We have a purple glass bowl in our living room; it was part of a set of dishes that belonged to my great aunt. From the art deco period, each piece was a different geometric shape: the plates were pentagrams, the glasses were upside down triangles and the bowls were circles.
I inherited the dishes when my grandmother died, it was already missing several pieces and in the thirty years since I’ve had them, through moves and different apartments, accidents while washing dishes—only a few pieces remain. I still have several plates in a storage unit in California. I think the glasses all broke. This lone purple bowl was in a box of tchotchkes and ended up here in Woodstock, a strange memento from my and my family’s past.
I imagine the bowl once held lemon sorbet for the end of, or chilled soup for brunch, or fresh fruit salad in my grandmother’s apartment in Hollywood, where she moved when she was nearly seventy, stepping off the bus said she felt like she finally arrived where she belonged.
Now the bowl is full of change, pennies, quarters, nickels, dimes from Bobby’s pockets, from my nightstand—change he uses to do laundry every week, sometimes we roll it and take it to the bank and put it in our vacation account.
Right now there’s a bag of rolled coins sitting on a big chair in the living room, for our Provincetown fund. We have hotel reservations there the week of May 19th-25th, a trip that I know isn’t going to happen but I can’t seem to cancel quite yet.
There’s something I don’t like about change—theoretically, I get it, and I’m all about it, but when faced with a change and asked to—oh, I don’t know, be flexible, maybe adapt, I resist. I don’t like to think of myself as controlling but, let the record speak for itself, Chris.
One day in high school, my friend Marilyn said, “People don’t change, they just become themselves over time.” I look side eyed at her: how does this 17 year old contemporary of mine know this? Sure, I was a bright kid, but was I a thinker? Did I have any depth then? Probably I was thinking about food and secret crushes on boys and do I look fat in this shirt?
The real question is, do I have any depth now? Have I changed since then? Have I grown? Or am I the same 17 year old who’s just learned better tools for surviving, adapted performance tricks, how to make a different impression?
It’s easy to see change in others: their wrinkles and gray hair, bags and creases. I always think, it’s so funny how much they’ve changed, I’ve somehow managed to stay the same. This is partly due to the mirror preparation effect, that unconscious trick that occurs right before we look at ourselves in the mirror, creating the illusion of self that we want to see. It’s why it’s so upsetting when we catch ourselves in the mirror, unprepared—like during an eclipse and they tell you not to look directly into the sun—it burns! It burns! I’m old!
It’s always sort of painful to see when someone posts an old picture of themselves on social media and someone from their past invariably writes in the comments: I remember her. I wonder, do they mean, I remember that sweeter, younger version of you who no longer exists and I miss her, or, I remember that version of you, which I believe is still inside you, as an affirmation?
There are kids inside us, who did all those things and looked the way we did. And, there have been different selves that we’ve left behind. Maybe there’s some sadness around that. But maybe there’s also relief—thank god I’m not that guy anymore. I have a bunch of those—the belligerent drunk, the two pack a day smoker, the guy who was invested in being broken and lonely. Who couldn’t settle down. Desperado.
I keep thinking, this moment is going to change the world. Then, because part of me is cynical, I catch myself—nothing changes, the world is the same as it ever was…maybe I’m afraid to get too invested in big, systemic change because for all of my resistance, I long for change. Many of us do—a change from the way things were, income inequality, bad healthcare system, our tendency to run ourselves ragged, the separation we all live with everyday, isolation and fear, poverty, our destruction of the environment—don’t we want those things to change?
We’re addicted to makeover TV shows—the frumpy middle aged guy gets a haircut, starts eating better, and someone takes him to get some jeans that fit better. Or the crummy mid century ranch is transformed over the course of the weekend by a crew of 25 skilled people.
We all know these changes aren’t going to stick. If the tv crews came back in six months, the guy’s hair would be shaggy again and the mid-century ranch would already look ragged around the edges.
Remember that joke: How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to really want to change.
I want it, I do, and I fear it, I resist it, and control it and still I know, change comes. It’s coming! Here it is now.