Change terrifies most people. We are truly creatures of habit and we fear anything that may disrupt our lives or deprive of us the control we seek to maintain over every detail of our individual worlds.
I once participated in an advanced leadership course with the Boy Scouts of America (Wood Badge, for those of you who know). Part of the lessons had to do with change. I remember one of the staff members, Norm, the cook, used to come out of the kitchen at random points during the instruction, always in a funny costume, carrying a sign. One side of the sign said “change happens”, the other side of the sign said “change is good”. He would silently parade across the room showing one side of the sign, then the other. I was self-righteously convinced that I was open to change, adaptive, willing to embrace it whenever it came about. I scoffed inwardly at those who weren’t. What I didn’t really understand was this lesson would apply to far more than who the Scoutmaster of our Boy Scout troop was and what requirements were necessary for this merit badge or that.
Life is full of change, big and small, good and bad. Over the course of the next decade, I learned to accept change, to deal with change, to embrace change and finally, to actively seek change. This is a huge part of my “effort to evolve”.
The interesting thing is, once you learn to work with change, the changes most folks would consider “bad” aren’t actually all that bad. They may seem so at first, but by God, we survive, grow stronger and move on, usually in a much better direction. The changes that most folks would consider “good”, or desired, or wished for, worked for, obsessed over, and manipulated into happening, often end up in the desired effect, temporarily, only to ultimately end in a “bad” change. And, if embraced, that “bad” change ultimately ends up “good”, and more lasting.
Through the events of my life over the past decade, the changes that have occurred, both good (manipulated into happening) and bad (as a result of manipulating the desired changes), I have come to a very important realization; one ought to be very careful what one “asks” for.
Life was exactly what I’d asked for; the realization of many dreams – possessions and a lifestyle. With “getting what I asked for”, the trade off was imprisonment by those possessions, by that lifestyle. My life became all about being able to afford those things, to maintain that lifestyle, to a point where I could not enjoy those possessions, nor that lifestyle. When the inevitable happened and all those possessions and the lifestyle were lost, with a lot of reflection and a bit of discipline, I realized, with great relief, that I was free. The life I’d had before was very much an illusion; those possessions, that lifestyle, did not make me who I was. I identified myself to all as the person with this lifestyle, with these possessions, I was no more than a shelf upon which these acquisitions were displayed for others to admire and make conversation about.
Now, I am far more real, I am more genuine, I am more authentic. I am a work in progress. I am so humbled. I have spent the past few years evolving into a person, a real person, not a mannequin of a certain lifestyle, a living display of a collection of desirable possessions. I am me, just a person. I have been stripped and I relish this freedom, this nudity. And I am very careful what I “ask for”.
And I seek change. There is nothing in my life I don’t leave open to change. I flirt with it. I bathe in it and let it wash over me and hope it makes me a better person, that I learn more valuable lessons from it.
Through the loss of everything, I have become rich. I have also learned that I did not know first, the power of prayer, and second, that I’d been praying all wrong. I asked for “things”, in prayer, and would even justify them, in prayer. And I got them, the desired change. I prayed for the man, the spouse, the job, the house, all of it. Then I got the inevitable “undesired” change, because what I asked for was never meant to last. I think it was meant to happen, if for no other reason than to teach me what was truly valuable in life, part of which is the ability to accept and grow from constant change that I am not usually in control of. Now prayer, for me, consists of nothing more than offering gratitude and affirming who I am.
I find when I am anxious or depressed or in a quandary, it is usually because I am fretting about the possibility of an undesirable change. Once I wrench it out of my mind, let go of it, and stop trying to control it, things usually fall into place, do actually change, and for the better. I have to remind myself that wanting something to not change usually ends up with a worse result. Besides, everything has to change, time changes everything and time cannot be stopped. So, hoping something doesn’t change because currently it is good, doesn’t mean that, as time goes on, it will remain good.
Take a relationship, for example. If currently it is good, so good that you don’t ever want it to change, just fretting about it never changing changes it, puts a strain on it, pressure on it, and this can actually become the catalyst for it to fail. I just finished reading a book, “The Soulmate Experience” by Mali Apple and Joe Dunn. I highly recommend this book, and it taught me so much about change as it relates to relationships. In the course of two weeks, I have totally changed my thoughts and attitudes about change, as it relates to relationships, and I am comfortable and at ease with whatever may change in that relationship. So far, it has only changed for the better.
As my life unfolds, through constant change, I grow and learn and develop. I do seek change, certain, intentional changes, but I don’t “ask” for them, and they certainly don’t consist of “things”. The changes I deliberately try to make, now, are more about developing my health, my attitude, my thoughts, my essence, not my egoic self.
Today I took to the dump the last of the items from two very large storage units. Storage units full of the bits and scraps left over from all that I’d “asked” for, that I’d prayed for. Just junk now, as we speak, being turned into the filthy dirt. The last remnants of that much desired, past life have been discarded and now, I am that much more free. Free to seek change.