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My best friend’s ex-boyfriend used to tell her “that’s the difference between you and me…you’re a tree and I’m a blade of grass. You’re problem,” he would say, (apparently never having learned that starting off any piece of advice with “your problem” is the kiss of death) – “your problem is that you need to learn to bend.” He might have questioned his desire to have her heed such advice some months later after she dumped him for his best friend and tossed the shredded bits of his world into thousands of irreparable pieces. And, as cliché as his words of guidance may seem, I have now begun to think him rather astute, for in the months that followed their separation my friend transformed her behaviors in the most fundamental and opposing ways: she traveled more, replaced her old job with one she actually liked, gave herself over to the pleasures of a most memorable one night stand, and today smiles randomly and with more charm than I have ever remembered.
It is a fiction that we become less spontaneous and more rigid as we get older, that we are all blithe and adaptable children. As for me, I hated change as a child, resisted it like a dry naked body would sliding down a fire pole. I experienced each new thing as a betrayal. A new friend in the circle meant, not more love to go around, just less time for the old ones. It also meant going off the course, entering something unseen, welcoming an unknowable unfolding. Change was not transformation. It was exchange – this for that – an end for a beginning.
How we come into this world– that is– the state in which we arrive is a complete mystery to me. While other children, my siblings included, relished new pets, or a new piece of furniture for their bedroom or the hope of a family vacation, I capitulated to a kind of juvenile asceticism. When I was eight I spent the whole of a trip to Disney World grumpy and brooding, not because I wanted something I was denied, but because I sensed that in the excitement that fueled everyone else – that in that exodus from our routine of school and homework and sports and homemade dinners – there was the prospect that anything could happen. And anything could change everything.
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