Who Are You? Who Am I?

"But, that's what you have always done."

"But, you always use to like to do that."

"But, you have always liked that kind of music."

"But, you always eat those kind of cookies."

"But, you have always done [ FILL IN THE BLANK ] "

Have you ever had someone say something along those lines to you? Or, have you ever said them to someone else? 

I would be shocked if you said no to either of those questions. 

We preach that we need to grow and change yet... when it comes down to it, most people are uncomfortable when someone around them grows and changes. Particularly those that are closest to them such a spouse, parent, best friend or sibling. 

Despite the intense (and often obsessive) desire we have to change our ways, get out of our element, out of comfort zone, and live our lives just a little bit... different.. maybe a little bit... better, we are change adverse creatures. And not only that, we are often 'change blockers.' 

I am not a psychologist so bare with me as I run through my thoughts. 

We become accustom to knowing someone in one way that we have a difficult time accepting when they mature, grow, and change. When they take steps to 'better themselves,' or when they simply start to like new things,  take up a different hobbies, drop other hobbies or habits, and explore other ways of living life, we (the other person) has a difficult time accepting that change. 

Some, straight up refuse to accept the change... have you ever gone back to a place where you grew up or spent time as an adolescent and inevitably the people there still believe that you love the things that you loved and participate in the same activities as you did when you were... oh say... about 12 years-old? 

Though perhaps more dispiriting and often more damaging than those moments are the day-to-day moments when someone feels unable or not allowed, or unsafe to change because of the response they receive from the people around them. And not just acquaintances - these are typically the people who are closest to them. That is where the real dagger strikes - this is where the open-space of love and acceptance from a place of truth and respect turns into a closed-space of suffocation and dismissal usually from a place of denial, misunderstanding, or even jealousy. The person trying or seeking change will likely feel boxed in and unworthy, and often, unfortunately, begin to second guess and doubt themselves. 

"Well, I guess I'll just do what I have always done...Stick to status quo," they may think..."this is how I am loved and accepted right now. What would it be like if I were different?" What they (we) are not usually thinking is that when they change ourselves for the better they are embraced even more fully than we were before - yet there is that period of time that is messy... scary... disorienting... and disheartening. Sometimes, we are forced to let go of those that don't fit our new lifestyle or who won't accept our changed ways. 

I'll take diet as a relatively easy and common example of change.  

"So hun, I think I'm going to switch to low-carb diet. I really think I'm going to cut out refined sugar for a while too. And, I don't think I'll drink alcohol for some time either. I just feel I need to clean up my diet a bit. Eat more lean protein, less sugary snacks, and more veggies." 

One would think that the other would be delighted. And surely not for 'Keeping up with Joneses,' but rather because their partner is choosing to honor their body and are making an effort to give themselves a bit of self-love and feel better. They are respecting themselves. 

Yet, this is not always the response that occurs. They think to themselves... "well I do eat cookies. I do eat carbs. I frickin' love white potatoes. And beer. And thick juicy steak!"

They mistakenly think... "given their change, what will I have to change?"  What is not recognized (usually) is that the other person doesn't have to change a damn thing! The other person was simply voicing their proposed change most likely because voicing change/action makes it feel more real. That, and perhaps most importantly,  they are seeking support.

Mind you, these are not always strikingly positive or negative changes... they are simply.. change. 

"I don't really feel I want to crochet any more ... I really think that I may then take up photography. I've been thinking about taking a coarse in it." This coming from someone who has crocheted for over half of their life may come as a shock to the people that are closest to them. 

Instead of support, the other person may think, 'how will this effect me? how will our schedule change... how will I change? How will we change?' Or, 'where is this stemming from? What has happened for them to want suddenly change their ways?' And often, 'is something wrong with them?' 

Photo by Daniel Bowman,  Unsplash

Photo by Daniel Bowman, Unsplash

On that note... 

We (people) become so deeply tied to the things we do that we identify ourselves with that 'thing' rather than being who we are separate from things that we do - who we are becomes the things that we do. 

I am a yogi. 

I am a hiker. 

I am a runner. 

I am a cook. 

