Change Makes Cents
I had a dream once about having my house broken into. In waking life, I had just been dumped and was broken hearted. The dream happened while I was away on a spiritual retreat and nursing my pain. In it, I came home and heard the rustle of an intruder in my bedroom. I ran toward it and there was a figure by the window, then just outside, then far away. The curtains flapped in the breeze.
I turned around and saw that a large cup of change I kept had been dumped out on the bed and was spread all over. At first, I assumed it was because I’d been robbed. The intruder had taken the big change and other valuables. But as I looked around the room and took stock, nothing was missing. In fact, not even the change looked to be missing. Instead, it had been organized. All the quarters were neatly stacked, the nickels, the dimes.
A Jungian analyst told me that the dream was a beautiful metaphor reminding me that when I feel taken advantage of and vulnerable, it’s because change moved through. But it didn’t diminish my value. It only reorganized it. I loved that idea then and I love it now.
So when I arrived to Ohio with my son on Wednesday morning and saw some of my family who I hadn’t seen since my wedding a short seven months ago, I felt some discomfort. But I also know that the vulnerability I feel from having already filed for a divorce isn’t what it seems. It isn’t a diminishing of my value. It doesn’t mean that I’m less than my siblings who have been married to the same person for double-digit years.
I’m here only for a couple of days to help my siblings clean out the house that we all grew up in together. My mom lived here for nearly 50 years. She lived here on her own first, then with her first husband, then again on her own with three small children, then with my dad and two more of us. Fast forward 38 years and here we all are, helping her to face the biggest change she’s ever had to face. I helped dig through a single closet in a single bedroom. It took hours just to unpack one packed corner of one closet. We found untold treasures: old report cards, our first drawings, amazing photos, a fantastic Michael Jackson belt that has a picture of his face on the buckle (I got it when I was 10). We found untold horrors: The red and blue windbreaker that my sister was wearing when she had her car accident—the one that they cut from her unconscious and broken body. The first shaky writings she did while still in a coma 4.5 months later that read: “TAKE ME HOME.” We found a thick stack of paper that was a report of all her injuries, including to the pelvis, the brain, the neck, spine, knees, ankles.
I found a couple of letters written between my parents from when we were all little, arguing about the same issue that ended their marriage decades later. And strangely, this comforted me. It made me feel relief that my ex and I had the insight to end our marriage now, despite its newness and the stigma, and save ourselves decades of forcing our relationship to be what other people expect it to be. Even long after that phase of it had ended.
A wise friend said something startling while I was feeling some unnecessary shame about it. She said, “I don’t care if my last relationship is three months old, I’m going to die happy.”
And even though I know that a significant partner’s function isn’t to deliver my happiness, I also know that my happiness is the first thing to get sacrificed when I am not being true to myself. When I am not walking and living in my truth, in spite of the judgments that will inevitably come.
At the end of the day, late into the evening, we were still up there going through everything. My sister unfolded a piece of paper, read a few lines, dropped her hands down, sighed, and said, “this house is so heavy.”
It’s true. This house is dense with artifacts that chronicle five decades of life lived within its walls. All we came across today barely scratches the surface.
And the ubiquitous item being excavated among everything else: change. Lots and lots of cents. I’ve had to rescue more coins from nearly going into my son’s mouth than I can count. It’s filled my pockets. Filled jars. And that metaphor is not lost on me. When I say change makes cents, it’s a pun that is not only intended but is for the purpose of illuminating the inherent value that shakes out of every crack in every surface getting broken up by the rumble and storm of great change moving through. All of this change, all of this excavation, it’s bleeding with value.