The Nature of Change
Whilst watching The Office recently Creed said something about the final changes of the episode: “No matter how you get there, or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home”. And this line really stayed with me.
Now, I have recently been undertaking a change myself (hence the long break between my last post). To be honest, I was shit scared, and so as I was watching the office to take my mind off of my upcoming change, Creed’s line felt like divine intervention. That is, if deities decided to communicate solely through American work-based comedies. But who knows, the universe does work in mysterious ways!
And this line got me thinking about the nature of change, and our relationship to comfort. Change is inherently uncomfortable. No matter how exciting or needed it may be, it still involves leaving something comfortable behind. And this step feels like a bit like ripping off a band-aid.
This phrase made me think back to previous situations I had been in, and I realised, that no matter how weird it was in reality, at the time it had felt comfortable. I had accustomed myself, like a lobster who does not realise that they are slowly being boiled. And no matter how shitty I knew a situation was, it always felt hard to leave behind. Not because I would particularilly miss anything, or anyone, but because it was what I knew. Better the devil you know type of thing.
The danger of our comfort zone
And I suppose this is what makes change so difficult. We mistake comfort for something positive.
We fall into negative habits that begin to become our norm. Perhaps we begin to enjoy moaning about the situation, and the fear of starting something new feels too daunting. We have made ourselves at home. And even if this home is shitty, the walls are falling down, the roof is leaking, and the heating doesn’t work, it is just where we live now. We have become accustomed to boiling alive and we don’t even realise it. We have sacrificed our happiness for comfort.
And yet the phrase “No matter how you get there, or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home” reassured me. If I could make myself feel at home in these terrible houses, then what would stop me from feeling at home somewhere new? I had done it once, I was going to do it again, and I am sure I will do it many times more.
Change is a natural and inevitable part of life. We will move, change jobs, break-up, make-up, divorce, marry and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes we are lucky enough to choose the changes in our life, and other times these changes happen to us. Change is a fact of life…like wrinkles and taxes.
However, we can help to make period of change less painful with a couple of steps.
How to handle change with grace.
be kind to yourself
If there anything that has helped me in this period of change it was me being kind to myself. I know big changes make me sleepy and I need more rest than usual, so I was not going to make myself feel bad for not writing in my blog for a while. There is no point is sweating the small things when so much of your energy is being taken up by something big. So maybe going to the gym gets pushed aside for a while whilst you move house, or you order one-too-many takeaways during a break-up. Who cares? This is what your body needs for this moment.
Self-care can mean so many different things to different people. And whatever it means to you, it is so important to engage in self-care activities in periods of change. It is very easy to get so enmeshed in everything that is happening that we forget about our own health. I have certainly had moments with school or work where I have become so busy we I’ve forgotten to eat, or I have chosen productivity over sleep.
You have to look after yourself, you’re important and self-care is the minumum you can you do.
Become solid with your reasoning and decisions
Change can be overwhelming, and at times it feels difficult to keep track of how we are feeling. We feel overwhelmed by the newness of everything, we miss what used to be and we feel fearful of what our future holds. And this is when regret sets in and we begin to wish nothing had changed in the first place.
However, like so many things, writing things down always seems to make everything make so much more sense.
- Start by writing about why you made this change. Maybe it was to pursue a lifelong dream or simply to leave something that was no longer working for you. Write down every reason, no matter how trivial it may feel. For example, I moved city to feel more aligned with the life I want to live.
- Then it’s time to make a list with two columns. In the first column write what your life would be like if you never made this change. For example, if I did not leave this friendship I would continue to allow myself to be disrespected, and this would make me feel bad about myself.
- In the column next to it write what your life will be like after this change. For example, though I may have fewer friends I will only surround myself with people who show me respect and care, and this will improve my self-esteem.
Maybe writing this all down seems a bit much, or a bit cringe, but seeing things in an ordered way side by side can make everything feel a lot clearer than a big mess of thoughts whirling round our head. Ultimately, by writing everything down you are focusing in on your bottom line decisions. So this meansthat when you begin to feel regret or nostalgia for the past you feel clearer on why you made that change in the first place.
keep consistency in other areas of your life
Some changes in our life can be small, like changing our commute. However other changes can be large and disruptive, like breaking-up with a partner. And whilst changing our commute may only take a couple of days to get used to, becoming newly single takes a lot longer to adjust to. This is because these big disruptive changes, unsurprisingly, cause massive ripples of change in the rest of our lives.
Let’s take the example of breaking up with your partner. Not only have you gone from having someone to being newly single, you now may also have to move out of your living arrangement, you may have to reshuffle your shared friendship group, you may want to avoid certain things or areas if you think your ex will be there. It is a massive shift.
However, in times like this, I find it is best to keep as much of the rest of your life as consistent as possible. If you go to a spin class every morning before work, keep on going. Keep on watching that series every evening even if you are by youself. Keep doing your hair even if no-one is there to comment. Your whole life does not have to fall apart just because it has changed.
These things may seem small, and they are, but these tiny activities help to keep that sense of normalcy in our lives. They remind us that our life has not been completely derailed, it has just taken another track. It helps us realise that no matter how wild things may appear, everything is still business as usual*.
*even is business as usual is eating pizza and beer in your pants.
I always noticed that this technique was common amongst long-term backpackers. A new country every couple of weeks is disorientating for anyone, however everyone always seemed to have some sort of routine. Some people travelled with their yoga mats so that they could do their daily yoga on the move, some people rang their family or journaled every evening, and some people even just carried around the same set of cards so they could play with their new companions. It was all about keeping some level of similarity and routine, no matter the environment.
Ride the wave, embrace the change
And in what seems like complete disagreement to my earlier point, sometimes the best thing we can do is embrace the change. Sometimes the best thing to do when you are facing something uncomfortable is to throw yourself into it fully.
Moving to a new city, for example, is hard. You need to learn where everything is, you know no-one, you have to move all your stuff, and you maybe even need to find a new job. All in all, it is a bit of a faff. However, if you stay boxed in your room watched reruns of the office*, you will only achieve loneliness. Afterall, the world will not come to you and your comfort zone cannot be your only friend.
So in these times of change, embrace it, ride the wave. If you are new to the city find some activities to do, go to social events, explore the local area. By pushing yourself into the change rather than hiding away from it, you’ll begin to enjoy yourself and you will remember why you made this change in the first.
I know personally speaking that when I moved to Nicaragua, truthfully, I spent the first couple of weeks miserable and crying. I felt like I had made an awful mistake and regretted ever making this decision. However, I knew I had to push myself to do something. After all nothing could be worse that how I was currently feeling. So as people invited me to do stuff, I went even if I had no interest in the activity, because at least it got me out of the house. And as time went by, and I discovered new interests, made some fantastic friends, and slowly but surely, I fell in love with the country. What I had originally thought of as a regret became the best decision I had ever made. But to make this shift in thinking I needed to push myself into the change.
There was no going back, I had to lean into it. I had to ride the wave.
If there is anything we can expect in life, it is change. Whether we love it or hate it, it is here to stay.
Mindfulness teaches us that we cannot control anything in life other than our reactions and I think this sentiment is important when thinking about change. Though we have chosen a lot of the changes in our life, a lot of other changes have been imposed on us. We cannot stop ourselves or others from aging, or prevent economic recessions or public health crises, and we definitely cannot control how others feel or act. All you need to do is ride the wave of the change and maybe when you get to the other end, you’ll find you are at home once again.
Song of the Day
Today’s song of the day is ‘Fue una de mambo’ by Kelvis Ochoa. Real summer vibes.
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