Saturday, December 22, 2012
Everything Is Impermanent
“Everything is impermanent” is an often used topic of contemplation in certain spiritual practices. I was thinking about it this morning as I was shredding paper. (I use the shredded paper to line the bird cages.) My mind wandered while I was feeding the paper into the shredder, back to the copious amounts of paper I recycled and shredded when I retired last year.
Amazingly, a lot of that paper was not just junk. Well, at least at one time it was not junk. Class materials and notes that I developed over the years guided my teaching of hundreds of students. Cases, articles, news clippings – all were relevant at one time to whatever I was learning or teaching. Notes and memos about clients from different decades and even countries. Samples of every imaginable sort of contract (I taught contract law and contract drafting.)
All of it, at one time, had been useful. I had put a lot of effort and care into amassing and organizing what was, to me, a treasure trove of information and resources. As I cleaned out my office, I considered keeping much of it just because at one time it had been very important. Much of who I was and how I saw myself for thirty years was in those papers. They represented my career, my expertise, my legacy.
But I didn’t keep any of it. I saw that it had been important only to me, and that it had no future usefulness in my life. Boxes of paper gathering dust in the attic did not constitute a legacy of any significance to anyone. The importance of the papers was impermanent.
Even my own importance was impermanent. I don’t mean my value as a human being. I mean that no matter how successful I was as a professor, within three years after I left, no student would know who I was. I realized that I was okay with that. Indeed, it seemed quite natural.
Why was I thinking about that today as I was cleaning bird cages? Perhaps because I am in another transition in my life, to an empty nest. Oh, I know about that revolving door that seems so common these days, and who knows what will happen in the future? But this is the first time I’ve lived without at least one of my children in the house since I became a mom almost twenty-six years ago.
My nest has been empty for a week now. I still forget when I wake up in the morning that I’m in the house by myself. The house, which seemed so small when the kids were doubled up in bedrooms and we had to eat at the dining room table because we couldn’t all fit in the kitchen nook, now seems cavernous. There’s not as much food in the refrigerator. The dirty dishes in the sink are...mine.
I’m beginning to clean and reorganize, to claim the house as mine, too. To ease into this next stage of life. I’m still a mom, but not a day to day mom. Things that were important just a short time ago, now aren’t. I feel curious and excited. I like it.
And someday, this will change, too.
Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realize that nothing really belongs to them. –Paulo Coelho
related posts: As It Is; The Doors of Change