To many people, change is that jingly stuff that we collect from the doohickey at the grocery store when we pay with cash, then sometimes dropped into a jar at home…maybe with the quarters fished out to set aside for laundry. It’s not something they do. changes changes
But take those same people, and ask them if they’re satisfied with life, if they’re happy, and like they feel like they’re heading into what they want, the majority will likely say “no”. But suggest they do something about it, and you’ll be met with a shrug, or even an open gaze of confusion. Maybe even the question, “But what’s the point?”
Change to our lives, to ourselves, is not easy. It’s sweaty, dirty, frustrating work that’s sometimes the equivalent of cleaning up an old oil spill in a dusty, spidery, dark corner of a basement or attic. In other words: gross and scary.
But our lives — our inner lives — are where we live the most. And most of us prefer to have our living space free from muck, dust, grime, old spiderwebs and the spiders themselves. Our external lives might be like the external area of that home: well-manicured. But we don’t live on our lawns. And because it’s a big, scary task to clean up our inner living space, we let it go. Because there will always just be more dust and spiders, right?
I once had a client say, the desperateness in his voice vivid, “I want things to be different, but I don’t want to make any changes.”
It nearly an hour to get him to understand how impossible that was. He absolutely could not understand that a different life meant making changes.
I tried every single metaphor I could think of, every single angle and line of gentle questioning to get him to see what he was saying…and his desperateness grew, until suddenly he got it. I think what finally made it clear was when I said, “That’s like saying you want to be wearing different clothes, but you don’t want to change them. You can’t have on a different outfit if you don’t change what you’re currently wearing.”
Change, when it comes to our lives and circumstances, can seem daunting.
Not in the least bit feasible. Maybe useless and stupid.
I’ve had people say, “Well, this is the way things have always been, so what’s the use of changing?” Luckily, as a human race, we haven’t adopted that stance as rigidly as some individuals can. Otherwise we would have died out somewhere along the way.
Sometimes change doesn’t happen until it’s forced upon us. I’ve personally gone into inevitable change kicking and screaming (metaphorically, that is. I think.)
But, even then, someone still may not make the necessary adjustments. I’m thinking of people who are diagnosed with diabetes, but make no changes to their lifestyle and diet, even after they have had two feet amputated. Or the man my father knew who went on cholesterol medication and declared, “This means I can eat whatever I want!”
In some cases, the lack of change is about self-belief. Self-confidence. Self-love and self-compassion. Even the sense someone doesn’t have control over their lives.
Maybe they leave it up to others to make all decisions; I sometimes deal with clients who call or email me who want me to tell them what gym to join, or what book they should buy to read next — because I’m the “expert”. And I can be met with an enormous amount of resistance — even anger — when I reply it’s up to them as it’s all about what they feel would be best.
I understand that way of thinking.
I’ve been so lost in my own life that I turned to other people to put things right for me again — but I also wound up feeling even more unhappy. I had to realize — really realize — way down deep that I had to make the choices and decisions for myself. I had to make the changes, and it was really tough work. Really tough. And the level of toughness it can be does make it easy to give it up and/or adopt the, “What’s the point?” perspective.
There was a moment, maybe six years ago, when I was in the throes of such enormous mental and emotional upheaval and overwhelm from all the personal, emotional work I was doing that I felt like it was literally crushing me.
I remember sitting down on the lid of my toilet, head in my hands, my body, mind, spirit, soul and heart feeling like they were breaking into a million pieces under the aching pressure. As if all the grief of the world was pouring into me and it was my responsibility to care for it. But how could I care for it when I had no understanding of it?
And I remember thinking, very clearly, as I sank down onto the toilet, face in my hands, I…can’t…do this…anymore…!
Even now, as I think back to that moment, I feel a deep remnant of an ache in my chest and the want to cry.
I felt so beaten down, so tested, so tired, so incredibly thin inside, and like I had always been in that state, and that I always would. I honestly couldn’t see an end. In that moment, the pain went on into infinity (and beyond, as Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story would say.)
I closed my eyes, and before me I saw a shimmering scene that seemed made entirely of glistening light that had all the hues and shining of thousands of rainbows running through it; but it also seemed like I was looking at something real, not out of energy.
Spilling out before me two roads heading into a vast city that looked both enormously ancient, as well as existing in a future state so far into the plausibility of calendars, the concept of time was lost. It glistened against a night sky (but at the same time, it was also day), as if it were made of amorphous crystalline, star-white oil, but was also as solid as a stone pillar cut from granite. It was both translucent and not.
