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Do You Resist Change or Relax Into It?

Revolving Doors

I joke regularly that having kids in their twenties feels like someone has installed a revolving door on my home. No sooner does one move out than another moves back in. No sooner do my husband and I get our bearings with one housemate than the door spins and we’re living with someone else.

Each time the door spins I feel a surge of resistance. You might expect that I am resisting having an extra person in the house. That was certainly my expectation and to some extent I am. After all, my husband and I both work primarily from home and some days feel crowded with just the two of us.

I have been surprised to find, however, that I struggle just as much – if not more – when they move out. A silver lining of living with an adult child is the opportunity to reconnect in a really deep way. It is a gift to live again under one roof. It is a chance to get to know my children all over again – to discover more about the people they have become.

When we resist or cling, we cause ourselves to suffer

Because my door has been spinning with some frequency over the past couple of years, I’ve been paying attention to these surges of resistance. When I’m caught in one, I can be testy and tired. I lose sleep – waking early with my mind spinning. It is harder for me to focus. Tears – outward or hovering within – are a sure sign that I’m fighting what is happening in my life.

And that is at the heart of what is going on when I feel these surges of resistance – I am struggling with what IS. When you boil it down to its essence, what is happening is not what I had planned to happen either for myself or for my kids.

Confronted with thwarted plans, rather than acquiescing to life as it is, I put on my metaphorical boxing gloves and fight to get back on track with my plans. To fight against life is fruitless and exhausting. (See above.)

In fact, this human tendency to struggle when life take a sharp left turn when you’d planned to bear right is as old as time. Two of my guiding lights (Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits and creator of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras) both identify attachment and aversion as causes of human suffering. Suffering arises when we fight against life either by clinging to something or someone that we love or straight-out rejecting what is happening.

Even though I know better, suffering is exactly what I’m creating for myself each time my revolving door spins. I resist the new by thinking, “A quiet house isn’t just nice; we need it to do our jobs!” I am clinging to what is ending when I cry, “I want more time! I didn’t say all I wanted to say. I didn’t learn all I want to learn!” each time I hug a child goodbye.

What we’re really doing is resisting change

Whether you and I are clinging or rejecting, what we are really doing is resisting change. Elizabeth Lesser describes another way of approaching change in her beautiful book, Broken Open,

“We live in a river of change, and a river of change lives in us. Every day we’re given a choice: We can relax and float in the direction that the water flows, or we can swim hard against it. If we go with the river, the energy of a thousand mountain streams will be with us, filling our hearts with courage and enthusiasm. If we resist the river, we will feel rankled and tired as we tread water, stuck in the same place.”

Though I don’t always (or even often) get it right the first time, when I feel surges of resistance and clinging rise up in me, I notice them. I notice and pause long enough to make a new choice. I choose, for myself and for my adult children, to trust the revolving door of life. I choose to move in the direction that life is guiding us; and to meet each new moment as it arrives with hearts filled with courage and enthusiasm. When I make this choice, I can more easily welcome who- or what-ever is coming in or out with the next spin of the door.

It’s often easier to notice when you’re clinging or resisting when you have someone to talk to. Spiritual direction is a monthly conversation to allow you to share what is happening in your heart. Sharing with another is a way to hear the voice of our soul that is often drowned out by the hubbub of life.