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The SDD: “Painful Transitions”
4th Jun


The SDD: “Painful Transitions”

(A tale of fuelperks and roller slides)

I wistfully remember volunteers schlepping Giant Eagle shopping carts from the muck in the Goodale Park pond on Saturdays.  Oh, to have Giant Eagle shopping carts near enough for them to endanger the pond again.  But that ship has sailed.  That transition is complete.

Not everyone shares my melancholy; some neighbors abandoned our little Eagle immediately when big Third Avenue opened, happily buying all their groceries in Grandview from that moment on.  But many others agree with me, holding their noses while shopping at the new fabricated marketplace.  I feel almost dirty as I indulgently build up my fuelperks balance.

Regardless of my reaction, I need to face the transition.  And as with every transition, I move through a grieving process of sorts, coming to terms with some sense of loss.  I miss walking over and seeing Yolanda, Rina, Vrnda, Sonja, and others.  And although I could travel to their new stores (and some of them do work at Third Avenue), their absence from our neighborhood is a loss.

Change is necessary and inevitable [see: “You can’t reach into the same garbage twice].  And some change is expected, like the new playground equipment at Goodale Park.  We saw the plans way back in December 2015, and the playground parts trailer was sitting pregnantly in the parking lot for months.  Sometimes change is an unexpected surprise; you never expect your car to be crushed by a tree branch in Goodale Park.

Our recent grocery change was a blend of expectation and surprise; for years, we heard rumors of Giant Eagle moving (to the Arena District or somewhere else), but it was still a painful surprise when they actually set a final March 2017 closing date.  Change always seems a bit painful when I feel I’m not in control.

All of life is filled with loss and transition that comes from surprise, happenstance, chaos, and the unexpected.  And yet, I live most of my life submerged in the waters of delusion, feeling that I am in control.  I choose who I spend time with, I decide what to eat for breakfast, I select a route to travel to work, I schedule vacations, and decide if I’m going to have a second beer.  But when I consider the transitions that truly affect my life, and think about what has changed me as a person, I realize that a different story emerges.

Even transitions that are planned (like starting a graduate program) or expected (like puberty) are transformational in ways that I could never have predicted.  But the big ones, the unexpected transitions, challenge all my notions of control.  I had no choice at four years old when my brother arrived uninvited (by me), usurping my status as the youngest child, and thrusting me in the painful (but ultimately growthful) role of middle child.

Today, I deeply appreciate, respect, love, and trust my siblings, grateful for the three of us and our relationships.

My first job after college was in the middle of nowhere, an intellectual wasteland where I intended to remain relationship-free (and stay as separate as possible from that place), but instead became smitten with a smart, funny, and attractive co-worker.  This eventually ended my bachelorhood, involving some pain, but led to more beauty in life than I could have ever imagined.

The rest of the universe is like this, too.  If we protect our children from struggles, hardship, and pain, they will fail to learn the skills needed to navigate the complexities of life.  Similarly, butterflies must struggle to emerge from their chrysalises.  If I “help” a butterfly transition and emerge by opening the chrysalis for it and easing its struggle, I will prevent it from ever flying.  Butterflies require this struggle for the full development of their wings.  We, too, need to experience the struggle and pain of transitions that are beyond our control in order to fully develop and grow.

I have experienced this personally, as my past year has bulged with transition.  My daughter moved from home to start college in Chicago last September, and my wife and I became empty-nesters.  On a heavier note, twelve months ago my mother-in-law was living in our house with us, but in August, she passed away shortly after we had furnished and prepared an assisted-living apartment for her, believing that she would carry on.  In October, my father opted to forego further treatments for leukemia.  Initially predicted to live for a month or two, he survived until a few weeks ago, when death, though inevitable, was still surprising.  And my co-worker of 12 years announced her retirement this year; I’ve worked on hiring her replacement since March, and her last day was in May.  I’ll begin training a new co-worker in July.  I’m reluctantly reeling with transition, and growing as a person.

In these personal and neighborhood transitions, I respond as best I can with each unexpected turn, while still foolishly feeling on a moment-by-moment basis that on some level, a sense of expectation, predictability, and control still exists in my life.  Everyone moves, everyone dies, and everyone changes jobs.  Companies make marketing decisions, and parks make improvements.  And these don’t happen on my schedule.  And I suppose they shouldn’t.

And yet, this knowledge does nothing to assuage the feelings of loss and grief that accompany those transitions.  When I told my daughter that the Goodale Park playgrounds were being replaced, she fondly recalled the short roller slide, the one that made her gleeful squeals quiver with vibrato as the rubber rollers bounced her 2-year-old body down, over and over, into my waiting arms.  Her only wish was that the roller slide would still be there.  But it’s gone, too.  As we learned from Rafiki in The Lion King, change is good, but sometimes it hurts.

Still, that can’t stop me from hoping for a Trader Joe’s on Neil.

The Sesquipedalian Dumpster Diver

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