A few weeks ago, I was in the same room with my mother and my grandmother. Unfortunately, both widows.
I joked around the fact that in my family there are a few widows but no widowers. It looks like women in my family are better equipped for the senior years. And being a male this is not a promising statistic.
Out of curiosity, I checked the national statistics to understand if this is a phenomenon circumscribed to my family. Apparently, It is not. In Italy, the number of widows aged between 55 and 75 is almost five times bigger than the number of widowers.
Yep, one widower every five widows. If you are a married Italian man, I’m sorry mate, but numbers are all in favour of your wife
Women live longer. That’s a fact. I’m not an expert on the topic, and I’m sure Google is full of researches and studies providing reasonable explanations.
However, on the flight back home I didn’t have an internet connection, but I had a lot of time to think. I reviewed the lives of the widows in my family, and I noticed a recurring pattern.
In the course of their lives, they all had to change often.
Take my mum, a woman born in the mid-fifties. When she got married to my father, she was working in a factory. Then she had me, so she started working from home while taking care of her son. Later my sister arrived, we moved to a new house, she became a full-time housewife, she supported us through different schools, a third child came and so on. While we were growing, she had to keep growing with us. In the space of one life, she had to continuously change and adapt to the evolving circumstances of our family.
While she was going through all these changes, my father had been doing the same job day in and day out. Yes, he had to go through the same events, but his life didn’t change much when we arrived or when we move to a new house. He just kept going on with the same work, the same hobbies. Sure, being an entrepreneur, his work was more fickle than many others. Still, he didn’t have to adapt to the changing circumstances as much as my mum had to.
All the women in my family had to learn early in their life to be flexible, to adapt to the circumstances and to not be scared by changes.
At the same time, their men were bastions of stability.
They didn’t have to change much.
Then, their body got older, and they couldn’t do what they used to do anymore. Or they retired. Whatever the reason, at one point they had to change.
And often, while going through that change, they passed away.
I don’t want to come through as judgemental. These men were remarkable husbands and fathers. The grew up in villages that were recovering from an awful tragedy like the Second World War. Everything these men longed for was to create stability for their families. On top of that, a lot of them went from being farmers to become factory workers. Instead of dealing with the changeability of nature, they had to fit into the routine of a tedious job.
While their wives were continually changing and adapting, they were trapped in that same stability they had built. And when circumstances changed too much, they weren’t ready to adapt.
Even worst, they were probably too tired to try.
Everything changes and nothing stands still. — Heraclitus
According to biologists, large parts of our body cells are replaced by new ones every few days. Our red blood cells are completely replaced every four months. Some say that our all body is renewed every seven years.
If there is a constant in nature, that is change.
We are designed to relentlessly transform. So, to stay the same, we must exert a force against the natural flow of life.
A life spent resisting changes creates a constant subtle tension. One that we may not notice on an average day but that, on the long distance, will take a toll on us.
When inevitable changes come our way, we have no energy left neither to resist nor to adapt.
Just to make things clear, I have no data to back up my theories and no evidence except for personal experience. But, observing this pattern in my family made me think. It also gave me a new perspective to look at some events in my life.
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them-that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. — Lao Tzu
I grew up fearing changes and new things.
For the first three decades of my life, I have avoided new experiences as much as I could. I kept eating the same stuff, listening to the same music, going out with the same people.
I was boringly predictable. And you know what? Family and friends loved me for that. I was a fixed point in their lives. At least this is what I thought at that time.
My ex-wife loved that side of me too. I was undoubtedly an immutable partner.
Too much with hindsight. During our years together, while she kept growing and changing, I kept being the same twenty-year-old-guy she had fallen in love with. Those different approaches to life created a growing distance between us.
When that distance became unbearable, a significant change was necessary. Unfortunately, I was stuck in my stability. I didn’t have the energy to change or to resist, and we fell apart.
It was painful. And liberating.
With nothing left to hold together, I found the strength to surrender to change and embrace the transformation.
In the years after, with the help of beautiful friends and masters, I found new stability within constant changes. One that is helping me live in harmony with the universe and the people I love.
In closing, I can’t prove my theory with sound statistics. Though, I believe that being able to transform and change is vital and can make us live longer and better.
So, I don’t know about you, but I’ll keep changing often.
Just in case.
Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash