I am surprised when I walk into my uncle’s condo in Boulder. It is sleek and modern. High end appliances. A luxury bathroom with a soaking tub. A huge departure from what I remember from my childhood visits to my aunt and uncle’s summer house in Bradford Vermont. Creaky. Old. We slept upstairs in a great big common space in what we aptly named the “bat room” because it was inhabited by bats that came alive as soon was we turned the lights out. There was a kitchen. I think. But no bathroom. We had to go outside to the “out house” a small shed with a toilet seat placed over a hole. A roll of toilet paper on a nail. Guarded by a pair of geese who scared the shit out of me. Literally. Over the years they built a newer house. But it was still simple. A main house with a summer sleeping porch for the kids. There was even an indoor bathroom.
So this is why seeing my uncle in such a different environment causes me to consider the following: what is the driving force that compels us out of our own safety net and into the unchartered waters of change?
For my uncle it may have been the reality that my aunt could no longer take care of herself and he wanted a safer home for her to live in. Closer to downtown so they can go for walks together. No staircase she could accidentally fall down. Understandable. Change motivated by necessity.
But what if the impetus isn’t as strong? Or clear? What if you know that change is needed but still seems impossible? What if you are too stubborn to do it? Too afraid? Too indifferent? Stuck? Uninspired? What then?
Here is the thing. Change is always happening. Every moment every day. Even if it is too small to notice. We breathe in and breathe out. One moment an inhale. The next… poof…. an exhale. Viola! Change! I find great comfort in the knowledge that despite how hard I to try to keep things just as they are, the energy of the universe and the force of change will win out every time. Nothing is permanent.
The futility of change and the struggle to find the right impetus reminds me of my favorite car I had over 20 years ago. A beat up red convertible Volkswagon that never started on its on. I would turn the key. Nothing. A quick turn over and then silence. I was undeterred. I was in my 20’s with a convertible for God’s sake. I finally figured out to always park my car downhill. This way I could release the emergency break and pop it into gear while already moving. It worked every time.
You see all I had to find was a way to build momentum. That’s it. That and a willingness to find a solution.
This is the problem with change. It either feels too hard or we don’t know how to take the first step. For my uncle I can only speculate as to what his first step was. Maybe it was taking a drive into downtown Boulder and looking out the outer facade of a condo and picturing what his life would look like if he lived there. Maybe it was watching my Aunt struggle while navigating the stairs and wishing he didn’t have to be on call every moment of everyday. For me, the first step is a feeling. A longing. A desire. A wanting. This is huge. Most people wouldn’t count this as a first step. They would say its too small. Too fleeting. Insignificant. But for me, this feeling, this longing, it is what compels us to act. It is what makes a 20 year old find a solution to her car problem. Sometimes it means learning to park your car downhill. You just have to get creative.