When you’re not sure how you or other people are changing

Have you ever thought you knew someone well and later discovered a side of them you had never seen before? My brother has been transcribing some letters my grandmother wrote when she was engaged to my grandfather but living apart in New York and Chicago. Nineteen-year-old Helen Yarmush teases her beloved with tales of her dates with other men and says things like, “It’s been a beautiful day today–a day to run in the wind (which I did) and laugh and sing.” The Helen Zimmerberg I got to know three decades later was a mother of four who had already lost her first daughter to ovarian cancer and was undergoing chemo and radiation for lymphoma herself. I’ve cherished my memories of Helen’s sense of humor and ability to make the best out of most anything, and I delight in this free spirit I’m seeing now at her 20th yahrzeit (death anniversary). What a gift it is to discover something new in someone I haven’t seen for so long and to be reminded of how multi-faceted we all are.

If you feel different from who you were a couple years ago, perhaps your friends do too. Maybe you’ve lost some relationships, accepted casualties in these divisive times. What if you’ve lost yourself a bit too? In transition, most everything is incomplete and tender. You may feel in between what is no longer authentic and what is not yet grown. Are we willing to meet anew in this wobbly place, or will we try to connect the way we did before and seek only the parts of each other we used to know? I believe there is an in-between place, a place to cherish the familiar, unique essence which doesn’t alter over time while making room to see what else is emerging–in ourselves and in each other. We meet at this crossroads when we unfurl the grasp on old ideas and become willing to not understand. Like this walk through the fog at dawn, perhaps we begin by trusting the path that shows itself, finding beauty in what is not yet clear.

My grandma Helen had strong opinions, yet what was special about her was that she would change those opinions in an instant when more information came in. This wasn’t confusion or ambivalence; it was a permission she gave herself to change her mind and to make new choices as she learned better. It reminds me of something anyone who has been in a workshop, retreat, or the release and empower women’s circle with me has probably heard me say: “Let’s not hold onto anything that’s shared here. These are snapshots of present moment experiences, ones we honor but don’t carry around as your identity forever more. You’re free to show up the same or differently every time.” I’d like to offer this same invitation to anyone reading these words today. To you, who has gifted your attention here, willing to join me in the field of unknowing. Let’s let each other change and evolve, as slowly as we need to. 

With peace in the heart and health in the body,

Julia Aziz

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