• Sara Ream

The Pace of Change

A while back, my husband and I decided to shake up our weeknight routine, so we signed up for a geology course at our local community college. We’d meet in the lobby of the Continuing Education building on Monday evenings, eat the picnic dinner I’d packed, and then sit for the next two hours, mouths agape, at the enormity of the geologic time table. This is exactly the type of nerdy date night that can make our hearts sing, so for the duration of the six week course, we basically found a way to wiggle geology into every conversation we had.

Our professor liked to start his sentences with, “Well, 8 million years ago when…” to which everyone in class let out a nervous snicker because there wasn’t a single person among us who didn’t find it mind boggling trying to capture the snails pace of change between then and now. Continents shifted, mountains were crafted and eroded, oceans filled and then receded. All we see now is the current result of those epically slow and minute, likely undetectable at the time, shifts on the planet. In another 8 million years from now, the current state of our rocks and soil and mountains and oceans will just be a passing evolutionary phase between the before and after.

Our instructor took us on a field trip to the Hickory Nut Gorge just south of Asheville after class ended and he said, “One day, these mountains will completely erode into that river below.” He was talking in the millions of years, and while none of us would be here to witness the mountains release themselves one piece at a time over that span, we could tangibly connect with the final result. What’s tough to grasp, and fully appreciate, is the billions of subtle shifts that need to occur before our beloved mountains crumble and disperse.

This geologic pace of change has a striking similarity to my own internal shifting. My perfectionist timetable is keen on forgetting that there’s space between here and there, now and later, before and after. I often foolishly expect that the moment I make a change will also be the exact moment that all the stars will align to manifest the result I made the change for. If I were to step into the earth’s evolutionary shoes for just a minute, I’d see that morphing into the next phase is an act of patient acceptance.

If I continue to breathe into my intention for shifting, I’ll wake up one day and my leaves will have fallen, my sun will be in a different place on the horizon, and my yearning for cooler weather will have settled in with last night’s frost. Instead of willing the change to happen faster, I will have allowed it to unfold. Rather than force the top of the mountain towards the sea, I’ve gently held it until the final piece released the whole.

Even if we change our jobs, where we live, who we’re dating, or what our goals are, it still takes our bodies and minds and hearts a while to catch up to and fully integrate who we are after those milestone decisions. The work is to kindly embrace this slow assimilation of changes until you’ve become what you intended. Allow for the rain and sun, cold and heat, pain and ease, contraction and expansion so that you may find yourself on the other side of here and there.