I wrote recently about a period in my life that ended up being the precursor to a big, life-altering change. I did not know it at the time – I was going in one direction that seemed to be what I wanted but turned out to be more like where the current was carrying me. A friend who was in my life during that period and came back into my life in recent years made a comment on the blog post, stating that she remembers that time and how transitional it was for both of us. While she is quite right, I actually found that I got completely lost in thought earlier this evening, walking in the premature darkness (that’s Scandinavian winter life for you), analyzing this very same idea that all of life is transitional.
Some periods are more transitional than others. Some people fight the tide of change while others ride it. Some make excuses or proudly announce, “It was such a transitional period”, as if this reasoning can provide cover for any number of bad decisions or indiscretions. Now, the older I get, the more I see, the more I realize all of life is a transitional period. In the slow creep of day-to-day life, maybe it does not seem like we are in the middle of some “transition” – but if you have anything dynamic happening at all, it’s going to be somewhat transitional. Especially if you welcome and invite constant change, as I do. (Perhaps it is the unwelcome and unintentional change that is harder to face.)
What prompted these thoughts about life as a transitional period was rumination about what to write in my annual year-end letter. (Technically, I view my Halloween letter, which accompanies my Halloween mix soundtrack CD, as my “year-end” letter. This year, given the collection of more music I have amassed and the technical difficulties of the CDs I did make and send out for Halloween, I am sending out a “revision” – I also could not resist the maddeningly, irresistibly cute series of Swedish Christmas postage stamps this year… needed an excuse to buy a whole bunch and use them – can I blame it on the fact that it is a “transitional period”?) I contemplated the fact that this year has been a series of disappointing events, mostly clouded by a hazy, grey aura, a good deal of (often self-imposed) loneliness (not because of a lack of people but more because of a lack of understanding and deep connections with others – and we thought that deep-seated sense of being misunderstood was a wholly adolescent affliction!) and a strange, ineffable sense of longing (for what I don’t really know). I considered writing something about how this has been a particularly difficult year full of change and transitions that were not what I expected or hoped for. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I write and repeat something in a very similar vein in my year-end letter every year. Is each year becoming qualitatively worse? Is each year a constant pit of disappointment? No. It changes. But there is consistency in the fact that it is all in a state of (often slow-motion) flux and transition.
Perhaps the period my friend referred to was more tumultuous than life feels now – certainly for her, if not for me, but life is always tumultuous. I try to remind myself of this when I ride the tram each morning and evening. I look around at the other listless-seeming riders, people whose lives are mysteries to me, trying to imagine their stories, wondering if they have always lived in this city. Have they had the adventures they dreamt of? Or is this what they wanted… or did they ever stop to think they could or should have done something else? I could never have been content just staying in one place and living without major upheavals and transitions (good and bad) – but for some people, a life with that kind of uncertainty is no life at all. I wonder also when the tram riders look at me, do they imagine a whole life story that obviously will not have one shred of fact in it?