helps and in more times than not, things tend to work out in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

These past few weeks as the election draws nearer, and the state of the world feels darker than ever under a leader whose sole intent is to champion white supremacy and abuse, I’ve found myself closing my eyes, taking a breath, and asking: What here can I control? Because I’ll be honest, I’m editing this while watching the first presidential debate and screaming at the screen in frustration and anxiety. Seriously, what can we do in these moments!?

Well, today, I can make sure I am registered to vote, and talking to my loved ones about voting as well. Tomorrow, I can volunteer for phone banks and in the polls, and keep my ears open to other volunteering opportunities that friends are doing. And moving forward, I can continually stay informed about what is going on in this country and be actively looking for ways to speak up and fight back against injustice.

In terms of winter hitting New York City, and the potential isolation that might accompany that due to coronavirus health restrictions, I am learning to let go where I can and simply acknowledge that this change might come. Or not come. Who knows where we will be in December.

But I can’t control where this city will be in two months, or where the people I love will be in two months. What I can control is spending quality time with these loves before they leave, planning outdoor adventures, and nesting into my apartment as much as possible for max winter coziness.

And that’s okay. It’s easier to sometimes lean into the flow of the change, to bend into it and see what comes from this new perspective, then to stand painfully rigid and unmoving in a way that no longer serves me.

As this recent Atlantic article — titled “The Clockwork Regularity of Major Life Changes” — reminded me, we are all in a constant state of change. It’s ironically the only constant in life (besides taxes *she mutters with narrowed eyes*).

I have spent a lot of my 20s rigidly standing against the wind of change in my life, gripping onto old habits and routines that once served me but are no longer fitting. I didn’t want to admit that for a long time, and even at the start of working from home, remained rigid in the old ways I’d worked in the office — forgetting to take breaks or becoming frustrated with myself for not being at peak productivity every day. The fact is, my brain needs extra care during this time. It needs moments of rest while working from home and timers to make me stand up and take a break. Somedays I fly through my to do list, and some days I need to shut the computer off when my brain has hit an exhaustion wall, and head out into the sun for a reboot.

What I hope for you and ask of you during this time is to let yourself change. Lend yourself the grace to let go of past expectations, and lean into the wind of the present.

What do you need to today? Let yourself answer without judgment and begin to feel the good, the bad, the anxiety, and the tiny joys this change brings up.

What you can put down? Because once you let go of the things you can’t control, you’ll make even more room for the things so important they need to rest even closer to your heart. Rest and then keep fighting, always knowing you have done hard changes before and you are already navigating them now.

I can’t predict what the rest of the year will hold, but in this moment, I am trying to just stay present and feel my way through these transitions. To remember that change, whether planned or spontaneous, is rarely easy but remind myself this too shall pass, to take a breath, and keeping moving.