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Posts Tagged ‘change’

Well, I’ve been living in my new home for about a month now. Not long enough to be completely settled, but long enough that the flood of moving-related tasks has slowed down to a more manageable pace, and a definite end is in sight.

Overall, things feel calm. Amazingly calm. Beautifully calm. Calm calm calm. Probably the worst thing that’s happened to me this week is that I had to spend half an hour on the phone with Comcast sorting out yet another problem caused by incompetence. Which is a little irritating, but as problems go, it’s not so bad, and the customer service rep was really apologetic and nice and appreciative of me being nice, so it was really especially not so bad.

I keep talking about how nice everyone is here, and I hear the slightly unbelieving note in my voice as I say the words. It also feels like damning with faint praise, but what I really mean is people are treating me with respect. They are listening to my preferences and boundaries. They apologize when that’s appropriate. They aren’t pressuring me to do things I don’t really want to do or be someone I don’t really want to be. I don’t feel like they’re going to do things they don’t want to do either. In short, we appear to be taking care of ourselves.

I feel a Flinch sometimes. For example, my friend wanted to come visit at a time that wasn’t good for me. So I delivered the news, and then I flinched and waited for the hammer to come down. In the past, and with this particular friend even, there most definitely would have been a backlash. But this time, there was a bit of disappointment, and then we actually ended up finding a different time that did work for me. I could hardly believe it. I simultaneously felt gratitude and a more prosaic, “Well, you know, this is not actually noteworthy because this is how things should generally work.”

This should be how things are.

This is how things are.

I look forward to the time when the Flinch no longer happens.

Do I think this shift is unique to Seattle? Do I think the people in Seattle are just plain better? No, not at all. I think what we might be seeing here is the beauty of a fresh start.

While I know many people here, for the most part we don’t know each other well, and certainly not as local friends. This gives us a chance to get to know each other as we are right now. Not two years ago, not five years ago, not ten years ago. Now, in this moment. And Amy Now, I am thrilled to discover, really is a different person. Amy Now pushes back when she feels pressured. Amy Now communicates her preferences. Amy Now says no when she needs to. Amy Now gives the side eye to people who say egregiously sexist or unkind things, or who are very obviously lying. The kind of people who aren’t okay with this sort of thing are probably not the kind of people that are going to want to be friends with me as I am today.

Over time, we accumulate habits with one another. Things we do with one another, what we talk about, ways we communicate, ways we DON’T communicate, behavior we tolerate, things that are simply “the way things are.” This is simply human nature. Some of these habits are wonderful and positive and contribute to that sense of knowing and being known. And in any relationship there is going to be some compromise and give and take.

But some of these habits can be less helpful. Sometimes we cannot be the person we’ve become and have the relationship continue to function as it has been. At this point, there are three main choices: to continue the status quo in spite of problems; to go through an adjustment period until the relationship supports you as you are now; or to distance yourself from something that is no longer working. All three of these choices come with their own difficulties, and sometimes they blur one into another. As with anything related to change, there tends to be a lot of inherent pressure to maintain the status quo. And if you actively decide NOT to, things can get…interesting.

Moving, then, becomes an opportunity to work outside the accumulated habits and build new habits without having to work against that pressure. There is no status quo to maintain. There’s no weight of the past. There is, relatively speaking, little to risk and much to gain. There’s simply me and you deciding whether we’re going to be friends and how that friendship is going to work in a way that supports both of us right now. And even existing friendships are naturally in flux in a way that encourages the building of new habits.

So how does a fresh start feel? It feels calm. It is hard in some ways, but it also feels right.

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You burn your arm on the oven when you’re taking out the pizza. The burn turns into a weird blister. You put a band-aid on it and don’t look at it again because you don’t have time to have a burn on your arm right now.

You also have a mysterious bruise on your shoulder, sore arms, a sore neck, a sore back, sore legs, and you’re wearing your ankle brace all the time again because you don’t trust yourself to walk properly and not hurt yourself.

You have driven past your street or driveway by accident at least four times in the past week. Maybe more.

You struggle not to lose your patience with customer service representatives who take a ridiculous amount of time to do something that should take two minutes. You throw things away you never would have considered throwing away even a few months ago. You try to convince people to take random stuff because you know that otherwise it will go into the landfill, and it all feels like a huge waste.

You play and play and play your piano. And then you can’t bring yourself to play even though this is your last chance because it’s just too fraught.

You cry when you think about selling your piano. You cry when you get a voicemail from your friend saying he thought maybe you could use hearing a friendly voice, because you could use it and then some. You don’t cry when they carry your beautiful table away because by this point you are somewhat numb.

You do cry after you get off the phone with the emergency vet tech, who tells you, yes, you  need to bring your little dog in right away because the crack in her fang could be serious and there are no appointments available on the weekend so Friday night it is. If there is anything that can break you, it is your little dog’s health. You stand there and cry for five minutes, and you wish you had housemates or a boyfriend or family nearby, and then you coax the dog into the car and do what needs to be done, and now there are antibiotics twice every day, which isn’t so bad but is one more thing to remember.

Speaking of dogs, your dog is unhappy. She barks at the ceiling fan. She barks at the people who come over to get stuff. She barks more frantically than usual when she realizes you’re leaving. You tell her every day she’s coming with you, but she doesn’t speak English so communication is problematic.

Communication is difficult even when you speak the same language. You send endless messages to people. It’s all scheduling and logistics, and while you are okay, even good, at these things, you kind of hate them. You stare at your phone waiting for people to get back to you. They mostly get back to you after you’ve pretty much given up on it happening. It must be like water not boiling until you look away.

You spend one miserable night lying there unable to sleep, which means you have way too many hours to think about every detail of the move. Now you take melatonin every night before bed. It seems to help.

People have a lot of opinions, and you disappoint some of them, and you are too tired to care. The weather in Seattle is bad. The weather in Seattle isn’t so bad. What, you’ll move again if you don’t like it? What are you thinking? Why did you get an apartment in Bellevue? You should throw a goodbye party in your copious (read nonexistent) spare time. You should put your stuff up for sale on Craigslist. You say no a lot because there simply isn’t any wiggle room. You have the time you have, and it is extremely limited in quantity. At this point, if the other person in any given equation doesn’t make a lot of effort, it’s not going to happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

You receive your first few invitations for Seattle, and you think, hmm, I’m not going to know anybody there. And then you think, wait, this is going to be the next several months of my life. And you get ready to steel yourself. In the meantime, you get to see a few of your closest friends more often than usual, and it is lovely, and you almost wish you could always be on the cusp of moving so you could always spend this much time with them.

You drink sparkling cider and you eat cranberry sauce from the can. More and more of your stuff is in boxes. You can tell how much you care about an object by how much paper you use to pack it.

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I’m not burying the lede this time, but I’d be happy to mix some metaphors. I’m taking a leap, starting a new chapter, and making the move up to Seattle in a few weeks.

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What you are seeing here is a completely mythical sunny Seattle day.

Haven’t you been talking about this for a long time?

Yes, since my first visit to Seattle, in fact, which was in the spring of 2012. So this is definitely not what I’d call a spontaneous decision.

Didn’t you once make an April Fool’s joke about moving to Seattle?

Yes, and I think it might be the only April Fool’s joke I’ve ever made. But I’m moving for real this time, I promise.

Doesn’t it rain a lot there?

Yes, yes, it does.

Aren’t you afraid you’ll get S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) and be absolutely miserable? Don’t many Californians move to Seattle and then come back?

I survived a winter in London, so I’m not hugely worried. But I’m also prepared to move again if I feel I’d be happier somewhere else. This is me we’re talking about, so I have a plan B. And a plan C. And a plan D, E, and F….

This is a big deal!

Yes, this is a really big deal. Some of you may not know that, aside from a year I spent living in London right after college, I have lived in the Bay Area my entire life. So moving to a new city in a new geographic region will be quite the adventure for me.

Are you for sure going to move?

I’ve put money down on an apartment, I’ve given notice at my current place, and I’ve reserved a moving truck, so I’m pretty sure this is going to happen. I’ve taken my time with this process, partly because I had other stuff I needed to do before moving and partly because I wondered if I would change my mind, given the chance. But I never did change my mind, so here we are.

What are you going to do in Seattle?

Pretty much what I’ve been doing in the Bay Area. Although it’s not a stretch to suppose that living in a new place, I may try some new things. And I’ll definitely be meeting some new people.

What does this mean for me?

Well, if you live in the Bay Area, you might be seeing a bit less of me. If you live in the Seattle area, you might be seeing a bit more than me.

If you read the blog, I hope to write about my experiences living in a new place and creating a new life for myself there. I imagine I’ll have a lot of thoughts about it, and I’m pretty excited about what this could mean for the blog. We might be in for some interesting times ahead!

I have feelings about this!

Oh, wow, do I know. I have feelings too. Lots of them, and they run the gamut from excitement to terror.

How can I help?

My friends have been very supportive thus far, and I feel really lucky. If I am moving away from you, keep in touch; I’d love to hear from you! If I am moving near to you, invite me to do stuff; I’d love to not be a hermit!

If you read the blog, I’d appreciate your patience. I might be writing here sporadically or not at all over the next few weeks as I orchestrate this move. If I am quiet here or elsewhere on social media, it is because I am very busy. But I’ll be back soon enough.

You still haven’t said WHY you’re moving.

Yeah, this is the most common question I receive, after some comment about the weather. The decision to move out-of-state is a complicated one, and I’m not moving for any one reason. The easiest reason to give is that it’s a financial decision, and it is true that I’ll be saving money living in Washington, and I am looking forward to that.

The more accurate reason is that it feels like the right time to move on. While there have been plenty of challenges in execution, this wasn’t at its heart a difficult decision for me to make. I gave myself a lot of chances to turn back, but I never wanted to take them. On the whole, I have felt exceptionally grounded about uprooting my life and trying something new.

That is not to say I don’t feel sad to be leaving. I will miss my friends here a great deal. I will miss the sunshine. I will miss the place where I grew up. I will miss the sense of personal history I get from so many of the places I go. I expect I might be horribly homesick, and then I will write about it, and we will see what there is to learn from that.

But it is time. And so I am going.

Let’s see what this next chapter holds, shall we?

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The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. – Socrates

When you want something you have never had, you have to do something you have never done. – W S Bloom

I have been thinking about my future. Not next week, not a few months from now, not even next year. I’ve been trying to think about my longer term future, and what I would like to see, and what concrete steps I can take to work towards that vision.

I haven’t been thinking much about my future the last few years. I’ve been thinking about now, and I’ve been thinking about a few months from now, and I haven’t been seeing more than a year out from where I am at any given time. It’s been good to practice flexibility, and it’s been good to take the time to figure out what I want. Not based on convention or what anyone else I know is doing or what other people think I should do or be, but based on actual me. What I want and what I think is important.

I find having a vision to really help with my focus. Having spent the last few months honing my vision, I’ve begun to see that many of the details are extraneous. They don’t matter. It feels like they matter; it feels, in fact, like they are huge life-altering decisions. But sometimes all the big flashy external stuff is merely a blind for what’s going on inside. And being able to focus on the inside stuff brings a lot of clarity along with it.

It’s not always the specifics of a vision that matter. You have the vision, and then you figure out some specifics to get you there. But you could figure out a whole different set of specifics that may very well get you to the same place. What’s important, then, is figuring out where you’re generally trying to go. In order to pick specifics, in order to confidently make changes, it helps to know what you want.

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Details are a bridge, but you can always build another bridge further down.

I feel like this is easier for some people to achieve than others. I ask a lot of questions, and that can mean it’s more complicated to figure out what I want. I kind of tried to follow a common middle-class American life road map, but I was never completely on board with it, and then it turned out to not be what I wanted at all.

And then there’s the blindness that can come with experience. You don’t have something in your vision not because it’s necessarily not possible, but because it’s outside what has happened to you personally. Sometimes our expectations for what is possible can end up being set too low, and it doesn’t even occur to us to shoot for something more. And sometimes we don’t add something to our vision because it doesn’t occur to us that it is even an option.

I have discovered that Socrates was a wise guy (not that this should be news!) I have spent a lot of time in my life fighting the old. I have this weird idea that if I simply try hard enough, I can fix anything. I say it’s weird because it is patently false.

But when I focus on building something new instead of fixing or trying to prop something up, that’s when I tend to make actual progress. That’s when my vision begins to clear, and I think, “Oh yeah. I do know what I want. Huh. How about that.”

And that’s when things really begin to change.  

 

(P.S. I’m going to be traveling, so there’s going to be a short break in our regularly scheduled programming. See you in a bit!)

 

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Change hurts.

Sometimes change hurts a lot.

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I find that change hurts a lot when it cuts close to the bone, when it touches on something deep from the past, when it challenges some long-held belief or defense mechanism that you desperately do not want to let go of, because to hold onto it equates to survival in your own mind. Even if that is no longer the case. You might be reliving a reality that is long gone.

Change hurts.

You may be sitting there, and you notice that you’re breathing. You take a breath in, and then you take a breath out. And you’re surprised, not even surprised, shocked. Not because you were trying to hold your breath, but because it seems inconceivable that you are still breathing at all. It seems unbelievable that the entire world hasn’t frozen in place.

You may be afraid to move because there is a knife lodged somewhere deep inside of you, and any movement could shift it, and any shift could drive it deeper still, or cause it to cut some critical artery that means you bleed out. You are afraid to move physically, you are afraid to move emotionally. The pain is balanced so precariously, and your main focus is keeping it there instead of letting it slip.

Change hurts, and sometimes the pain makes it feel like the change might not be the right thing to do. Because if this change was so good, why would it hurt so much?

This is a lie. Sometimes positive change hurts a hell of a lot. It hurts for a reason. It hurts because it is hard for you to do something different. Or maybe it hurts because you are afraid. Or maybe it hurts because you just jammed a surgical instrument into an old wound and ripped it back open again so it could finally heal cleanly.

That is not to say it’s a good idea to seek pain simply for pain’s sake. It’s okay for things to be easy sometimes. It’s okay for things to be good. It’s okay to let yourself be happy.

The truth is, the pain is just the pain. It doesn’t tell you what to do. It simply tells you something is going on, and whatever it is, you might need to pay some attention to it. You might want to think about how you are going to respond to it. Maybe there is something active you want to do, or maybe you just want to sit there with the pain for a while. Maybe both.

Nowadays, when I have the time and space, I try not to hide from the pain. I don’t confront it either. I exist with it. I let it be with me. I bring my mind back from all of its distraction techniques and circular games. I want so badly to castigate myself, because this distracts me more effectively than almost anything else, but every time I start, I simply stop and redirect. No, I’m going to be kind. No, I’m going to be kind. Over and over, for however long it takes until it settles.

And then there is the pain I was trying so desperately to avoid. And it is terrible. It is the knife in my gut, it is the air in my lungs, it is naked and wretched and it is a part of me.

Change hurts.

And then it dissipates, and it is sad but also clean, and it is hard but also okay. Sometimes another wave of grief comes later, and another, and another, but once you’ve allowed one to wash through you, the worst of the terror is gone. It simply hurts. And then it hurts less. And then it hurts more. And then it hurts less again.

Change hurts. And then you come out on the other side.

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A friend of mine said something wise on Facebook the other day. Basically he observed how any attempt to make a change in our lives gives us a rush, and then we think maybe we don’t actually need to make the change after all because everything is pretty okay.

THIS IS SO TRUE. The resistance to change is real, and it is insidious, like the Dark Side. Way more insidious, actually, because it’s hard to believe any Dark Side practitioners aren’t somewhat aware that it’s evil. The symbology around it is simply too strong, almost as if it were expressly created to be a really stark good versus evil kind of thing. Hmm. Whereas not changing often seems perfectly innocuous. 

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Photo Credit: R. Lex-M via Compfight cc

In any case, I digress. Change is generally a pain in the butt. It tends to take a lot of effort and energy and time, plus the patience and grace to deal with the inevitable screw-ups along the way. Also it’s scary because you are moving from something you do know, however unpleasant it might (or might not) be, to something you do not know.

I have been tempted so many times to stop at the beginning of a change. Not only tempted, but also flat-out done it. I’ve stopped. I’ve thought, it’s not so bad, and simply carried on. Occasionally this line of thinking works out pretty well, usually when the change wasn’t very well thought-out to begin with. Often I regret it later, at which point I’ve really only succeeded at postponing the change and increasing my suffering in the meantime.

This is perhaps one reason why, while I can take a painfully long time to make a big decision, once I’ve made it, I usually want to implement it as quickly as possible. Yes, I hate waiting, but also I find the longer I have to wait, the more time I have to change my mind or second-guess myself, and then third-guess myself, and then fourth-guess myself….and then think, well, things are going okay, actually, so is this even really necessary?

Of course, part of the reason things are going okay might be because I’ve made the decision, but that can be hard to see when I’m right in the thick of things.

