February 7, 2014

The Most Significant Changes are Often Gradual.

Cindy Burrill

2013 was an emotional humdinger for me.

Working full-time, while taking a full-time course load, left me in a constant state of mud-mind. On top of that, I became an empty nester for the first time in 26 years and was dealing with a broken heart.

By the time fall arrived, I was both physically and emotionally drained. My constantly chipper self was getting beat up by my increasingly resentful, yet smiley self. I smiled a lot. I pretended a lot. It was time to get real.

“Getting real” was harder than I expected. It’s challenging to measure the most personal parts of ourselves. How can we tell if we’re truly becoming more confident, or if we’re just becoming a better actress? How can we tell if we’re happier, or if we’re just more comfortable in our unhappy circumstances?

cindy burrill

During my search to answer these questions, my daughter posted a picture of me on Facebook that was a painful reminder of my past. I’d forgotten about the picture and it initially upset me. I’ve spent years trying to erase that version of myself from my memory.

Sometimes, we need a swift kick to bring us back to reality. The picture of the old me was that kick. It’s a visual reminder of how far I’ve come on my journey. The picture represents far more than the obvious physical change of losing 120 pounds; it also reminds me of a time when I didn’t expect to live to be 49 years old. I was deeply depressed, had weight related health issues and was truly stuck.

This picture reminded me that the most significant changes are often gradual. Seldom are we lucky enough to have the light bulb moment where a flipped switch provides the change we seek.

cindy burrill

Comparing my before and after pictures helped me realize the changes I’ve overlooked in my life. Not only has my outward appearance changed, but also my emotional strength, confidence and courage. I’ve taken chances today that I never would have five, 10 or 20 years ago.

I will probably never be a woman that lives on the wild side, but I am becoming a woman who chooses to live with intention and purpose. Today, my life is still a work in progress, but when I look at the old version of myself, I know I have momentum to move forward.

My daughter offered to remove the picture from Facebook because it had initially upset me. I emphatically told her no.

Although life is difficult sometimes and we want to erase the bad memories, it’s important to remember where we came from. Acknowledging the past is a sure way to avoid returning there.

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photos: Cindy Burrill

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