“We are each a river with a particular abiding character, but we show radically different aspects of our self according to the territory through which we travel.”
David Whyte (The Three Marriages: Re-imagining Work, Self and Relationship)
I wonder whether you spend much time on rivers. I was born in a small North Carolina town built on a spit of land at the confluence of two rivers, the Hiwassee and the French Broad. Always, rivers have been my preferred body of water. If you know rivers at all, you know that they change. They are in constant flux. One day of rain, and the water level goes up. Several hot and dry days together will take the level down faster than you might imagine. Flood stages actually reshape the river, making islands where there were none, and washing away feet of beach with one swipe. When you stand on one side of a river and view it, then go to the other side and look at the same scene, the two may be nothing alike. When you come back two days later, that view from either side may be utterly different. The abiding character of all rivers is that they flow; they move steadily, sometimes in raging torrents, sometimes so slowly as to appear still. Even rivers in the desert flow.
Human beings are like that too—we change, we flow. We show divergent sides of ourselves depending on who we are with. We speak ourselves differently situation to situation. We have a chameleon aspect to us that allows us to become what a situation calls for; to adopt different personalities for what is expected in the moment. Sometimes, in relationships, this becomes problematic. Often, I have heard from counseling clients, “She's not the person I married,” or “He changed after we'd been together a year or two.” My response was always, “Well, of course she/he did. He's human and humans change.” The trick is to anticipate that change. Expect it. Be ready for it, and whenever possible, see it as a natural characteristic of living beings. Everything living changes, and if a relationship is alive, it too will change. There is grace in allowing the flow. When we can stand apart, allow the flow of change, and find it interesting and exciting, rather than tragic, then we have a real chance of enrichment. Just like rivers, sometimes we are fast and fiery, and sometimes slow and sluggish, but always, there is flow.
In the Spirit,