One road looked/sensed/felt shorter…easier. Into a less-complicated area of the city. It felt comfortable and filled with relief and softness. But it also felt less-satisfying. Less complete. I felt like if I went that route, I’d find far more companionship, more things I wanted sooner.
The other route was longer, winding more intricately into a far denser, more complicated area of the city. That route felt lonelier, longer to reach the goals the other route promised lickety-split, harder, harsher…but far more satisfying and complete.
I realized the vision was a choice.
Maybe by my own higher self, maybe by the Universe, maybe by God, maybe by some other force. I don’t know. All I can say is that it felt like there was a power — both separate from me, and also in me — presenting me with this scene…and a choice. I could either go down the easy route to my right, or the harder one to my left. And I also knew that once I made my choice, there was absolutely no going back. It would be permanent.
Not only would the door shut, it would disappear.
I tried stepping down the shorter path, but it felt wrong, as if a current of energy began running through me in the wrong direction. Turning down the other path, and it felt perfect, but it was also daunting. A few more more steps down the other path — and realized I didn’t want that path. At all. It was as appealing as if someone offered me a sandwich made from old shoes and sludge dredged up from the bottom of a diesel engine.
And so I chose the path to the left. The harder one.
Suddenly, I felt something shift in me. I
t was something like the scene in Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf sorts out what route to take because the air wasn’t “as foul” as the other choices. It was still dark, and I still had no idea where I’d come out…just a vague notion…but I could sense something fresher. And…I didn’t feel as crushed by the weight anymore.
I can’t say things go easy after that…but they did get easier. Resisting the choices no longer felt necessary. Nor did I feel torn anymore. I began finding new routes and ways to create understanding for my path. Ways to chuck out what I didn’t need in that Universal dumptruck delivery (I realized I’d been given so much so I could choose what I wanted and needed, what fit me best — a gift of free will), and to sort out what did.
Neither choice was right, neither was wrong.
It’s merely a choice that feels right in that moment. And that’s okay. And the other thing is, only they know which was the more challenging direction. From the outside, it’s easy to say, from our own perspective, which was harder and which was easier — but, in truth, only the person making the choice knows which is which for them.
Because the thing is, you can’t know what choice you’ll make until you’re faced with it yourself. You may think you know what you’d do — but you don’t. And you won’t until you’re smack in the middle of it. And, even still, your experience, your reasoning of it cannot compare to someone else’s because you are wholly separate people with wholly separate backgrounds. You cannot know how someone feels, even if you’ve had the same experience. You can have an understanding, but you cannot know.
All that matters is how that direction’s journey plays out once the choice is made — how the person will use that moment’s choice to their benefit…or against themselves. If there’s regret, it can be a powerful incentive to really make the most out of the choice.
Quitting isn’t always the weakest choice — it’s just what felt right in that moment. And, sometimes, what you’re “quitting” is actually an ineffective route and you’re making a more effectual choice.
It’s a choice of going in another direction that feels better in that moment. And then it’s about understanding/realizing/accepting it after that, and making focused choices in the aftermath to blossom down that path. Can that choice come with regrets? Sure. But don’t beat yourself up about a choice you’ve made. You made the best one you could in that moment. The only reason it feels “wrong” now is due to hindsight.
Why you made a choice doesn’t always matter. But if you feel understanding is needed, then spend time with it. Especially if it feels like it’s a pattern in your life that keeps forcing you to retrace your steps. (But, to that, consider this: What if the understanding were simply that there is no understanding? Personally, I like that. Because then that’s less “stuff” I have to process and integrate.
The point I’m making here is that unless you make a change in the choices you make, you’ll end up down the same dead-end path. It may have different houses on it, buildings and walls…but it’s still the same one.
Change can only happen if you change your choices. But, perhaps even more importantly: You have to realize you DO have different choices.
Making them can lead to “long dark nights of the soul” — absolutely. But there is always a dawn, and the view always gets better and better. Change doesn’t always belong in your pocket or in that change jar sitting on the floor of your closet. Most — or perhaps much — of the time. Instead, it belongs in your heart and your mind. changes changes changes
Meaning: Mind your choices so you can get to the heart of the matter. changes changes changes
But what road you choose doesn’t matter. Left is not right, and right is not left — so much in that you choose one. And then it’s all about the journey and what you choose to make of it. changes changes changes
Questions? Comments? Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, leave a comment below or feel free to start up a conversation in the discussion forum. changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes changes