Parenthood & Impermanence

I commented the other day to my mom that "impermanence was my favorite!" She sort of scoffed at me because, in general, and especially as a child, change was something that threw me for a proverbial loop. If plans changed, I freaked out. If life changed, I freaked out. This trait followed me into early adulthood.

Really all of this freaking out was about control and wanting (or needing on the emotional level) to control things so that I could feel better. The truth is that we are in control of very little, of course, and the older I got, the more I realized this.

Change being the only constant was never more apparent than 4 1/2 years ago when my family experienced two shocking losses back to back. It was a pivotal experience in many ways, and shocking to the core. It changed the way my husband and I were, really, on a deep level. We had new fears, but we also would take time to say goodbye in love and we used the moment to think deeply about the type of life we wanted to have.

Fast forward several years and a baby later.

The day my daughter was born was one of the best days ever. The hard work of labor was over, she was here safe, and a new chapter had begun. But suddenly all I could think about in the face of giving new life was death. I was someday going to die. My parents wouldn't be here someday. And the nearly unthinkable: what if my child should die before me? The thoughts ruminated.

I began pondering impermanence much more than I ever had before. Not even death itself had the impact that giving life did when it came to the thoughts of loss. Tara Brach, who is an amazing teacher and meditator, talks about how to begin to wade in the waters of your fears. If you can face them, a bit at a time, then it can actually deepen your appreciation for life and help you live with more loving presence.

But how unpleasant is it to think about death? Well, it may be unpleasant at the onset of thinking, but in reality, pondering impermanence has truly deepened my appreciation for each day, and every moment spent with family and friends. So, I found myself doing just that.

Over the last year, when I think about the fact that we may not all be together in the future, I am so grateful at my core for the moments I am having. I come back to the moment I am in, and find myself changed within it. I know that this is a gift that, however indirectly, my child has given me. I wasn't open to life in the way I am now before I had her. (Not that you have to have a child to experience life in this way, this was just my personal experience.)

I know that lots of parents probably experience this profound fear of loss when it comes to their children. Especially as we journey through life with the realization that some parents do lose their children, and as a children, we will also lose our parents, which is also difficult. If we are lucky, life is long. But no matter what life hold for us, if we function in the reality that things aren't permanent, that they can change unexpectedly, then we can also cherish the moment before us. Even as I was taking care of a newborn--arguably one of the biggest challenges I've faced--I would tell myself that some day, there would be nothing I wouldn't give to go back and do it all again. And it helped me appreciate even the toughest times with a new baby.

The inertia of life had a tendency to carry me away sometimes, and so I am grateful to come back to these concepts. I was reminded of this yet again, as I was pulling away from my mom's house the other day. My daughter was already in her carseat and I was anxious to get on the road. I said goodbye in a hurry, but as I drove off, I said to myself, "Next time, I won't rush that goodbye."

I use a mantra of "no time to rush" that I heard in a meditative talk, and I really find it helps me slow down and be present day to day. I want to take these moments with my family and friends and open to them as much as possible. I hope that you find the oasis of beauty in your everyday life as well. If you are scared by impermanence, I urge you to explore it in a way that allows you to feel safe.

Are there ways that you explore these concepts already? How do you feel about impermanence and the concept of presence? Please discuss in the comments section below! 

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