March 6, 2010

There is Always the Risk

Change appears to happen suddenly. It doesn't. At Thanksgiving, my cousin shared the perspective that the birthing process is a perfect metaphor for change. Even while you are in a safe and comfortable place, there are pressures and forces working on you. A birth can be sudden. The change it brings about is monumental and obvious. Each day of pregnancy the fetus is changing, and it is readying for the ultimate change. Nothing about a birth is expected to be simple or painless.

Most change, I suppose, is the same. An outcome looks like a transformation, but it is typically the final manifestation of a substantive process. The more significant the change, the more likely it is to have included stress, difficulty, and profound new ways of seeing.

One of my favorite accounts of change is Adrienne Rich's "Prospective Immigrants Please Note." With a door as a metaphor for change, Rich starts: "Either you will / go through this door / or you will not go through." And she finishes: "The door itself / makes no promises. / It is only a door."

As Rich points out, you can resist -- not go through -- change and still "live worthily." At the same time, she cautions: "much will blind you, / much will evade you, / at what cost, who knows." What I hear behind her words is the truth that for her, the resistance would have meant continuing to live her life as a lesbian in a heterosexual cloak and relationship.

The power of change is, as she says, "the risk / of remembering your name." To me, "remembering your name" means knowing your true center and being deeply rooted to the person you are and the life you are meant to be living.

Change is courageous. It is generative.

"Either you will" or "you will not."