We seem to have a built-in resistance to change. Perhaps it’s a survival instinct of our ego. Some deep part of us fears that every change is a small death – what was, is no more. It’s a little rehearsal for the leave-taking from a life we didn’t ask for in the first place (or did we?) but now that we’re in it we cherish it. We only want things to run along smoothly, filled with the familiar, the comfortable, the usual.

When changes gang up on us like a school of piranha, we wonder who we’ll be when the change-fest/feast is over. Will anyone recognizable as “me” remain? What can we hold onto that is unchanging, even as those damnable fish are nibbling away at what we thought was certain?

I have just returned from a two-week trip to the south of England, to be with my daughter in Devon as she swirls in the huge school of changes called breast-cancer-and-mastectomy. The plan was for me to bring emotional support, help her with the complexity of her prescriptions and supplements, and do some administrative work that arose with her new circumstances, while a rota of friends would bring food and help with household tasks and the garden. This would leave Katheryn free to rest and heal, to tend to her physical therapy, and to ponder the difficult decisions about which medical treatments to choose following her post-surgery test results. It was a lovely concept, featuring all of us making the best out of unwelcome circumstances.

But change just wouldn’t leave us alone. The surgical site didn’t heal as planned. New medical concerns cropped up after lab tests. Frequently medical personnel rescheduled appointments at the last minute, leaving Katheryn scrambling to cancel plans, arrange for new rides to hospitals and clinics, undo help that had already been put in place. Computers rebelled with seemingly intentional malice. Wet laundry blew off the line in an unexpected gust. Side effects of pain medications blossomed. The cat food supply ran out. Email addresses and phone numbers were not accurate. The healing rest didn’t happen, the physical therapy got short shrift, the ominous deadlines for decisions loomed with no clearer wisdom than was had the day before.

I wondered to myself, How is it possible for anyone to cope with such changes? Especially on top of the earth-shaking changes to one’s sense of self that a dreaded illness brings? What do people do who are older, frailer, more alone, more confused, less capable than my daughter?

And then, just when I was getting into the rhythms of knowing how best to help Katheryn, and where the brown rice and toasted sesame oil are stored, and what is the best technique for rousting Orion (my 17-year-old grandson) in the morning, and how the damned smartphone works . . . another wrenching change: time to return home.

So who am I now, as the mother of a woman with cancer? Who am I, 5000 miles away from her? What will her life look like a year from now? What will mine? How do she, and I, and Orion, and all of us find the essential place in ourselves and in each other that is unfazed by change? Is there such a place?

I’m too jet-lagged to have any answers right now.

Just questions.

And a dim but certain knowing that the answers are close at hand.

24 replies
  1. Fenna diephuis
    Fenna diephuis says:

    “The door to God is the insecurity of not knowing anything. Bear the grace of that insecurity and all wisdom will be yours.” ~ Adyashanti

    Easier said than done, but worthy of practice! I practice “being with you” in this chaos, even tho we are miles apart Cynthia. And Kathryn. Reading your blog and all the responses was uplifting and inspiring. All I can say is Kathryn is so fortunate to have you as a mother. And she seems to have amazing friends and fans too. I hope to donate to her cause soon! Blessings my dear long time friend and mentor! Fenna

    Reply
  2. Joal bydalek
    Joal bydalek says:

    My ten month old great granddaughter has been practicing moving larger objects such as turned over laundry baskets so she can climb up on furniture and higher if she finds other things she can climb to get to even further heights! These skills we developed as babies are big changes and big adventures. I thought of how wonderful and scary all change is. Our choices, in response, grow us , hurt us and most of the time both. How exciting and terrifying it must be to look at the world from three times your own height and for the first time achieving that height by yourself! How many new adventurous heights have you and Katheryn climbed and survived and carried yourselves there and beyond ? Each of you already are at the top of one of your own mountains , which calls for rest, relaxation and renewal. My spirit sends you both the strength to do these things for yourselves as you have so well all of your life. My soul aches for the familiar pain I know that you both have faced. I love you.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      I just had a memory of the two of us, grown women, lying on our bellies in the sand beside a small Michigan lake, using stones and twigs and our imaginations to create a little “world” for the crawly things on the beach. I think we thought they’d be amused by our little diversions. In fact they were probably annoyed, and somewhat confused, and then got on with their crawly lives. Simple. For humans, however, who ponder, and who think we have much influence over our own little worlds, it’s not quite so simple. Or maybe it is, if we’d just pay attention, and let go to each moment, and try to find the love and the light in some of them. Love backatcha Joal.

      Reply
  3. Allan Ament
    Allan Ament says:

    Change happens, dear friend, and we never know in the instant whether it is positive or not so much. Unexpected consequences such as you and Katheryn experienced, may lead to other unexpected consequences with quite different results. As trite as it sounds, the reality is all we can do is take it one step at a time, believe in the meaning of the Serenity Prayer and remember that whatever happens is the only thing that can happen. Sending love and healing energy to you in Freeland and Katheryn in England.

