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Vergänglichkeit

One of my favorite words in the German language, both for how it is pronounced and for what it means. Transitoriness. Things are temporary. Things change.


I first learned about Vergänglichkeit when I took a course on Baroque literature during grad school for my master’s in German. One of the best ways to think about transitoriness is to look at Baroque still life paintings: flowers, fruit, fish or game all looking fresh and lush, but in the midst of that lushness the decay is already setting in. Wilting of leaves or flowers, insects eating the fruit. It is a snapshot in time that shows the process of change.


Change happens all around us, whether we see it or not. Over the last few weeks, daylight has been growing almost imperceptibly, increasing by minutes. This week there will be enough warmth to melt the snow and ice that have covered our lawns and driveways for many weeks.


In our own lives, change also happens slowly. It is often imperceptible. So minute, such little tiny steps that we often don’t see it until enough tiny steps have make themselves known as big steps. This is one way that depression takes hold of us and also how it lifts.


Change doesn’t have to be monumental to affect us. We can take small steps to become more aware of how we are thinking or feeling. Using the breath to ground ourselves in the moment. Pausing to check in with ourselves to notice our progress and to celebrate those tiny steps we are taking.


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