I am a writer. 

What happens to a yogi when they for some reason cannot or decide to not do yoga? They decide to start kick-boxing or they injure their back. Who are they without yoga? Or a runner who has ran consistently their entire adult life has to slow their role and switch to walking because their knees cannot handle the force of the runners stride. Who are they if they are not a runner? A writer who cannot write due to a stroke... who are they now? 

Suddenly, there is an identity crisis. 

This happens many times throughout our lives. A scholar of History whose entire career thus far has been studies, enters the workforce as a sales associate at a software company. An owner of a Bed & Breakfast of 30 years, sells their property. A dentist of 40 years, retires. A horse rider of 20 years, decides to stop riding to travel and explore their growing interest in cultural studies.  

The reasons are not always clear. Sometimes, we don't even know the reason(s) for a significant life change. Sometimes, it is simply a want or desire to feed another passion. Or, the former passion no longer 'feeds our soul.' Other times, the reason(s) are more concise. Retirement. Physical conditions. Environmental surroundings such as a skier moving to Florida. 

At times, we may even devalue ourselves when we don't do the things that we use to do - because of the high value we once placed on them. 

My point, is that when we tie ourselves to what we do with such conviction that it becomes who we are, we risk an identity crisis. 

I am not a yogi.

Currently, I do yoga. 

Embracing who we are without the things that we do and knowing who we are without the things that we do has the ability to bring grounding despite the changes in and around us.

Photo by Morgan McBride,  Unsplash  

Photo by Morgan McBride, Unsplash 

As tree (yes, I am anthropomorphizing) who weathers a storm, and has core that stands unwavering when it's branches are shaking, bending, and even breaking. And endure seasons of change, even changing of colors, and sometimes, stranding bare with no leaves and awaiting the sun of the next season where they will begin to bud and blossom once again. 

Anitya: Processing and Embracing Change with Grace

Let me just tell you, that you can change the circumstances in your life. I’m not saying that it will be easy. In fact, I am willing to bet that it won’t be. But, I assure you that it is worth it.

We all feel the desire to create change in our lives, but we don’t always act upon it. In fact, I think we often don’t. We, as humans like to be comfortable.  It is during those times that we are really comfortable with our life that it seems a force far greater and more powerful than ourself comes in and throws a wrench in our perfectly predictable and relaxed routine - and a dust storm obliterates our white picket fence.

This isn’t to say that we need to be constantly changing our lives (habits, routines, lifestyles etc.), though change need not be feared - but rather accepted, welcomed, and embraced. 

Change, the heartbeat of life, is inevitable. It is through change that we continue to evolve into the best versions of ourselves with more awareness, perspective, and gratitude.
Change is… variety. And what is it that ‘they’ say?
Variety is the spice of life.

The process of change is simple.

·      You decide
·      You act with intention

Now, this isn’t to say that it is predictable. There will be unforeseeable events. There will be unanticipated people, places, and things that catch you off guard. But, with each minor change involved in a major change, you still take it day-by-day… or, hour-by-hour… or, moment-by-moment.

Over analyzing and excessive worrying will make the process incredibly more challenging, or it will stop the process all together. This, my dear ones is commonly referred to as: Getting in your own way.

Yes, there may be situations that are part of your physical (i.e. external: children, pets, possessions  / internal: chronic pain, auto-immune disorders, diseases) or mental (disorders/illnesses) world that are unique and need to be properly considered. It’s important to view these things objectively rather than allowing them to block you from making a necessary change in your life. They are not blockers. They are simply factors. They are part of your equation. They have a function. Learn how to manage them. Better yet, learn how they can work in your favor.

Photo Source: http://i.livescience.com/images/i/000/036/124/i02/shutterstock_112794550.jpg?1359486624

Get well acquainted with all of the facts of your life. Know what isn’t going to change (i.e. your height or nationality), what you want to change (i.e. your career or weight), what you don’t want to change (i.e. your pets, kids, spouse or place of residence), what may change (i.e. the amount of wrinkles around your eyes as you age or who your colleagues are), and what will inevitably change (i.e. the weather or political leaders). Lay it all out on the table. When everything is out in the open, things become less scary and more manageable – and easier to accept.

