“The secret to change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.” Dan Millman
I am, as I have done for almost every year for the last 25 years, spending the first week of July at our family lake house in New Hampshire. It’s tradition! And, slowly but surely, we are happily making our way through the list of the things we traditionally do during this week.
Ice cream – nightly? Check.
Wishing I had brought a sweatshirt as I shiver through dinner at the Bristol House of Pizza? Check.
Long hours devouring good books? Check.
Incredibly long (but beautiful) drive to eat incredibly delicious pancakes? Check.
Alternating between serious conversations and hilarious laughter with people who matter? Check.
Yoga on the porch overlooking the lake? Check, check, check.
But this year, as much as things are delightfully the same, they are also very different. While the house and the lake and the woods and the activities are the same, our cast of characters has changed. My niece just started her first “real world” job and cannot join us. My mom, too, stayed home this week for the first time in family history. For the first time in 22 years, we spent the beginning half of the week with only one kid in the house. (Can I still call a 19-year-old young woman a kid?) The rest of her generation is trickling in over the course of the week as they return from travels or free up from their summer jobs. Plus, we’ve added our two two-year-old puppies to the mix this year. Change is everywhere.
All of the tradition of this week is serving to highlight all of this change. I miss my mom. I miss her when I notice that we forgot to put up the Fourth of July decorations and when I walk around her garden and in the late afternoons when she doesn’t come down to visit with us on the dock. I miss my niece and her happy chatter and hilarious giggle. While my husband and I have settled into a new puppy-friendly lake schedule, I miss the ease of being able to do what I want when I want without a second thought. And I miss happy chaos of the kids we’re still awaiting.
Life is forcing change. That’s what it does. And, because up here, what it is changing is tradition, the changes are a little harder to navigate and make me feel a little wistful.
But, as the week has unfolded, I have learned that, even up here where everything is saturated in tradition, change is not all bad. In fact, some of these changes have contributed to making a good week a great week.
Watching my dogs explore the woods around our house at a gleeful sprint has left me smiling and giggling every single time I take them out. Watching them discover the joy of long swims around the dock has fulfilled a lifelong dream for my whole family (we’ve tried, dog after dog, unsuccessfully for decades to create swimming dogs). Because I love spending time with the “kids” when we’re together, having fewer of them here with us has left me with more time to bond with my dad, brother and sister-in-law. And including my daughter in “adult-time” has been really, really fun.
I started this week at the lake a little blindsided by how much I was yearning for the old. You might even say that part of me was fighting for the old and resisting the new. I don’t know if it was my dogs (after all, they are little, furry happy pills) or a deep-seated, little bit of enlightened self within, but something led me to refocus. While I still have moments of wistfulness when I miss what “was” or what “has always been,” by directing most of my emotional energy toward enjoying what is, this week has been precisely the restful break that I had been craving.
Additionally, embracing a different kind of week at the lake has reinforced the lesson that it’s always better to work with life’s change than to resist it. When you do, you join forces with the creative power of life to build new joys and even (maybe) a few new traditions.