punctuated equilibrium and pizza


A few weeks ago, I sat at my kitchen table with dishes piled high in the kitchen sank and we ate pizza off of paper plates and drank from mismatched wineglasses.
Our kids ran in and out of yards. Drank 23 capri suns and left them laying on coffee tables and counter tops. 
While the kids weren’t looking we ate ice cream straight out of the tub. Even though it wasn’t on everyone’s diet and washed it down with cheap bubbly wine.
The conversation ran the gamut. From marriage to children to parents to work. To just plain silly.

It was just after 5:30 on a Friday which is sacred time for me.  Time I am usually spent from my week and find myself in pjs way too early and scouring netflix. or redbox. or anything that doesn’t require thinking or pants.

But this was better.
Our kids found a trampoline in a nearby yard and bicycles and nerf guns. And we kept talking.
Trying not to look at the clock because we all had other places we were supposed to be.

We used to be just down the hall. Or share a lunch. Or bump into each other in the copyroom. There were no children to take to soccer, basketball, or tball practice.
It was easy, then to be friends. 
So easy we didn’t even realize it.

These days it is still easy.
Just a different kind.
The scheduling is hell. It can take months to end up in the same room. 
Our kids don’t always get along.
We don’t always get along.

But there is no need to put away the laundry or straighten my hair.
Our words are not careful.
They are real. And funny. And hushed. And snarky. And all over the place. And occasionally all at once.

It is this thing that I come back to. Over and Over again.
Back then we were so different we thought. One was the most negative person I knew (and also the most loyal), another was the most positive (and also generous), and the other they said was the funniest (and also me).
But we followed the same bell schedule and had a lot more in common than we realized.
Over a decade has passed and the differences have widened.
We have all moved.
We have all changed.
We have all dyed our hair at least two dozen times.
We have changed churches and doctors and medications and pant sizes.
We have had babies and weddings and new groups of friends.

My husband was trying to tell my son that he grows just a little bit every night. That it is slow and gradual and so subtle that you hardly notice it until your jeans are too short and your toes jam the end of your shoes.
I told him that I thought he was wrong.
That I swear just this week that my daughter grew an inch overnight.
That there is this thing in Biology called punctuated equilibrium. 
It says that most of a time a species doesn’t change much. That it is often in some extended period of stasis, and then suddenly all at once there is rapid change and growth. Occasionally even enough to make it no longer the same thing it started out as.
That things can evolve in spurts and bursts and sudden leaps, rather than slow gradual accumulated steps. These leaps are not random. But they are caused by some kind of pressure on the system.
Climate change, disease, a new form of competition. 
And that people are just the same.
Just with slightly different pressures.

My life feels like it is in some kind of punctuated equilibrium.
That all this change is hitting all at once.
I have spent years feeling like I was in a loop and that the only thing changing was my children.
And suddenly…
I spend the hour between my kids soccer games doing research so I can get my paper done in time rather than chatting with the moms next to me or on my phone.
My garage is piled full of boxes to move into a new home.
Some of the things I used to love doing, aren’t really options for me anymore. 
I updated my resume.
Next year my son will be going to intermediate school.
With bells, class changes, band and bullies.
I have emails, coffee dates and conversations I could not have imagined five years ago. Things I used to hold so tightly seem easier to let go.
Things that used to fit. Don’t anymore. (and I’m hardly talking about clothes).
There is so much that I don’t know in the next five years or even five months that I don’t even pretend to plan. Even though part of me would still like one.

Punctuated equilibrium explains the changes, the pressures and the shifts.
These pressures dictate so much.
But it does not get to decide who I will be and who I will share my time with.
I decide what to keep. What to change. And who to share my pizza or coffee or my heart with.
These days it is one of the few things I get to pick.
My health, my address and my bank account all seem out of my hands at the moment.
Growth and change have to be measured against something constant.
For my kids it is their shoe size and sharpie marks against the doorframe in their room.
My feet don’t grow anymore, and I suppose I grow more out than up.
But there are people and things in my life that are steady and constant and true.
And most of them even laugh at my jokes.

There are boxes to pack. 
There is surgery to schedule.
There are papers to write.
There are kids to take to the pool.
There is pizza on paper plates.
There are spurts and leaps and new equilibriums to find.
And reminders all over the place, that so much can change so quickly.

And some things. Important things. Can stay the same.


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