January 30, 2014

4 Concrete Ways to Deal with Change.

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately.

I guess it had something to do with where I am in my life right now: I’ve lived in the same home for over three years; I’ve been working at the same job; been in the same loving relationship. Being so stable at this time in my life has felt really good and nurturing in ways that I didn’t expect.

It doesn’t cancel out the fact that the past few years have felt like an aberration for me—my 20’s were punctuated with so much upheaval that I came to expect chaos as the new normal. I wasn’t used to having the time or space to develop a rut.

I guess I sort of expected change to come along sooner rather than later; it always seemed to.

Up until a week ago, I had this office job. I’d had it for two and a half years, and liked it all right, as it was the first “grown-up job” I’d ever had (what can I say: I’m a late bloomer). They’d let me explore different skills, and the people were nice.

But for the longest time, I’d been feeling impatient with myself and it. I kept thinking that I was in my mid-30s’ and hadn’t envisioned myself (ever) working in an office—so what the hell was I doing there? There was a whole world out there waiting for me and all I needed was the time to explore it—I just had no idea how to do it with the limited resources I had.

When I got laid off, my initial reaction wasn’t fear or shame, but intense relief.

They gave me a taxi chit to get home because it was cold, and I was carrying all my stuff with me in plastic bags, and as I walked out the door I felt the weight of all of it lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t have to act like I was someone I wasn’t anymore—I didn’t have to clock eight hours in a job that didn’t truly fulfill me anymore.

I could take some time, take some deep breaths, and really figure out where I wanted to go and what the next step was.

The few people I’ve told (it wasn’t intentional, but I haven’t told many people), all seem to have similar, concerned reactions. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” “How are you doing really?” “What are you going to do now?” and I can somewhat understand their worry, I guess, considering that the economy is in the state that it is and that things are just so hard these days—maybe it’s just that I’ve been poor and scared before, but I understand that things ebb and flow.

What is it about change, though?

I must admit, loving change does not come easily to me. If I sound blasé about losing my job, I don’t mean to. What I mean is that I’ve become very used to not depending on things as they are.

Everything will change; everything is changing all the time.

After years of digging my heels into the dirt and refusing to accept things evolving, my goal is to remember that everything is constantly in a state of flux and that I should move with it.

I think there are probably people out there who can handle unsettling, sudden transitions with grace and ease, but I am not one of those people. I have definitely gotten better at it as I’ve gotten older; I’ve got a certain scope of how bad things can get and how good things can be—but I still get that “out of control, make it stop” cringe-in-my-belly when it happens, no matter what kind of change it is.

These are things that are going on in my life these days; I am feeling freaked out, scared, exhausted, inspired, loved, excited, challenged, and ready.

I am feeling alive in so many ways.

Change doesn’t have to be scary—I mean, of course it does. Some change is terrifying. Some change makes me wake up in the middle of the night with my stomach in knots, drenched in sweat; some change is welcomed and appreciated.

Below are some things I do to help me get through a transition or period of change. This is by no means exhaustive, but everything here has worked to centre and ground me when I’ve needed it.

1. Sweating every day—getting outside. Whether I’m running or doing yoga, or walking my dog in the sunlight, I need to get outside. I need to feel the sun on my skin (even if it is January) and take deep breaths of fresh air. This helps keep me connected to the rhythms of the earth and to things that are going on outside of my own sphere. I meet new people, I have experiences I couldn’t expect, I get out of my head. It feels healthy.

2. Keeping to somewhat of a routine. Considering I used to hate routines, I can’t actually believe I’m writing that down, but I have to admit I now realize how helpful they can be. What’s actually a part of the routine depends on us and what we feel is appropriate for our lives. It can be as basic as making sure we wash our faces and floss our teeth, or as elaborate as anything we can dream up. Pick things that we can commit to doing, every day. By giving ourselves a bit of a pattern to follow, we’ll be more clear and level-headed.

3. Doing something outside of our routine. Do something weird, do something completely foreign to our comfort zone—we can each make our own decisions as to what that will be.

4. Breathing. It really is that simple. The deeper the panic, the deeper the breath: slowed down so that all we can feel is the air entering our lungs and filling them chamber by chamber, Concentrating on our breath, even for just a moment, will help.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: elephant archives

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