Years ago, when I was attending grad school and living in Germany, I heard German scholars and foreign policy experts ask a question that stuck with me ever since. Always practical, the Germans boiled down tough decisions on European security and economic issues into one question: will there be continuity or change?
Here we are, worlds away from that question as it emerged in terms of Germany's modern history. And here we are, worlds away from all our former lives, away from our "befores." And still the question is one I ask at every crossroads: will the most good result from continuity or from change?
To be sure, there will be continuity and change in all our lives. It just feels like more of an imperative with the start of a new year. Should we choose the way things have been or the way things could be? Is the best choice to press forward or to adjust course? Are we able to keep what works, or will we "throw the baby out with the bathwater" in our haste?
Truly, the question of the season is when each should occur. The new year, and its associated resolutions, is a time for turning that choice over in our minds. What is working for us that we will continue? What changes do we need to make to live fuller, richer lives?
As we grieve, the need for continuity drives us to look beyond the physical body, to embrace love that doesn't stop when life does. We figure out how to keep going, how much of the old life is "still good," and how much of ourselves we have pulled forward into new realities.
As always, whether in foreign policy, grief or resolutions at the New Year, the question is what endures, what we can sustain, what parts continue.
Yet, grief forces change. We're never ready for the brutal twist, the moment the ball drops, the loss of comfort, safety and what we know. Change comes unbidden. It shocks the system.
How ironic that the drastic changes wrought by grief may also challenge us to consider whether we are working to create lives that honor the legacy of our loved ones. Is your life bold enough? Are you satisfied with where you are? How are you using valuable time?
Even as we grieve and mourn, change can be proactive, driven, empowered.
We can resolve to live a little bigger, eliminate toxic influences, or leave behind crippling regrets and open ourselves to imperfect grace.
Change should not just be something that happens to us; it should be something that is possible - a way to create the lives our heroes wanted for us.
If you've hit your stride and you're feeling this sense of powerful movement, maybe you just need to keep working your plan. Let's be strong in celebrating what's working for us and how we have coaxed a sense of accomplishment to rise from a sense of destruction.
At the same time, nagging restlessness or dissatisfaction calls us to ask whether or not the status quo is serving us well. Are we being deliberate, insightful and purposeful? Or are we simply going through the motions? What do you need to continue the mission - continuity or change?
The questions of continuity and change will be present with us this entire holiday season. We will move through traditions we can still bear without loved ones. We will also confront, even if slowly, what will no longer be the same.
I believe that the link between continuity and change is what allows us to bridge the divide between what remains and what doesn't. Change does not erase what has come before it unless it needs to do so.
Let TAPS help serve as the connection between what endures and what passes. When mourning how much has changed, remember what won't. Loving them allows us to carry them forward. Let us move fearlessly into the changes that have to happen, knowing that living their legacy is the most powerful continuity.
Cheers to what has been and what will be,