by Faith Childs

Winter’s approach is a reminder of the impermanence of everything, of the constancy of change. Shorter days, darkness at five o’clock. Root vegetables and foods that fortify help to stave off the worst of the season as rosé yields to red wine, brandy and spirits, and Trollope replaces beach reading in preparation for the long haul.

Accustomed to the ease and light of summer’s languid evenings, dining close to 10 with hints of lavender in the sky, December not only steals the light, but also dampens the spirit.

Each year the question looms. How to head into this hard season? Mild weather in much of the Northeast this year affords a space in which to consider leisurely the question of whether to march willingly into winter or to dig in, regretting the passing of fall with “what ifs.” To resist or delay, decamp to Argentina, where, after all, it is summer, the question must be faced.

The real issue, of course, is how to be amenable to change, be it the transition to winter, the aging process, or the myriad shifts, alterations and elisions modern life demands.

What’s to be done when mores change and former insiders are relegated to the margins where complaining about “how it used to be done, the right way to twist a chignon, salute a royal, or roast a duck” becomes a consuming passion. Invoking the past may soothe and comfort, but only for a time.

Acceptance of change is a leitmotif of maturity, if not adulthood. Adults adapt — children grow up, go to college, spouses get sick, friends disappoint, marriages fail, parents die. To paraphrase Bette Davis, growing old isn’t for sissies. Neither is change.

Just when the world seems most comprehensible, the words to most songs familiar, the social codes mastered, everything shifts. Where before there had been comfort and knowledge, now only a breadcrumb trail á la Hansel and Gretel can signal the way home. “Tatonner,” the French word, comes to mind — to find the way by touch or groping. Change dictates that the path must be divined anew by slapping the wall with the palm in search of the next doorway.

Why halt before the future? Why be resistant to change? What underlies the fear, the reluctance to begin a new phase, a new season? Most likely fear and anxiety are the culprits. Because to begin anything is to contemplate its end.

How will it end? A common thought. Is there a race to be the first to leave? Far better to leave than be left. As between terminator and terminatee, a strong preference exists for the former. It need not be so.

Whether fast or slow, hurtling or plodding, change is inevitable. The ability to accept it is as crucial as grace itself.

Try this:

Suspend or control anxiety and try flying without worry about falling.

Contemplate less the end or the middle, and try to focus on the present. This requires practice as the mind will revert back to the start or forward to the end or to any other place but the present.

Focus on the immediate. And the present will give way to a new present, a changed scene.  Without conscious resistance, change becomes a way of life.

Nothing works instantly, no matter how well practiced. Breathe deeply through the shortest day of the year, Dec. 21, when the sun will rise at 7:16 a.m. and set at 4:31 p.m. Savor the sunlight, every moment of it, secure in the knowledge that the next day will be a sweet fraction longer.

Faith Childs, a literary agent who lives and works in New York City, is on the board of Women’s Voices for Change.

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