THE FEAR OF CHANGE
“Change may not seem an exciting prospect for many but it is the fresh linen on your bed, the ointment on your wound, it’s the new perspective on things as they were and not how you believed them to be.”
Good morning or (if you’re reading that at a different hour) good……… fill in the blank.
So how are you feeling today? It’s been a while since I last wrote so how’s life been treating you? Good? Bad? Ugly? And what’s changed over the past month, anything major?
This week I took delivery of my new pride and joy; 28 inch all in one touch screen PC. Now, there’s no doubt that, even despite much of my ‘stuff’ being stored in the cloud, I did experience quite a few frustrating compatibility issues, the likes of which I shall not bore you with. Add to that, seemingly made-for-dwarfs cordless keyboard, and I confess that the move from my laptop to this beautiful machine could probably have gone better. It was undoubtedly a painful transition and one I wouldn’t particularly want to repeat.
On the other hand, the big screen and the ability to ‘feel’ my way around my work adds a whole new dimension on productivity that I absolutely love.
Of course, the changes have meant that I’ve been temporarily distracted from work on COMING UP FOR AIR but it was nothing major, I’m write (see what I did there?) back in the swing of things, and delighted to report that I’m progressing well albeit with some mixed emotions, literally.
Writing the manuscript has meant that I’ve had to revisit chapters of my own life (if you’ll excuse the analogy) that I thought had been well and truly closed, it has been enlightening to say the least, and the journey is far from over.
However, whilst the process may well resemble a scene from The Godfather “Just when you try to get out, they pull me back in again”, it’s also helping me see just how far I have come over the past decade. The person I used to be, how vulnerable I allowed myself to be back then versus the person I am today.
Love it or loathe it, change happens to all of us, moving homes, our jobs. Even the climate is changing, technology, and the world we live in is constantly evolving. And here I was going to borrow from the old adage about certainty, in that the only things that are constant are death and taxes but even they are subject to relentless shift of time; tax bands change and advances in the prolonging of the average human lifespan happen and have been happening for years.
Readers of this blog will know that last December we hosted a major Christmas ball here at Casa Bella. Prior to the event, I sent out a questionnaire to guests asking them for some personal details about themselves such as habits and fears (this information was going to be used for events during the evening). It was fascinating reading about the rituals of some of my friends, rituals that I wasn’t privy to until that time.
So, how do you feel about your routines? What happens if somebody or something changes them? What happens when you travel and you don’t have all the comforts of home to surrounding you during your morning ritual? Unaffected? Unsettled? Or do you freak out?
Like it or not, humans are creatures of habit and whilst there’s nothing wrong with this reassuring Groundhog Day existence there isn’t anything particularly right about it either, it’s just that, existing.
But what if we could exist by experiencing the world as we know it in completely different way? What if a new perspective, change could open up a whole new dimension in how we interact with the people close to us?
I once read an article in Psychology Today. In it the author, Thomas J Scheff, tells his own personal story about how, on one of the journeys with his wife, a bereavement counselor, they once opted to fly drive rather than just fly (as had always been the habit).
Scheff said that journey pretty much started as he expected, with a lot of moaning. It took them five days to travel various states by car when they could have made the journey in hours by plane. The big difference being that, during the journey, Scheff and his wife talked. They visited many subjects one of them (given his wife’s profession) was death!
Yes, perhaps not the happiest of subjects but clearly one that he knew his wife would approach in a practical and logical kind of way. The point being here is not so much the subject matter but more about the result. Scheff states that what actually happened is that the couple started talking about a whole array of subjects and how they both felt about them.
Their road trip turned into a real journey of discovery, of themselves and each other, and it carried on well into their everyday life routine.
Some change is deliberate, some is foisted upon us but change may tamper with our insecurities, scare us out of our comfort zone but it isn’t always for the worse.
One of the things I like to do during my writing process, you could call it a routine, is to sometimes check my theories to see if somebody else has written about the same thing and what their perspective is on the matter. During this process I came across a website called tinybudha.com. There, the author writes about the positive aspects of change and since I whole heatedly agree, since they match my own, I’ve included some of the positive elements of change below:
- Personal Growth – We learn something new every time something changes. Not unlike Scheff above, their decision to drive rather than fly opened up a whole new dialogue in their relationship.
- Flexibility – Frequent changes makes us much more adaptable to new environments, new people, as a result we’re less likely to feel intimidated by change.
- Improvements – Some of us would like to see it and some don’t particularly care either way but most would enjoy to see improvements in our lives; job, finances, etc. In order to see improvements, we need to embrace change.
- Life Values – Change helps us stop and evaluate those things that matter to us and see them from a different perspective from the everyday routine.
- Snowball Effect- Big changes well and truly push us out of our comfort zone. That’s why small regular changes make the whole experience much more manageable.
- Strength – One of the biggest themes in COMING UP FOR AR is that we don’t all lead a fairy tale existence and that sad, painful things do happen. These things however are what make us stronger and better equipped for the future.
- Progress – Change triggers progress. And I know that some pessimists will say here that progress isn’t always made with change and that sometimes we take a retrograde step. True, but even this is good as we learn what works and what doesn’t!
- Opportunities – Again, big theme in Coming Up For Air is that in order to be exposed to new opportunities, we need to put ourselves out and expose ourselves to something new, we need to stretch!
- New Chapter – Change is about closing one chapter and, hopefully, opening another much more exciting and rewarding one.
So, there you have it. Change isn’t always all bad as much as it may seem that way.
Still not convinced?
I know, change is easy, it’s the unknown that can absolutely terrify.
I have a friend who keeps flip flopping on whether or not to change her job (yes you know who you are). For months now she’s been talking about the industries in which she’d be much better suited and why she wants to move on.
However, she appears incapable of taking the plunge because she’s terrified of the unknown! And quite rightly so but, as I’ve already discussed with her, it’s not a question of whether or not it’s a good idea anymore but more a question of when since it’s clear to me that she has already made her decision.
Yes, change isn’t easy for some. We’re human beings, as such we like and need our routines to maintain a sense order and control in our lives, hence why not many of us take kindly to having that sense of order disrupted.
But change does have a way of happening when we least expect it, the only question is, will you be ready?
I’m often asked (and I know I’ve mentioned this before) how I’m able to see things about people that nobody else can see. My stock answer to that is the difference between everybody else and me is that ‘I want to see.’ I have no special skills other than I want to understand the people I interact with the best I can. And that doesn’t mean I do a whole psychological assessment on my friends each time I meet them for coffee but it means that they’ll get my undivided attention so that if they tell me that everything is okay but it really isn’t then I’ll notice it.
I’d like to think my good friends notice that about me also.
We see the things we want to see and ignore those uncomfortable truths for that very reason, they’re uncomfortable.
Like my friend above, she knows the answer to her professional dilemma, whether or not to move is no longer the question, the actual question is when, and that comes right after she steels herself to the terror of change and manages to reconcile the uncomfortable truth.
I’ve lost count of the amount of people that have shared their relationship stories with me and told me that ‘everything changed suddenly. One day everything was fine and the next…”
But sometimes we know more than we think. We just choose, often subconsciously, to ignore it because the alternative is just unfathomable.
In Coming Up for Air, I write about ‘empty chair syndrome’. Empty chair is that phase in which, after being separated from someone, often traumatically, we find ourselves dealing with the anguish of loss which is all too often exacerbated by constant reminders of that person. The literal empty armchair, the empty passenger seat and the seatbelt that still smells of their fragrance, the empty place at the dinner table, the empty bed next to us. Empty chair burrows a deep cavernous hole that no matter the length of time, the distraction, or how much we evolve, is always there.
But then there is what I call ‘phantom empty chair’. This is when we believe we miss someone because we loved them but really what we’re missing is ‘the habit’ of them. The morning rituals before work, the evening rituals at home, the places we used to visit together, and even what they’d say about a particular event or subject.
I have witnessed this many times over the years. I’ve seen people totally devastated by loss. However, upon further analysis I’ve discovered that what they were grieving is not the loss of the partner but that of the ritual, the habit that they had become together. They suffered not the loss of their companion but the comfort blanket of what they knew versus the cold shower of change.
“Is it actually them you’re missing or the routine?” I’d ask. Some have been affronted by the question because it seemed I was questioning the validity of their feelings (which you could say I was).
“Of course I miss them” is the stock answer.
So I ask that they follow the usual and basic simple rule of two columns; good on one side and bad on the other. All too often (in the case of a separation), the bad outweighed the good. Again, digging deeper, we discovered they actually felt feelings they didn’t even know existed. That’s because, once again, we’re human beings and, as such, we’ll often bend and or even fabricate feelings that match how we believe we ‘should’ be feeling.
A good example of that is me.
My relationship ended so abruptly and so painfully that I went through a whole rollercoaster of emotions, most of them negative. For years after, the negative is all I could remember, and it’s what would feature in the recounting of the story to others.
Yet, a few weeks ago, whilst researching myself for Coming Up For Air, I watched several hours of home movies that I made with my ex (no, not of that variety). In them, I met two complete strangers. I didn’t view any of the drama, any of the disagreements, the arguments, the threats, recriminations or tears, what I did see was love. Incredulously, I was watching a love story between two people, and I just happened to be one of the protagonists.
It wasn’t until I watched those videos that I understood just how much I had changed over the years, and just how negatively I viewed the whole of our six years together. It’s only when I decided to feature my own story in this manuscript and approach the story in a constructive way, from a writer’s perspective, knowing that the story would need a beginning, a middle and an end that I realised that there was a beginning and it was beautiful.
What I also realised is that I think I knew there was a longevity to my relationship, the details of which you’ll read when the book is published but I didn’t really want to see it and I had lulled myself into a false sense of security so that when the time came I wasn’t ready for it. This was then further exacerbated by the particular set of circumstances in which events unfolded, the result was a story that is indeed stranger than fiction.
Change may not seem an exciting prospect for many but it is the fresh linen on your bed, the ointment on your wound, it’s the new perspective on things as they were and not how you believed them to be.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ― Neale Donald Walsch
Have an eventful Sunday 🙂
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