Once upon a time I thought it was cool to say, “Change is the only constant in the universe,” but I don’t think that phrase so cool anymore. The phrase, its meaning and internal paradox, is one of those things a twenty-something (or older, in my case) thinks is profound. At this point I’d be likely to say to the girl who said that, “Yeah? So? You have no clue, sweet cheeks.”

Unfairly, too. At twenty-something I’d already experienced some pretty ugly changes, and that phrase was my way of giving myself courage and a more stoical world view. It was a way to assuage my fear of more ugly changes by being glib about it.

I understand now that a constant in some of my life’s changes is dragging my feet. I remember not wanting a cell phone, not wanting to use email, not wanting to learn PowerPoint, not wanting this or that and holding onto marriages way past their “throw-out-by” date. Why?

Sometimes moving forward into a change is just a pain in the ass. “Oh shit, this is a crappy marriage. Now we have to face that, and do a divorce, and have conversations about THINGS and move on.” Well, husband number 2 had already “moved on” (several times), and husband number 1 had moved out so what was the big deal? I don’t know. I was afraid of things that were not even related to me or my marriage — like my mom would be disappointed, like I was as awful as husband No. 1 said I was or as boring and ugly as husband No. 2 said I was, like I’d never amount to anything on my own (Mom, husband No. 1) — the list of irrelevancy is very long. Reality was clear. These were bad marriages to husbands who didn’t love me and that, probably, I didn’t love, either.

There was the big change when I stopped supporting my alcoholic brother. That was a terrifying change. Would he die? Would my family hate me? What would happen? So many “ifs” and they all came true — but the savior was, as always, objective reality. Was my help actually HELPING him? (No.) If people in my family hated me, would it make any material difference in my life? (It didn’t. Those who mattered understood). Would he die? Absolutely, if he didn’t stop. Could I make him stop? Had all my efforts made any difference in his habits? No. When I stepped away, felt I was falling over a precipice…

Often we don’t see change until it’s happened, and we’re standing on sand that’s being pulled out from under us by the resolute tide of time. When the status quo is already shaky, letting go can be scary. What if the whole thing crumbles into dust? That’s happened a time or two. The crumbling is terrifying, but surviving it turned out to be liberating. It definitely gave me a less hesitant view of change.