There is no such thing as forever. We’re constantly shape-shifting – getting fatter, getting thinner, getting wiser, getting fitter. Meanwhile trees and plants are growing, buildings are changing, people are coming in and out of our lives, and our moods are constantly fluctuating, like clouds scudding across the sky.
We have a strange relationship with our changing lives. Sometimes we believe in permanence, that things will stay the same. When we’re deep in a hole, in the middle of a crisis, we fear we will never climb out into the light. Conversely when life is going well, we catch ourselves wishing, “please don’t end.”
It’s a peculiar state of affairs – desiring the world to stop when we’re happy and hoping it will speed up when we’re not. Anyone who meditates knows it’s hard to stay in the moment. To be right here, where we are. Instead, we project ourselves somewhere into the future or somewhere back in the past. When we were children, we wished we were older. But now that we are older, we reminisce about when we were children.
I was on the Headspace meditation app recently, watching a video about glass. A permanent thing you’d think. So hard wearing and long lasting that archaeologists find Egyptian glass that’s 5,500 years old. But it’s made from sand – a thing so small and light it’s blown away by the wind.
Sand is everywhere, making up 59% of the earth’s surface, yet it’s a simple thing, created from just two molecules – silicon and oxygen. When heated to a very high temperature silicon turns from a solid to a liquid. Then, when its cooled, it returns to a solid – easily moulded into a thousand different shapes for a thousand different things. Imagine a home without glass – no windows, mirrors, bottles, wine glasses, or shelves in the fridge. Or a car without a windscreen, wing mirrors, rear view mirror, or a sunroof.
Glass can be endlessly reinvented – crushed, heated and changed into something else. According to Headspace – “a process that can be repeated again and again in a perpetual cycle, without the slightest loss in quality or purity.” It’s the same for us too. Whether we’re a beetle, a whale, an oak tree, or a human – we are just like glass. We’re made from molecules that disband when we die and coalesce at the start of life. We dissipate into the earth and reconnect into something new – a fish, a stone, another person. Our outer casings (a bottle or a human body) are fractured and splintered, yet our building blocks, the molecules, remain as they ever were.
And this is the point of the Headspace video. Nothing is permanent, everything is shifting. So, on a difficult day when time feels like it is dragging, know that it will pass. And on a good day? Try to relish it, savour it, make lovely memories, because it will be gone in a flash.
This is part of a series called Spoon by Spoon — a project I’ve run interviewing 100 people going through career, relationship and wider life changes. If you’re looking for support with your own career or life change find out more here.
Photo copyright of Charlotte Sheridan