In three days we are going to Connecticut. We were there just last month, but events have piled up since then, so we’re off again.
When my mother and I talk on the phone nowadays, we ask each other “What’s new?”, and our favorite reply is, “Not a thing!”. Then we both say together, “Thank God!”.
There seems to be some kind of a hard-wired mechanism in the human brain that seeks the novel, the unusual, the exception to the rule kind of phenomena. I guess it’s stimulating. But as we acquire more and more experience with that sort of thing, we come to appreciate the notion that “Less is more”. News tends to be of the unpleasant type, and once the initial buzz has worn off, as in: “Gee! That’s new and exciting”– I’d say within ten seconds – We are left with the reality of the situation: “How depressing!”. Maybe that’s why news shows – especially local news shows – are so fond of the “10-second sound bite”. By the time the viewer’s initial buzz has evaporated, so has that particular story, and we’re on to the next. And what with our ever-shrinking attention span, thanks to the MTV school of entertainment, and our ever-shrinking memory, thanks to living in an age of overwhelming amounts of information, by the end of the broadcast we are numb. News, sports and weather all become nothing but a big blur. If it’s the eleven o’clock news, we are generally asleep by 11:15. (Okay, I didn’t take a survey, but I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one).
But I digress.
The point is – Change is difficult. Anything new in our lives requires change. Anything new and unpleasant in our lives is doubly stressful, since it not only requires the effort of change, but also the optimism to get through the unpleasantness. It’s not easy – but it’s inevitable. Nothing stays the same for very long. And this comes as a shock, since we all start out as tiny little things for whom time goes by at a snail’s pace. It seems to us when we are in our formative years that certain things are permanent: Mom and Dad, sister and brother, home, school, friends, Fido and Fluffy, even the corner grocery. All take on the quality of Mount Rushmore in our minds. These basics are indestructible, and there is tremendous comfort in that. We feel that as long as these few things remain the same, we are safe and secure. This is the basis for nostalgia, and the reason we love artists like Norman Rockwell and TV shows like “Happy Days”.
But in the past three weeks, here is what has happened in our own family: Art’s brother was diagnosed with a serious illness and is slated for surgery by the end of the month. Art’s sister and her family had to put down their beloved dog, Jet, which was devastating to all of them. Art’s mother and father finalized the sale of their home of forty-eight years and are packing up to move. And Art and I got word that our offer on a home in Connecticut was accepted, so we will now be officially bicoastal. This is a potent mix of stressors (distress and eustress, but all stress). We’re going to Connecticut now, in great part, to try to dilute the stress and spread it around a little more so that it doesn’t all fall on shoulders that were already pretty weighted down. There’s not much we can do, except to be there and offer emotional support, but sometimes that can be a lot.
Meanwhile, back here in Los Angeles, I just pray that the earth stays solid, that my family’s health continues, that the fire season doesn’t start early, and that the governor won’t do anything to get recalled. In other words, I pray for what doesn’t happen, as opposed to what does. Let things be boring – I can take it.