Changing selves…changing relationships…

I have often thought about this question: do we change with time? Is there an essential part of us that stays the same? When I visit India and see old friends, I’m often told that I haven’t changed at all. And yet, I also know that like a new haircut or a way of dressing, there is always change on the outside, but also on the inside. To me it feels like every experience we have, every person with whom we have a meaningful interaction, changes us in some way. When I think back on my own life, I can point to not just the people who have come and gone and changed me in some way, but also to specific experiences connected to those people, that have remained with me. It sometimes feels to me like I am a screen on which experiences pass through like a movie, but I as a screen also change and evolve in color and texture.

Obviously, the most significant people in my life have changed/transformed me the most. I know that my own choices in relationships have made me who I am today, every step of the way. My partner, my daughter, my closest friends have made me who I am, or maybe MORE of who I am even as I become more of them! But then also are the people who come into our lives not by choice, but by chance or without choice. These people, close family members, room mates, neighbors, people we have seen everyday at some point in our life, too change us, impacting us in ways we can never expect, more so perhaps than the people we choose to have in our life. This ME is colored by all of these experiences, and relationships…

I think of friends from the past, their sweet contributions to my self, moments shared over joy or despair, camaraderie or friendship, a friendly acquaintance or a deep relationship. I think of friends who are no longer in my life but have somehow changed the direction that my life was headed, like a river that is gently moved to a slightly different path. I think of friends who have provided that helping hand without expecting anything in return, during sickness or a crisis; during a rough spot or a smile on a difficult day. I think of the amazing thing about serendipity. Do we attract the people in our lives? Or do they arrive perhaps sent by a guardian angel somewhere looking out for us, giving us a chance on change, on possibility, on trying a different experience than we have been used to…

I think of the unexpectedness of it all. Bumping into a familiar face after a long time and how that can literally change the course of our lives. (That has happened to me, with one of my closes friends!). I do believe, every person in our life has a role to play, somehow, sent at just the right time, to be there in some way that we perhaps cannot comprehend. Sometimes, other stuff (like our own issues!) get in the way, but ultimately, every moment offers the potential for newness, of rediscovering ourselves in ways we cannot know, cannot conceive or imagine, and of appreciating the mystery and possibilities in life. Even when experiences are unpleasant, we do learn something; if nothing else, we can always learn compassion!

May we continually remind ourselves to be present and open to all that unfolds in life. Here is to embracing all of our experiences and gratitude for all the people who have touched us with their love and friendship!

With love, S.

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