    Reply
  4. ann Linnea
    ann Linnea says:

    Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing this complex journey. As always, you have such a thoughtful perspective on the most difficult circumstances. Katheryn is strong. I send her much healing love and if anyone can navigate this, she can. Peace to you as you wrestle with how to help from afar.
    Love,
    Ann

    Reply
  5. Nancy Machin
    Nancy Machin says:

    A friend of mine created the Goddess of the Silver Boot. Star Trek created the Borg. Resistance is painful and futile.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Leave it to you to put things into a perspective I can relate to! So long as Jean Luc is standing by somewhere in the midst of all this, I am content.

      Reply
  6. Bob Mullin
    Bob Mullin says:

    I am so sorry to hear that your daughter is going through such a difficult period. I am, however, thankful that you took the time to recount this painful transition for your family in such a honest and powerful way. When we were 5 year old playmates it certainly never occurred to us that life could be so complicated….how blissful that was! Change now seems such a threat to everything of value that our lives have created…….I certainly understand and send thoughts and love to you and Katheryn……….Bob Mullin

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Ah, my dear first freckle-faced boyfriend, just think if we didn’t change, how boring we both would be now!

      Thank you for reaching out across the miles and years. I still adore you!

      Reply
  7. Mike Trenshaw
    Mike Trenshaw says:

    Its funny how you seem to think there is something other than change to deal with. Its all a matter of intensity. These changes offer tangents that we take or pass, but like it or not, we are going down one of them!

    Lately one of my favorite quotes comes from the song “Get Right With The Man”. It states, “If you ever want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans!” I think that about sums it up.

    Embracing change…clinging to familiarity…each choice changes our life.

    Thanks for opening the door to these thoughts. I can always count on you to get my brain going!

    Love ya!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      My only complaint, in recent weeks, is that embracing Change seems to be much more tiring than it used to be.

      I can remember going LOOKING for Change, meeting it head-on. Now I am more aware of the cost. Still embracing (or willingly wrestling with?) Change, but needing a little more respite between bouts!

      The ring that I have worn on my finger for 20+ years (the two entwined pythons), that you are responsible for me having, honors that wrestling, and my acceptance of passionate living.

      Little did you know, when you gave me that gift certificate for my birthday!

      Reply
  8. Mary Faith Cook
    Mary Faith Cook says:

    You are the one who taught ME that we are always in a constant state of change.
    Yet, the people who love us always recognize us. You no longer have a square dancing skirt – but you are the same person, remade over and over and over.
    The fish biting bastards are always around us, they just change costumes. I feel your exhaustion, frustration, guilt and overwhelming helplessness. Sleep for the exhaustion, get rid of the guilt (even You can’t fix it) and the rest will come into focus. It is amazing, when you look at all the lights shining through all the windows in the evening, how do any of us cope.
    Share my spirit,
    Love Mary

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Apparently the whole point of this exercise called Life is to cope, to support each other, to be amazed at the creativity of Change, and to laugh at ourselves once in a while!

      Reply
  9. Jenny Dainton
    Jenny Dainton says:

    We were never promised a change free, settled life. It is the triumph of the human spirit that rolls with the waves and makes sense out of disorder, disaster and disappointment that overwhelmes us at times. Who knows where any of us will be next week, next month or next year. All we can hope for is that we will be sustained and supported through the challenges that face us.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      And we can hope that friends, like you, will continue sending concern and nurturance and prayers for the best possible outcomes.

      Thanks, Jenny, for all you do.

      Reply
  10. Alison Heins
    Alison Heins says:

    Been thinking of you often and am glad for the news that you are home safely. I think the best defense we can have for dealing with change is a sense of humor. The image of wet laundry flying off the line at the worst of moments is a sort of comic picture.
    Profound changes coming to us, too, as we have have put our homestead up for sale and plan for a move to Penney Farms, Florida. A move I never imagined we would make, but then…the future is only to be revealed.
    Love and blessings to you!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      So how’s this for a deal: you hold me in the midst of Change, and I’ll hold you in the midst of Change, and we’ll meet in a place called Humor/Love/Acceptance!

      Reply
  11. Jarrett DeWyse
    Jarrett DeWyse says:

    You are still the amazing woman Iknow you to be…even withthe changes swirling around you and within you! I love you.

    Reply
  12. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    What a perfect and eloquent description you’ve woven, my friend. No answers either, just sending a lot of love and healing energy your way (and Katheryn’s way too, naturally)

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      And the changes continue, and deepen, and become more insoluble.

      Apparently one aspect of Change is the feeling of helplessness in the face of it.

      And letting go.

      Letting go.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply to Mike Trenshaw Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *