For the last few years I have been seeking change and growth like a madman.
Physical, spiritual, intellectual, geographical, emotional. Basically any kind of ‘ical’ or ‘al’ that makes me feel like I’m expanding myself, opening myself up to all the experiences the universe has to offer, I’m chasing it. It’s probably walking the fine line between inspiring and pathological by now, not gonna lie. When I had a 2 hour airport stopover turn into a 20 hour transit recently my immediate reaction was ‘a test! Awesome! How am I going to react to this! How can I grow from this experience?’ (Followed closely by ‘why are you like this? Just get pissed off and ‘inconvenienced’ like a NORMAL person, you fruitcake.’) But anyway, this isn’t a post about how great change is. It’s a post about how absolutely terrible change is.
Seriously! It’s all well and good when you’ve got a cute change-related quote about the ‘butterfly breaking out of the cocoon’ on the vision board in your bedroom or whatever …. Not so much when you’re somewhere completely out of your comfort zone, be it a place or a situation or an emotion that makes you feel… Strange. Not quite yourself.
I crave change. But when I’m staring straight down the barrel of it, I am an utter scaredy cat.
There’s just so much to lose, isn’t there? What if I change so much that my friends I’ve moved states away from no longer recognise the person that they once loved in me? What if twenty years pass down this spiritual, adventure-seeking road and before you know it I’m loopy Aunty Caity, tie-died, dreadlocked, crystal-clad, living with 7 cats… who says she’s ‘FUNemployed’ when people ask her why she’s forty and doesn’t have a consistent job?
Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.
-Sydney J. Harris
On it goes.
I think all my life I’ve been waiting for this big butterfly moment, you know? Crack open the cocoon of personal and societally inflicted-restraints. Spring out with an almighty ‘I am here, world! I am arrived!’. Just take flight, a clean job done, and just kill it at life until I die. No fear, no setbacks, no failures, no disappointments or shattered expectations.
That’s the fantasy of change. But this is the reality I have learnt.
We ain’t butterflies. Butterflies are a lame metaphor that don’t even closely reflect the true human experience of transformation and change. Our growth spurts don’t happen in a linear biological trajectory. They are clumsy and messy and painfully human.
They come at the rate at which we can get over ourselves and be vulnerable.
They come when we accept we need to do our time as a beginner- at whatever passion we’re chasing.
They come when we accept the universe isn’t made up exactly how we wish it was and be okay with that.
Most of us don’t bust out of the cocoon in one fell swoop. We’ll wriggle around, take a peek out. Wait a while. Decide if it’s worth going out there. Poke an arm out only to have the other arm get stuck on something and jam up against our body like a t-Rex. On and on. Progress one day by leaps and bounds, feeling ten feet tall. The next day want nothing but safety and routine and comfort. Don’t even get me started on when you finally wriggle free and collapse in a graceless, human puddle on the floor, naked and vulnerable and feeling like a stranger to yourself.
I think what I’ve learnt in these times is it’s okay to have days, weeks, even months where you can’t step forward because you’re so out of your element that taking one further step feels unfathomable. And that’s okay. It’s so okay. Don’t buy into the bullshit of measuring your journey against someone else’s cause chances are they’re going through their own graceless process… They’re just better at covering it up.
But what we must do in these times is stay put, right where we are emotionally. On the days we can’t forge ahead towards the life of our dreams, we need to at least not let ourselves step back into our familiar habits and comforts that make us instantly feel better, quick band aids that will make us feel good and remind us who we think we are in ten seconds flat. What we must try do is just … SIT with feeling what you’re feeling for a while. In all its discomfort. Identify with the vulnerability, with the strangeness, with the dread, the self doubt, the fear. Whatever it is, identify it by its true name and accept its role in the process. We often acknowledge feelings as they come, but not when they go. And it will go. And what you will gain from just waiting it out WILL feel freaking amazing.
“You shouldn’t try to stop everything from happening. Sometimes you’re supposed to feel awkward. Sometimes you’re supposed to be vulnerable in front of people. Sometimes it’s necessary because it’s all part of you getting to the next part of yourself, the next day.”
― Cecelia Ahern, The Book of Tomorrow