“WE STEP AND DO NOT STEP INTO THE SAME RIVERS, WE ARE AND WE ARE NOT.”
Even for the few days August has arrived, she has come with a heat all on her own. She leads many to porches and backyards, eager for a breeze and fighting off the mosquitos that are desperate to take their land back. In many ways, August is as she always was. My birth month, a time of preparation for back to school, the last wave of heat before September knocks on the door but invites himself in anyway.
Here is a new quote for a new month: “we step and do not step into the same rivers, we are and we are not.” I love the parallelism here, the same pattern of the sentence repeats, and even if the words do not capture you like they do me, it’s a wonderful sentence nonetheless.
The river and I are the same.
We are the same bodies, our shapes haven’t changed. We were born the way we always were – me on a Monday, the river as a tiny slope collecting rainwater flowing and becoming. My parents are the same as they ever were. Loving me, feeding me, endlessly providing for me.
And yet we are not. Our cells change every 7 years. We grow taller. Our faces shift and adjust, readying themselves for adulthood. We mature. Through high school, college, and beyond, we collect a lifetime of experiences that shifts our character, our desires, our skillset, and our trajectory.
Change can feel utterly intangible. When you’ve spent ages inside of your own home, venturing out to wander the grocery store aisles or pick up toilet paper and clorox wipes, it’s hard to feel that much progress has been made. When business as usual means opening your laptop for the workday and shutting it off when the checklist is clear, it’s a wonder we find any strength to move through our days.
The same routine, the same friends, and the same job can leave us feeling stagnant. It’s not that they aren’t good things. But our neglect of novelty leaves us wanting more and uncertain about where to find it.
At other times, change can feel incomprehensible. It is all around us. It is when the state shut down for lockdown, It is the cancellation of the trips you were looking forward to. It is the murder of George Floyd and the riots that commence. All at once, it hits and we find it astonishing.
Maybe you dream about that kind of change. The one that takes you from a dingy airport halfway across the world to back roads in foreign tongues and foods you’ve never even dreamed of. The one you bump into when you are the only one of your kind around, but your nationality is something to be forgotten because you are learning from new people about their ways – from their kindness, from their gentleness.
I dream of it too. That change was once in my grasp until it was knocked down to make way for a global pandemic.
We are and we are not.
I am no longer at 6 year old singing on stage to my teachers and classmates’ parents. I am 19, almost 20, learning what it is to reach for dreams that seem impossible.
And the river is not what it once was. It is not a stream, no longer one of many. It is its own – a body of water capable of many things. To give rest, to give joy, to give sorrow, to give remembrance.
You may wonder what there is to hold steady. If we are always as we are and we are not, we must hold steady the ability of the wind, to drift in and to go. That life is transitional. Many things are always in flow.
That’s not to say that everything is temporary. Some friendships are for a lifetime, others are for a season. We spent our days learning inside and outside the classroom. We continuously accumulate knowledge. We age.
Instead of trying to grasp onto something you cannot hold, take each moment as it comes. Some may be better than others. The clouds rolling in the sky after a long day of work, a delicious lunch to break up the workday, a drive to get away and see something new for a while.
Some are just a part of our new reality. A bone tiredness at the neverending routine of staying inside. The walk to the kitchen when you haven’t slept well and you need caffeine. Flipping channels because nothing entertains you anymore. Running out of hobbies to test out the longer you’re at home.
Each moment is a part of our existence. It is a part of stepping into the river again and never stepping in. The you that is unchanged and the you that is forever changing.
As our feet get wet, we must accept that the toes that touch this river have touched it once and never will again. The moments, though they may repeat, never happen quite the same. Life is novelty and routine, wrapped up in this thing we call human existence.
Appreciate what there is and what there is to come. Give yourself to live fully in each moment.
What rivers have you stepped into lately? Have you changed? Or are you the same?