Change is not a Four Letter Word

Change is not a Four Letter Word, though sometimes it is used like one. It is a black widow spider armed with venom and a stinger to deaden those limbs that need to be severed. Those habits that need to be abandoned. Change can come as a shock, like a blow to the stomach or a slap to the cheek. She is almost never expected and almost always accompanied, darkly and with a mustache, by the mysterious stranger Unknown.

Eight weeks ago on Monday, Change slammed into my body and broke my kneecap.

Okay, I fell on my kneecap and broke my kneecap. But now, in the hindsight gained from a lot of time laying on my ass in the downstairs guest bedroom, I recognize that it was Change that broke my body not the floor I fell against.

Change had decided to visit me whether I invited her in for whisky or not.

In the weeks — the now almost two months — since Change set up residence in my house, I have hobbled through upheaval, wheeled around uncertainty, and cried in the face of loss. I have watched the things I thought I needed die while others broke ground, sprang to life like a sprout of new grass, budding like the trees outside my house.

I watched the end of one season and the beginning of another.

I let go of a valued friendship. Change carved out my heart and showed me it in a harsh light, and when I’d seen enough, she threw it on the pyre to burn. Change forced me to let someone walk away because right then I couldn’t chase them, and maybe Change had known that the time of running after instead of ahead of, was ending. In that moment, Change was Goodbye, an unfamiliar feeling to a girl who thought she didn’t really believe in endings.

I put a house that I love up for sale. Change reminded me of all the beauty, all my passion, as I painted the walls, watched the staircase be refinished, the flower beds planted, and the deck be stained back like new. Change told me this was the end, too, and I’d done all I could do. It took my claim away for someone new.

I began to walk again. To bend and straighten. To press up on tip toes and balance without wobbling. To feel less shaky, less like a victim, more like a hero. I felt my shoulders ease back and start to tighten with the certainty that I could and would and damn everything that would say otherwise.

Change gave that to me.

Change gave me hope.

No, Change is not a four letter word. It’s not ugly unless you ignore it, carrying around that dead limb and pretending that you don’t see it, that it’s still alive and capable of giving you what you need. Because once bitten, you will never again find the strength you once had. Never again will you walk that way and not stumble. Because…

Change is always violent.

Always a death and a resurrection.

Like the holiday coming up, like winter and spring, like goodbye and hello. Change always means It is Finished, It can begin. It always fights with you, bruising your ego, squashing your pride. It steamrolls what you expected and doesn’t have a band aid for your wounds.

But in the midst of all that meanness, Change promises there is more. And better. Dreams you have yet to see clearly, days you have yet to live fully. If only you will let Change do her work and let go.

Today I walked around a forty-nine acre garden. It hurt the now mostly mended but still weak leg Change has been trying to make new. It tingled inside me that this was the first day of the rest, and the pain was good, a sign something new was coming.

A sign I was almost ready to run.

Who’s driving?

I could have lost my leg this evening. You may read that and think I’m being dramatic, or drinking again, and while I am currently nursing a gin and soda, light on the soda, no, that account is pretty accurate.

Today was a good day, and even though North Texas was shrouded in a cloak of storm clouds this afternoon, even though the heat was the kind that made you sigh when you walked out into it, even if I took my first Zumba class and confirmed that all things must be achieved through baby steps and blind faith, I had a sense of rightness. Oneness with my path. Destiny.

On the way home from my son’s art class, the storm hit. Rain pelted us, but we soldiered on, the promise of pasta and red wine (grape juice for Sam) on the horizon. I drove across a bridge, swept up by the wind and heaven’s tears — a fear of mine, one I am acutely aware of — because I felt sure that was the right way.

I don’t consider myself a superstitious person. Sure, I look for meaning in fortune cookies and chance encounters with valuable strangers, but not everything is a sign from On High. Though, I do believe On High speaks in signs and gets your sense of humor.

Life is a mixture of those things: signs, wonders, human error and kitsch.

When my son and I were driving we saw a deer running from the storm. She was magnificently close, her eyes wide with fear, her mind driven by instinct, and I thought, I’m like her, sometimes, afraid of where I find myself, exposed without warning and seeking shelter.

We arrived to the house, safe, sound and ready to eat that pasta. I jumped out of the car, and as I came around to the passenger side I realized I’d left the car on. I opened the passenger door and reached across to turn off the ignition. In that moment I don’t know if I hit the break when I leaned over or if the break had not actually engaged, but the car began to slide.

With my son still strapped in his car seat.

I didn’t think. I just jumped in.

Many things fly through your mind when you’re racing down an incline at a ridiculously fast speed, your leg hanging out, trapped beneath the bottom of the door, scraping along the rock drive.

My leg will be crushed when we hit the gully.

We can’t hit the gully.

I don’t want Sam to know I’m afraid.

I want someone to help me. Please help me.

As long as I can remember I have had this recurring nightmare. I am in the passenger seat of a car that is going too fast and no one is driving. When I realize no one is driving I begin to panic. When I panic the car begins to accelerate, careening uncontrolled away.

In the moment before we hit the gully I turned the wheel away and somehow, even though I couldn’t get my leg in the car before, it was in the car, bruised and screaming with pain, but not crushed. My eyes were locked on Sam, cocooning him away from his fear.

We slammed to a stop, not in the gully, not in the brush, fine, dandy, shaken beings. I am not someone who speaks often publicly of my faith, but this was a moment where that faith was enlivened.

Sometimes we fear things that are beyond our control to begin with. Sometimes that is a fear that will carry us off our path, into some chaos, away from safety. And sometimes, yes, you are hit with the thing you fear when you aren’t looking for it at all. You must jump in anyway, because often, there is something more important than your fear. Something like a little boy strapped in his carseat who doesn’t like roller coasters let alone backward speeding SUVs.

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