In life, only change and death can be counted on 100% of the time. After a near-fatal car accident that left me unable to walk, I had a lot of time for contemplation. My mom brought me the book The Tibetan Art of Living and Dying, and I became obsessed with understanding the Buddhist teachings about suffering. However, the teachings about impermanence were the ones that troubled me. I danced with impermanence and briefly slipped away from this life. Instead of learning to embrace impermanence I spent decades trying to create something stable, meaningful, and permanent. My life was filled with fear and trepidation. PTSD controlled where I went and how I traveled. Each time I got into a car, I was acutely terrorized by the knowledge that truly I could die and leave my children without a mother. Or worse, I could lose them. People mocked me about my fears as if fatal car crashes were something that never happened.
As the years passed, impermanence screamed louder. Mass shootings propelled my community into darkness. The murder of my dear friend and mentor reminded me again to savour each moment because you truly do not know which will be your last. More loved ones perished by accidental overdose, cancer, and suicide.
Impermanence hurt like hell.
Impermanence. I must fight.
How does understanding that it exists make your life better? I just didn’t get it.
With time my community became stronger, we leaned on each other, and we loved harder. Amazingly, the wrenching sadness caused by each of the tragedies was impermanent too. Of course, there is still a sense of loss, but it is no longer all-consuming.
We pulled together in love. We move forward.
It turns out impermanence is not the enemy, for it brings joy as well as despair. In my darkest times, I now understand that they too are impermanent. I find comfort from this, and instead of grasping so tightly to what is, for fear of it going away, I try to savour each beautiful moment so later I will have no regrets. Armed with this knowledge, stepping onto our loosely charted path fills me with excitement instead of fear. After all, stability is an illusion.