I find that making a change takes a fair amount of dedication. Sometimes that dedication comes easily. For example, I went dancing one time, and I said this is love, and I am going to go dancing every week now, and so I did. Even though taking up dancing caused me a fair amount of physical pain (I remember a morning when I was uncertain I could get out of bed) and some social discomfort (getting strangers to practice with you when you know you suck isn’t the easiest thing ever), I went every week, and that was that. Even now I have my favorite dance in red on my calendar. (Red means don’t mess with this, it is particularly important for your well-being.)

Other times that dedication can be difficult to find or maintain. This tends to be particularly true if you feel that by making the change, you are losing something. The pain of that loss mingles with the difficulty of changing, and it’s so easy to instead think, well, maybe it’s not so bad. Well, maybe I can do this later instead (while secretly hoping that later never comes). Well, maybe something will magically change without me doing anything (hahaha sigh).

Incidentally, this is one reason why it’s never a good idea to try to change other people. It’s hard enough to find this dedication if it’s something you think you want, let alone if it’s something someone else wants but you’re not entirely on board with. The desire for change generally has to come from the person changing in order for it to stick.

While the resistance to change can be a powerful force, I do think it loses some of that power once we’re aware of it. Then instead of letting the rush of change convince us to stop moving forward, we can use it to fuel our dedication and hold the course.

In other words, the Dark Side isn’t inevitable. It is merely very shiny (Force lightning!) and tempting.

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When I was getting divorced, I read a piece of advice that has stuck with me ever since.

“A ten never marries a one.” Apparently a divorce lawyer delivered this line to Penelope Trunk, and then she blogged about it, and then years later I stumbled across it, and now it is burned into my brain.

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A ten never marries a one. Let’s break this statement down, shall we? I don’t know what the divorce lawyer meant by it, but to me, this statement has nothing to do with actual numbers or a ranking system (ugh). It has nothing to do with particular traits or talents or some idea that people marry others who are exactly the same as they are.

No, to me, it simply means this: a relationship is made up of two people, and both people contribute to it. So when we look at a dysfunctional relationship, both people are contributing to the dysfunction. This does not excuse certain behaviors. It is not a value judgment, and it is not a statement of blame (although it can feel like one). It is simply a recognition that a dynamic takes two people to exist.

It is a harsh truth, and I took it to heart. In fact, I recall repeating it at inopportune moments to friends trying to console me. (Sorry, friends.) But while it might be painful, it is also a truth that restores agency. In being willing to take some responsibility, we can explore how we might act differently in the future.

And that is what I did. I asked myself some tough questions. I looked deep inside myself, and I tried not to flinch. In particular, I looked for my behaviors that were preventing me from getting what I wanted, and I looked for the cracks and old wounds that contributed to those behaviors. And then I began the slow process of trying to change.

This is incredibly tricky to do. Partly, this is because humans love our patterns, and we fall very easily into dynamics that feel comfortable. Mind you, they may not make us happy or help us fulfill our long-term goals. There is comfort in familiarity, even if it is a miserable comfort. As a result, we tend to repeat ourselves again and again.

And even if we’re watching for our patterns, they are not always obvious. Sometimes things can look very different on the surface, only to end up rubbing against the same old wound underneath.

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So, this is a hard thing I’ve been working on. Totally possible, but also challenging. And I’ve learned a couple of things about myself during the process:

I learned it’s important that I know what I need. This means I had to figure out what it is I actually need versus what I thought I might need but it turned out wasn’t all that important. And I had to learn to accept what I need instead of feeling like I should be constantly apologizing for it.

I learned it’s important to be picky. I set out with the goal of being as picky as possible because I knew in the past I hadn’t been picky enough. My hope was by deliberately trying to be picky, I’d balance things out and come closer to the center on this spectrum. And also, you know, that maybe this would give me the necessary time and space to find someone who would actually meet a bunch of my needs.

I learned it’s important to be willing to walk away. I will probably always hate walking away. I will probably always hate even the idea of walking away. But what matters is not how I feel about it, but that I know I can and will do it if and when it becomes necessary.  

I learned it’s important to be happy on my own. And it’s important to believe I am a ten for myself, even if I have a lot of doubts about that. In other words, it’s important to believe you are worth it.

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So what has come of all this work, you might be asking. Last you heard from me, back a couple of months ago, I was talking about dating fatigue. I was, truth be told, feeling like dating was kind of a waste of my time.

Well, life, it has been changing once more. And on Thursday, I’ll tell you the story of how I met my current boyfriend.

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