Washington D.C. is a transient city. The seasonal swell of bright-eyed Summer interns and changing of the political guard after Fall elections are as much a part of the rhythm of the city as the arrival of the cherry blossoms each Spring. Every long-time resident has bid farewell to at least a few close friends whose journeys have brought them here to soak up the "Washington experience" before continuing down their path.
For my first several years in our nation's capitol, I had a front-row seat from which to view these constant shifts. I watched fellow interns leave for graduate school or moves back home. During my tenure on Capitol Hill I said goodbye to many colleagues who departed after gaining the knowledge they needed to secure their next job. As a yoga teacher trainer, I sent my best wishes along with the newly minted teachers who left the confines of our city to share their newfound perspective with the world.
But after the birth of my daughter and a major life transition, I began to realize my circle was populated primarily by "lifers" - those rare souls who chose to make Washington their home. It was a welcome grounding experience. I finally felt I was becoming part of a community by whom I would be surrounded for years to come - a network of souls who would remain part of the fabric of my family's life.
So when a dear friend mentioned in passing that she was moving to the opposite coast to pursue her lifelong dream of a doctoral degree, I was more than surprised, I was shocked - not by her bold declaration, but by its unexpected effect. I thought I had this stage of life figured out. My village is strong and stable. I can't replace her role in my - or my daughter's - life. Maybe she will change her mind...
She didn't (of course), and in two short months, she will be gone. Yes, I realize I can (and will) visit. I know technology makes it possible to maintain a close connection despite great distances. And - most importantly - I am overjoyed that she is able to realize this dream. But the mere idea of the change has me rattled.
I have observed this in other areas of my life, as well. Each time I think I finally have a handle on the demands of the current stage in parenting, my daughter - and her needs - grow and change. Just when I feel I have finally achieved the "perfect" work/life balance for this phase of life, another opportunity arises, and another adjustment needs to be made.
Whether or not we choose to accept it, we can't deny that we are surrounded by constant change. We do ourselves a disservice when we cling to people or routines to steady us. We must instead hold our relationships and present circumstances with open hands and accept the ongoing ebbs and flows of life. In seasons of transition we have a choice: we can surrender to anxiety or commit to remaining in - and fully appreciating - the present moment.
Next time you find yourself saying goodbye to someone - or something - meaningful, can you accept the change gracefully? Can you embrace impermanence?