When I was growing up we moved a lot, big moves crisscrossing the country. Perpetually the new kid, I never stayed long enough to feel like I fit in. Then, I married a man whose childhood was the opposite of mine, who grew up in a small north Missouri town of Mayberry charm. It seemed like the ideal for many reasons and though I could not give it to my oldest two children, Columbia is the only place my youngest two remember.
A dream come true for me, raising the kids in the same town, the same schools, the same neighborhood, the same house, felt like a second chance for me, too. Like coming home.
But now it’s time to go. Change is hard, even when it’s the right thing. Objectively, I marvel at our human tendency to reverberate with surprise or even shock when life takes a turn. Why, exactly, are we so astonished? After all, the only constant in life is change. But subjectively, I am taken aback at every shift and feel it deeply, personally. Even when it’s my own choice.
Impermanence, one of the three marks of Buddhism, asserts that “all conditioned existence, without exception, is transient, inconstant, evanescent.” Unfamiliar with that last word, other than the rock band Evanescence, I had to google the definition: “. . . soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence; quickly fading or disappearing.”
Philosophically, this is a logical, over-arching law. Far removed, we can wisely acknowledge that all temporal things, whether material or mental, are in a continuous changing condition, subject to decline and destruction. But, up close, from our myopic day-to-day viewpoint, the mundane sameness of our lives gives reassurance that all will continue as is. Indefinitely. We dismiss the specter of change at our own peril when we bask in our comfort zone, taking for granted the approaching inevitability that one day things will just be . . . different.
My husband and I are selling our home of 15 years sooner than we’d planned. Our ”baby“ recently graduated, became an official adult, and is preparing to launch. Downsizing was on the horizon, but we made a spontaneous decision to go for it now based on the seller’s market.
Our house is empty. Our stuff was moved across town to a rental—what hasn’t been donated, sold, or tossed, that is. The new wood floors I always wanted were installed. Painters rolled a fresh coat of white on the walls, lightening the whole house with clean, crisp newness. Tomorrow I finish the final cleaning and walk away. It’s all happening so fast, my heart can’t keep up.
It’s not that I thought we’d live here forever or that I expected my babies to never grow up (Lord help us all if they didn’t spread their wings and get out of the nest). But as I painted over gouges and scuff marks and scrawlings in sharpie, the years sped before my eyes. Like flip book animation, a million single moments, stamped one on each page, rifled by in seconds with the scrape of a thumbnail.
Even as I anticipate new possibilities in this new chapter, it feels like loss. A big one. Yet, I find comfort in the belief that change is what we’re here for. I’ve learned in my nearly six decades that everything is impermanent: our youth, our possessions, our relationships, our status and achievements and abilities. It will all slip through our fingers eventually. We can clutch at it or we can let it go.
Me, I’m just trying to loosen my grip.
19 Responses to Evanescent
Great content! Keep up the good work!
Your beautiful articles always leave me wanting more… like a really good book or movie, I don’t want it to end! I can understand the feelings of loss, but the next chapter is going to be even better! xoxo Love you
Thank you, Aunt Pammy! You’re so good for my confidence. And you’re right, the next phase of our lives is certain to bring adventure, freedom, and dreams coming true. I love you, too.
As a guy who grew up almost entirely in one house (and never moved farther than a mile), I find myself empathizing with your kids who grew up in the house. I was in my mid-20s and living on the other side of the world when my parents told me they were selling “our house.” I’ve never quite gotten over it. I never got to set foot in that house again, to say goodbye in person,
to descend into the basement where my room had been—the room where I grew from boy to man—and collect my energy, I had to do it all from the outside. Their “new” home just became known as “the folks’ house” but was never home toe, despite being filled with familiar furniture and art and kitchenware. But time does carry on. Memories were made in The Folks’ House. When I close my eyes and think of childhood, I see one house; when I think of my parents, I see a different house. When my folks died I made sure to say goodbye to their house—I did a final walkthrough and collected their personal energy, and our family’s collective energy including the energy of the folks’ many cats and dogs; some of it was embedded more firmly into the house’s energy than I expected. It took some coaxing, but eventually I was satisfied with my efforts. In the 3+ years since, The Folks’ House has sold twice, so now it’s possible to see on Zillow what the new owners have done with it. Scrolling through those photos is both lovely and painful. But also healing and joyous—knowing that new family memories are being made within those walls. And I’ve closed my eyes and tried to picture the inside of “our house,” the old one, and feel equal happiness for the “new family” who has now resided there much longer than we did.
Thanks for your lovely words about your family’s home. And now you get to create your version of The Folks’ Home. Wonderful. ❤️
Oh, Randall! I love hearing this from your perspective. I do not in any way underestimate what a pivotal milestone this is for the kids, and one completely out of their control. I’ve been so insanely busy and stressed that I haven’t had time to sit with my kids. We’ve had conversations on the go about how a lot of feelings are going to come up and it’s okay to feel sad and cry and have this hit in a big way, but actually pausing in a quiet way to process? Not yet. Luckily, we have several weeks to closing. We’re going over tonight to take a moment with the house, together, reminisce, maybe shed a few tears. My youngest, Xander picked four leaves off our maple tree in descending size and affixed them to poster board and framed it. I wish I could post a photo of it here. Maybe I’ll add it to the blog. And Sydney is making a Spotify playlist for our time in the house. Can’t wait to hear what she’s picked.
You are a brilliant writer, Lisa. You can say what so many of us feel but don’t articulate. Good luck with your next adventure. Yes
Kate, you’re so kind. Thank you for reading and commenting. It means the world. And thanks for your well wishes! Adventure indeed! It’s a little chaotic now in the transition, but I look forward to our new chapter.
Beautiful, Lisa. Best of luck with your new adventure! Creating space for possibilities not yet imagined:)
I love that! Creating space, one, and possibilities not yet imagined, two. How many times do we see a change as devastating? Divorce comes to mind. Yes, there’s pain and struggle and with children, always regrettable. And yet, for me, at least, it was the gateway to my whole self, my whole life. I know this shift will bring happiness for all of us. The transition is a little bumpy, but again, that’s the point!
I loved reading this, Lisa. I hope you’ve been able to catch your breath.
Thank you, Maria! Catching our breath, yes. I told my sis we crawled across the finish line only to find it had moved on down the road (aka, getting settled in the new place after literally throwing everything in boxes). My mantra is “just breathe,” so your well wish is right on track. Thank you, friend.
A flip book animation — it’s exactly like that. Good luck on your transition.
Thank you so much, Ida. XO
Love this article and I love you!
I love YOU, Crystal! Thank you for reading.
So happy to find your writing ! Love it! Echoed what’s on my heart so well !
Helen! You are so good for my confidence.
❤️❤️❤️ I always appreciate your reflections on life.
Thank you, dear heart. Your praise means so much.