Sunday, April 4, 2010

Destination: Change! Despite the messiness of it all

My previous post focused on these seasons of transition, alluding to changes within ourselves and extending outward to our environment. I have so much change going on right now that if I were a compass, I'd be uselessly and frantically spinning (or, maybe of some use to a crazy like Jack Sparrow).

Is change good? I believe that yes, usually it's a welcomed chaos that moves us out of complacency and into maturity. It stretches our limits and defines new boundaries and discoveries about ourselves. Change is challenging.

But it is also stressful and unsettling. Sleeping lightly, I easily awaken to all the chatter in my head - the details regarding what I need to do in a fixed set of time. What difference is this from having a baby, starting a new school, changing careers? None, really. On a smaller scale, even bringing in an eight-week old puppy last fall was right along a similar vein.

I rarely recount my personal life, but I'm taking a plunge here to describe some events in my life in order to, perhaps, connect with you.

For the most part, I am rewarded by the changes I embrace. Usually these are changes that I have opted for, though, and this new set of challenges have really been forced upon me. I think back upon the Great Depression as a setting for "The Journey of Natty Gann" and how her father chose to take a job 2,000 miles away; there just weren't any other options.

I'm in a similar situation: I need full time employment now (actually, a year ago would've been better!). The sustainability factor compels me. I must earn enough to live on as a single woman with my now eight-month-old puppy. And in this age of the Great Recession, I'm lucky enough to find something wonderful. Wonderful in that it is a perfect career step (from 'assistant' to 'director') and the project -running a small public library - will be fascinating and exciting.

I'm sad that I have to leave my present jobs, though. This is a very hard switch and, like most times of change, one I wouldn't choose for myself. My work with J has been terrific and she's been the best supervisor anyone could ask for. But when she told me that the funding for our project may be reduced so much as to eliminate my part-time position, that clinched it.

I also have two other doors open that I'll have to close soon: a job interview already set up (but not until June) and, I am told, I am a strong candidate for another position I applied for. But the interviews are not to take place until after April 15th. And after delaying this small public library a little, the final deadline is April 8th. I had to decide, with determination, fortitude, and confidence I lacked.

I can't say it any better than: It's scary! I have a to-do list, and I'll start at the beginning with my personal transformation. Then we'll take a look at how this can be applied to a more general process of change:
  • Find a full time job (I've been hoping my present part-time job would be able to blossom into full-time, but the economy even threatens its p/t existance). Check.

  • Find a place to live (I have narrowed down some possibilities - I think I'll have something settled by next week). Almost check.

  • Finish my obligations (this is important! - Besides not wanting to burn any bridges, it's just good to do)

  • Move, from reserving a "UHaul" to making all those address changes, banks, driver's license, etc. etc.

  • Settle in (The late Mr. Rogers said that it takes six months to fully adjust to such a major change, and to relax and enjoy it. I like that advice.)
Now we can look at this more broadly. The factors that compel us to change (for most of us are compelled and don't often seek it out) usually come from an outside source. When change has to happen, it can lead us to great adventures, growth, and, when the dust settles, a beautiful new life. Based upon the steps above, we can say it usually involves:
  • Find and pursue the thing that will lead you to change (a new job, career, beginning grad school, enlisting in the Peace Corps - something along those lines. Careful not to put "change" on someone else - such as marriage or a new puppy. Although we have to adapt to those situations, they involve the complexities of another personality. )

  • That commitment will affect other areas of your life - you may have to move, give up some luxuries, change some behaviors (like, get up really early in the morning!). Clean up the old, tie up loose ends as much as possible, and then fully face the new horizon.
  • Give it time! I'd say six months for a major change is a good amount, in my personal experience. This will vary, depending upon how quickly a person adapts. Once the honeymoon period is over, the reality of the situation will challenge us and at times, can cause doubt. Give yourself time to feel these uncertainties and move through them.
As I told J the other day, I am relying on quotes these days to fall back upon - my mind is quite muddled by all the details and stress at times. I tell myself I'll be okay, hang in there, think of the positive. I breathe as slowly and fully as I can, and stretch my arms to the sky and the earth. And I count my blessings. And read some quotes.

Just take a look around. There are many people going through hard times and many who offer their support and wisdom. We've all been there (or will be), and we can give something of ourselves to each other in this way. I took a look online and came to a Universalist Unitarian's sermon, with the following excerpt:

And so it is that I charge us to messiness. If you live a relatively sanitized life, get messy. Engage in the muck. Have a crisis. Get dirty.

If you already are living with the mess, then reconcile yourself to it. Reconcile yourself to the fact that indeed the marvelous doesn’t come from the sanitized life, it comes from engaging in the muck.

As Nietzsche wrote: “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” I have a friend whose grandmother used to say, “things that hurt us instruct.” He asks the questions of us, who has ever understood life without first having his heart broken? Who has really seen, except through tears? Who really lives, without the mess?

From: "Despite the Mess" sermon by Kaaren

Broadening my view even further, I can see how small my problems are as compared to so many. At least I have fresh drinking water, vitamins, food, a family's love, friends, great colleagues, and a job to look forward to.

As Sheryl Crow sings, "God bless this mess."

It's good to keep things in perspective.

Congratulations to each of us who embrace - and live through - these changes!

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