At the beginning of yoga on Monday, the teacher announced that she wanted the day’s class to be about Change. She shared a little bit about the difficult relationship she has with change and encouraged us to think about what we do when we are confronted with it – do we resist it or do we allow it to move through us?
I didn’t and don’t need much time to contemplate my answer to that question— I’m 100% not good with change. I like plans. I like knowing what’s coming. And if something is going to change, I like to know in as far advance as possible so by the time it happens, it doesn’t really feel like change anymore, but rather “part of the plan”.
So of course when this year began with a large part of my social life being upended in one night, I handled it with grace and aplomb— except for I didn’t. I still am not. The simple use of the word “aplomb” in that sentence should have been a dead giveaway. Full disclosure: I’m wrestling with how much to share here because while on the one hand I want to be vulnerable, on the other hand I think it’s important to protect one’s own confidentiality. I’m also very aware of how easy it would be for this to turn into an indulgent, melodramatic transcript of my life, which nobody wants, so I’ll try to avoid that. But here we go.
Okay so yeah, the start of the year brought with it a lot of change, and it wasn’t great. I ended up losing my life group and what felt like several important relationships to me in one fell swoop. I felt powerless— I feel powerless—and this whole year has been a clumsy and sometimes painful dance of reorientation. Often I find myself wanting to go “back”, wishing it was last August, or wishing it was last summer—some time before all the shit hit the fan. Which makes sense right? When the present is hard and the future is inscrutable, of course we desire to go back. To revert to the way things were before whatever change we perceive to have ruined everything transpired (“#MakeAmericaGreatAgain”).
But the first important thing to understand about life and change is that there is no going back. Whatever happened has happened and the past is gone (are you listening, Donald Trump?) Even if you were able to recreate it somehow in the present, it is literally impossible to make it the same. Forward is the only way through anything and there is still progression in “regression”. When you’re dealing with a difficult or painful change, that can be a really harsh reality. But its harshness makes it no less real.
Second thing I’m learning about Change is that it is extremely humbling. A reminder that Life is not under your control, maybe you don’t actually know what’s best for yourself or anyone else, and you are very much in over your head. But in letting change happen rather than resisting it, we can experience freedom alongside that humility. Recognizing our limitations and constraints gives us permission to relax and, for lack of a better phrase, let it ride. Every day as I walk into work, I pass by a car with a bumper sticker that says “Love more, fear less. Float more, steer less”, and every day I am convicted. Being “good with change” requires a tremendous capacity to trust in the present and relinquish control of the future, both of which I am naturally terrible at. But it sounds nice right? Allowing ourselves to be swayed, flexible, and open. Allowing change to move through us like a river through a valley, taking some old things with it, leaving some new things behind. You’d think because I came up with such a peaceful metaphor I’d be better at handling the real thing. Nah.
Of course there are those people who seem to naturally bode with change— feathers consistently unruffled, always wearing shirts that say shit like “chill vibes” or have peace signs on them or something. For the rest of us, being good with change is like everything else: a practice. And it’s hard. I think when we do learn to accept change, it makes us better people. We become softer, less reactive, more contemplative, less presumptuous, less self-important. But the road there can get pretty rough, at least I know I’ve had a rough fucking year. And I don’t know when it’s going to be less rough. Adapting is a skill that takes real concerted effort. If you’re in the middle of a comprehensive change process right now too, I mean, the best I can offer is encouragement. Or condolences. Either way man, you’re doing it and you should go get a drink and cheers to yourself.