I read a book once. To qualify this statement you must understand that I probably read around twenty books a month. Reading this many books means that I can’t remember the particular details about any one book but rather only the general theory the book is referencing. It doesn’t make reading any less enjoyable, it just means that I often have to read some of my favorite books more than once.
About five years ago I read a book about change; personal change. I remember the book because it wasn’t about the positive of change. It wasn’t about this great journey one is on when they decide to change. It wasn’t about being a better you. Rather the book looked at change as a necessary part of human life but a rather difficult and oftentimes destructive part of human life.
Change in the general sense is considered a wonderful thing; something that makes us better and more rounded. But what few wish to acknowledge is the consequences of change. And there are difficult and oftentimes horrible by-products and events that start and end with the change one is trying to accomplish. It isn’t roses but more often thorns that make change not only possible but hard won. And change, great change, should be hard won.
Does this mean we shouldn’t change; or at least make changes in our life? Very few people want to make major changes in their lives, I would argue, because there is an instinctive knowledge of the pain that accompanies it. I think of my family and all the things that they could change but don’t; simply because our egos and our self-preservation says don’t do it. It is harder to make yourself better than it is to simply understand the consequences of staying the same.
Think of the drug addict who must change in order to live for her family. It is perfect symbolism for what change does to us. First you must decide that you are going to do it fully aware of how painful it may be. Then you must lie in bed and allow the drugs to ravage your body in its attempt to hold onto what has been for so long. Then every day afterwards you have to find the strength to continue to live a life of change and not return to what is so obviously a greatness for you. This strength comes not from God, not from outside influences, not even from your own family, but rather from the unnamed source of hope that lives so far inside of you that most times it can be silenced with a single thought.
All change mimics this horror. If you think that going from drug addict to functioning human being is easy, I got beach front property to sell you. Change may have different pain depending on what you are trying to change and who it affects but there is simply no way to accept the reality of it without accepting this pain.
The pain of change often reminds me of bumper cars. You sit in your little red car with a simple wheel and one pedal, with sparks flying around you, and ram yourself into other people’s lives. It may cause whiplash or physical pain, but in our story it also causes emotional pain. It causes confusion and misunderstanding; these little changes we decide to chase in our lives like we do those other cars. We bump into them in the hope that by throwing them back into their seats they will not only see what we are doing but actually acknowledge what we are doing. The truth is, most of the time, change isn’t recognized in anyone but the person who is changing. The rest of the world is so predicated to remember the person they believe that you still are that they can’t see any of the small movements you are making to change.
Change comes in small parts. Often those parts are so small that they are not seen by the very people we are desperate to obtain that little bit of confidence and pride from. We want the people we are trying to make changes for to not only acknowledge what we are doing but to give us their pride; to give us that feeling that we have become more worthy of the pride that our other selves could not have. But the battle isn’t simple. The battle isn’t a strategic campaign that would have made Hannibal proud. Instead it is a battle that has to be so personal so as not to be destroyed.
When we don’t get what we need from the people we are closest to the let down can be depressing and hurtful. When we don’t get that understanding that who and what we are is a constant fight of change, we are often hurt. When we don’t get the feeling that our changes are worth the paper they are written on, it is almost impossible for the average person to continue on that path. We need acknowledgment in our life. We need to have others who are proud of us in our life. We need love and happiness in our life. But these feelings, like the thousands like it, must travel past egos, memories, and one’s own selfish desire to be the one noticed. It is two people bumping their cars together and neither one giving any recognition for the reason. What’s that old saying, “two ships passing in the night”? The ships are full of life, pain, the past, experience, and dreams; and while they may find in themselves an ability to love, they will always be their own ship.
I often forget that those around me are their own ships. I am so desperate for the need to feel good about the changes I have been making in my own life, that I forget to remember that no one save my therapist can actually see it. Despite the great works to change what is fundamentally a problem in my life, others are so interested in their own worlds that mine lays to the wayside. And it doesn’t matter that I am sick. It doesn’t matter that I am mentally ill. It doesn’t matter that change for me is a suicidal attempt that rarely lasts past the first test. It doesn’t matter to the universe and it doesn’t matter to those I am closest to.
Does this mean that I stop trying to change? Does this mean that my old habit of reacting before thinking should be brought back because I can’t get the notice I am waiting for? Does this mean that I should stop trying to be a better person by not going off the handle on the littlest of frustrations? And simply wait and calm before reacting?
The truth is, I know what I need to change. I have to learn to take a breath before I react to something that my mother, my husband or even my children do and say. I have to learn to look at it in a dispassionate view so that I can make sure I am not doing more damage than can be recovered from. This is the change I must complete. And it is a change that will take months, if not years, to become standard; the ability to stop and not react even though your frustrations, your anger, your unjustifiable entitlement, is pushing you in direction that is simply wrong.
Will I stop this change? I may. There may be a day when it is simply easier to be what the world thinks that I am rather than be the person I am trying to be. I am not an altogether strong person. I am not altogether good at fighting by own self. And I am not altogether able to pull myself back from the ledge; sometimes it is simply easier to jump.
Change requires strength, both in muscle and brain power. It takes the knowledge that you have to do something despite the fact that not only does no one actually think you are capable of it but the fact that no one, even those you need it most from, sees it. Change also requires one last ingredient: the sure knowledge that at the end of the day it will be the thorns in your skin rather than the rose in your hand that lasts.