I was chatting with a friend recently about life upheaval and the mayhem that follows. For her, this included moves across state lines and international borders, losses around health, shattering transformations to her relationships, career, and identity, and frightening adventures looming on the horizon. And the fact that many of these changes were instigated by her own well-thought and intentional choices didn’t make the breakdowns that followed any less disorienting or uncomfortable.
With grief behind and uncertainty ahead, she felt stuck, frozen between the death of her old somethings and the births of her new ones. And with the next wave of change on its way to knock it all down yet again, what was there to do? What was there to build or even hold on to?
As someone who’s experiencing my own version of the in-between, I’ve been asking similar questions. And here’s what I’ve found: in times of change, transition, and death-rebirth, our ideas about substance, form, and creation need to shift with us.
We have this idea in our culture that things matter only if they have monetary substance, tangible form, or enduring material value, but ultimately, we each get to decide what “counts for something.” Uncertain, murky circumstances may halt our plans and interrupt our ambitions, but life, creativity, and growth keep happening regardless. We can still build. Our creations may not be concrete, durable, or permanent, but this doesn’t mean they don’t matter or that we can’t carry them with us. And we can always turn our energy and attention toward what we’re building in our own selves: imagination, connection, courage, intuition, power, wisdom – which I believe is what matters most in the end anyway.
So when I find myself thinking it’s all for nothing, I try to hold to the truth of the opposite: it’s all for everything. I’ve said before that while I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, I do believe we can make meaning and choose our reasons – that we can use the raw materials we have to craft creative, unexpected, and redemptive replies to whatever life gives us. And in the moments of muddled uncertainty and apparent futility, that’s where I build from.