The Melancholy of Change
Autumn is the season of change. At this time of the year and in certain places in the world, such as New England, Belgium, and even New Zealand to just name a few, autumn is reaching its glorious heights. Even if you have no special appreciation for nature, it is hard not to be taken in by the beauty of autumn once you have the chance to visit some of these places. The leaves turn in every shade of gold, orange, red, and brown that one can imagine. One can literally forget to breath while looking on the sea of colors.
Why is change often difficult? Nature provides many great metaphors and insights for life. The change of seasons is one of them and it answers this question beautifully. The stunning transformations that take place by the turning of the leaves in autumn is in fact an announcement of the impending end of one phase of life. Leaves show colors that one would not have expected when looking at them during the spring or summer, as if begging, “do not forget me!” Indeed, what follows after autumn can be downright depressing as the gloomy skies and bone piercing cold freeze our will to do the simplest things outdoors.
Change is difficult precisely because one knows it involves death of a certain kind. Anatole France, a 19th century French poet and novelist, wrote that “all changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” “What does that mean?” you may ask.
If we reflect upon the changes that have happened in our own lives, whether it is graduating from college, moving away from a familiar place, or leaving behind a once celebrated career, it is not hard to realize not only do we need to summon up a certain inner strength and optimism in order to face the unpredictable future, we also need to let go of a certain sense of control where we knew the rules of how to act around people and how to go about at our daily routines. Neither one of these things may be easy to do even if the change that is coming is something we know we want.
In short, a change in life circumstances demands that we interact with our selves in new ways. I experienced this in a significant manner when I moved to Belgium from the United States where I called home for two decades. The rules of the game change when we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, whether the territory is psychological, social, or cultural.
How do we interact with our selves in a regenerative manner and welcome change gracefully? Again, nature offers us clues here. The cycles of change in life are certain to come, just as the seasons are certain to change when the time comes. Therefore, we may align with the cycles of change that inevitably happens in our lives by taking the time to reflect on the new ideas, projects, and experiences that want to be given life through us. In turn, we will be able to prioritize the actions which welcome them. Meanwhile, the time we take to introspect and have meaningful conversations with people will help us to see which parts of us are resisting the impending change. We will be able to see, hear, and feel these parts of us saying, “forget me not!” As this happens, we have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of these aspects of ourselves which we have worked hard to develop in the now familiar situation. In this space of open awareness and gratitude, we will be aligned to the center of who we are, which is also where we are truly free to flow with the change of life just as nature does.