the need for change

Making Strides

We just got home from a walk outdoors, our first in many weeks thanks to the frigid cold and icy streets we’ve had for the past two months. This morning, even though the temperature is only in the teens, the sun shines brightly and (almost!) warmly. There is no wind, the streets are dry, both dogs have a definite spring in their step. It felt good to suck in that fresh air after so many days inside the house. 

We have some friends who are leaving today for a month long sojourn in southern Florida, quite near the city where we once had a vacation home. Winter has been extra hard since we sold that house in 2012. Although we were never able to spend entire winters there, I realize now that even spending a few days there every month made a huge different in our ability to withstand the rigors of a Michigan winter. 

Even so, I’ve often thought that were I able to spend a signifiant length of time in Florida (or any warmer clime) I would choose the months of January and February. By the time March arrives, I feel as if I’ve survived the worst, as if I will make it to spring. 

When March comes, I am hopeful. 

Perhaps it’s because March is my birth month, so I feel anticipatory (yes, even at my age).  The calendar says spring arrives this month, although I have seen many a nasty snowstorm come in on March 21. Still there is something in the air in March, a perceptible lengthing of daylight, a definite intensity to the sun that lifts my winter weary spirit.

With those changes come a sense of wanderlust for me, and this year I really feel it. I’ve become aware of a stirring in my own heart lately, something nudging me to fling wide the door and set out, take big strides, see new things. I’ve never been one who craves travel, unlike many of my friends. I’ve always been happiest and home, and most especially so in these past couple of years as we’ve moved and been settling into our condo. Just last year I wrote these words in the Home Life section of Life In General: “I love being home. I enjoy my own company, my own space, and my own time to practice all the homey things I like to do. Sometimes I think I am dangerously close to crossing the line between homebody and hermit. I am so enamored of this house and this place that I must have a really good reason to leave."

I still love my home, still love being in it and doing all those “homey things.” But I’ve noticed a tiny rustling in my spirit, a little bit of longing when I see those commercials for the Viking River Cruises, and slight tug at the heartstrings when I hear the roar of a jet engine overhead. I thought I was immune to that desire. But maybe not.

Maybe my feelings are changing.

The other day I was talking with a young friend who is staying home with her three children after working in a professional career, one she studied long and hard to achieve. “Colleagues keep asking me when I’m coming back to work, but I really don’t want to go back to work. Maybe I should?” she questioned. “But I just don’t, and I’m not sure I ever will."

During the time she’s been home, she’s uncovered an immense creative talent in painting, sewing, and crafting - a talent she never explored or even knew existed until a few years, after a life spent in science and medical field. But this creative work is feeding her soul right now in a way she obviously needs. 

“One thing I’ve learned,” I told her, in a rare moment of motherly type wisdom, “is that the needs and desires for our lives can change drastically during the course of a lifetime. What interests and nourishes us when we’re 25 may be totally different at 35. It’s happened to me, it will happen to you, too.” 

It’s true, the desire for change comes to all of us - even to me, one of the most change resistant people on the planet. It may not occur in the fashion we Michigander’s use to talk about the weather (if you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it will change), but it comes in it’s own way and time. A little over a year ago, I would have said I didn’t care if I ever traveled anywhere, would have insisted that traveling was way overrated, that I was perfectly happy just staying home forever and always.

And yet. That blue sky, that open road. The rolling hills of southern England. The lapping waves of the Gulf of Mexico. The sidewalk cafes of Paris. They are whispering in my ear - come, see.

Ironically, these feelings come at a time when we are less able to travel than ever simply because of our situation. My mother’s health is not good, and she depends on me for so much right now. We have the dogs to consider, our fur babies who have never been left with anyone but my mom who is finding it increasingly challenging to care for them. These were the things I once used to justify my unwillingness to travel, to explain why I never planned trips longer than four or five days. Now it feels more like being held back, when I really want to loosen the reins of my existence. And this is a situation that is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.

The need for change, the desire for change - it comes to us whether we want it or not. Sometimes it creeps up quietly and settles in a remote corner of the heart. Sometimes it rushes in like the March wind. In 2013, I wrote: “There are times when the need for change become palpable, when the yearning for something fresh and new insistently clamors for attention and cannot be ignored."

As I open the door to March and to the promise of “something fresh and new” in the natural world, I want to open myself to these new feelings, notice this change of heart and find ways to satisfy these urges within the set of limitations I have. 

When the need for change begins to clamor, it does no good to ignore it.