On gratitude & impermanence

It’s the season of Thanksgiving in North America – with Canadians celebrating last month, and the US folks just mere days away. My thoughts have been dominated by the idea of gratitude lately. It all came to a head a couple of days ago, triggered by a conversation in a dimly-lit pub, with an intriguing lady – about the fleeting nature of people, places, and times in your life.

 

I am the type of person who easily falls in love with communities, places, specific times in my life. I have sometimes viewed this strong attachment as a negative thing, as I always feel terribly sad when it changes – whether that’s me leaving, or growing into a different person, or when others leave. For example, I move around a lot. First in Canada, from Ontario to British Columbia – then all over British Columbia – then to various places within England – now up to Scotland. This means that I have relationships all over the world with such wonderful people, that I am in love with so many landscapes and places, and that I have had the privilege to get to know a good few communities. This also means I have said many tear-filled goodbyes, and had many nights reflecting in sadness of all of the people, places, and communities that I dearly miss.

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There are times when I have been less than enthusiastic about this nomadic lifestyle – where the sadness of missing certain people, places, or times in my life has far outweighed the gains of being out of your comfort zone, experiencing new places. There were times where all I wanted was to be back in a certain community, or a particular place – yearning for familiarity. This is an understandable, but ultimately foolish way of thinking, as it ignores a truth in life that I am slowly coming to grips with – impermanence.

I still struggle with accepting impermanence – that things will change, whether you want them to or not. Slightly grim, but it’s the bitter-sweet reality of life – that everything moves on – that a community, a place, a time in your life cannot stay static forever, nor would you want it to. This is why gratitude is so important – realising that there are endless opportunities to appreciate what you have right now, what is happening this instant, before it morphs and changes into something different.

Recently I have moved to Scotland, upending my familiar life in Cumbria, where I lived with my partner, amongst little mountains and a community of lovely people for the last three years. From this move, I have gained a truly special job working on an innovative and ambitious project in line with my values and goals in life. I also am connecting with a dynamic and interesting community – people who I have learned a great deal from already, who view the world in the same way I do. This gain, of meaningful employment in a engaged community, has come at the cost of leaving the familiarity and comfort of my Cumbrian life.

I think that accepting the idea of impermanence, and embracing gratitude for what you have, has helped me through another nomadic change of moving up to Scotland and living away from my partner.

I do get sad that I don’t live in Cumbria now – I miss the rural landscapes, the access to little mountains, the laid-back recreation-focused life that me and Jack build together there. But I am so thankful that I got to experience Cumbria – all of the interests and passions that I gained from being there, the experiences and memories, the truly wonderful people I met that I really do love. I also miss my partner, Jack, every day – I miss waking up next to him every morning, I miss being able to touch him and see him, I miss having a life that was very  intertwined with one another. At the same time though, I am so grateful that I have found a person who I love so dearly, who shares my perspective on life, my values and interests, and who loves me completely for who I am.

It’s difficult, especially in relation to Jack, to not to get hung up on the negatives of missing what you did have, where you have been, and what you were doing. I’m not saying that I’m perfect at this process, of accepting change and being grateful, but I do recognise it’s importance. And as cliché as it is, the old saying of “it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all”, is very applicable. Although the sadness of missing certain people, places, communities, can be overwhelming at times, I would rather be in the fortunate position of missing loved places and people rather than never having found those places and people I connect with. I am very lucky to have so many loved people and places around the world.

 

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