Processing change requires perspective.
Have you ever completed or watched someone else complete a jumbled rubix cube? It may take time, and it may look messy during the process, but with patience and perseverance, the cubes will align, the colors will match, and the cube will begin to make sense. Often it takes looking at a situation (cube) objectively- to gather the information needed to make sense of the seemingly (impossible) chaos.  Often – it is not that something cannot be done; it is simply that we didn’t have enough information to choose a different way of accomplishing the task.

As soon as you believe that there are no options – that there is no way out, you’ve boxed yourself in.

Once the process of change begins, it can be extremely invigorating and liberating. This energy is hugely powerful! Although you may feel superhuman during this time, you still need to give yourself time to process and time dedicated to the things in your life that you enjoy and wish to stay a constant (yoga, meditation, music, time with friends, jogging etc.). Skipping these things for a long period of time may leave you suddenly feeling lost and out of touch with who you are…you see, with change… you are still you.  It may be - that part of the fear of change lies in the fear of losing ourselves - of not knowing who we are anymore. Without the same front door we walk through, the same café we frequent, the same hair we pull back into a ponytail, the same driveway we drive up, the same familiar faces at the grocery checkout, the same route to work, or the same hand we hold on our evening walks – it’s difficult to stay grounded with who we are at our very core. Change, whether initiated by you or by someone/something else, doesn’t strip the you away from you. You are still you. And, you still need to rest. You still need to eat. You still need to breathe. You still need to live your life. 

Omitting the processing part is a short-term solution born out of the desire to get to the next destination/phase/point as quickly and painlessly as possible. Which is actually a protection mechanism. But this sort of instant gratification – will catch up with you, maybe days, maybe weeks… but more than likely months or even years later. Often times, we don’t neglect this part intentionally… we plow through change on autopilot, wanting to stay strong and “make it through,” and then the aftershock hits us. Which is why it’s important to stay grounded within yourself and aware of how you’re responding and feeling before, during, and after change.

Meditation, yoga, breath work, stillness, music, journaling, nature, and talking with close friends and family are all awareness techniques that can be used to help process change. It’s important to have multiple forums as they all provide a different sort of perspective. For example, what you will discover within yourself while out on a hike in the mountains in solitude is going to be much different than what you will discover while talking to your sister over dinner about the events in your life and how you feel about them. Yet each is equally important.

Whether you change your hair, your place of work, your place of residence, your status from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single’ or visa versa, or the car you drive, the necessity to process the change is still relevant – regardless of the perceived significance. The weight of change is relative. What may seem like a minor, insignificant change to one person may be a major significant change to another.

And what about the changes that aren’t something that you wanted or intended to create??? A spouse leaving, a loved one dying, being laid off of work, a catastrophic event, an unexpected pregnancy…The fact that something wasn’t anticipated or planned for doesn’t mean that we skip the processing part – it’s a change – a shift in your life. And deserves proper acknowledgment.

Welcome change into your life, become comfortable with the state of change

  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Get comfortable with the unknown
  • Get comfortable with impermanence

Where there is Anitya, there is a way

Anitya (or Annica in Buddhism), is a Sanskirt term symbolizing the concept of impermanence. 

The Buddha explained that we should not become too attached to our bodies and their sensual experiences and thoughts that arise from them, because the attachment to our bodies and to life causes us great dukkha, suffering and misery. Sense contact brings us sense experiences which we then term as desirable or undesirable. From this judgment arises the desire to re-experience similar sensual experiences, which lead directly to attachment. This attachment then leads to a great thirst or craving for the experience. Soon we are entrapped in the need to continue such experiences, for we feel we need or want them. But all experience is very momentary. Hardly have we grasped onto one, when it disappears and a new attraction grabs our minds. Soon we are enmeshed in a great, complex web of desire, all of which is very transitory, and thus unsatisfactory.

The Buddha stated that for us to become free from the constant round of rebirth and suffering, we would need to realize the changing nature of things in its true perspective, so that we could free ourselves from the need for certain experiences, attachment to self and to the illusion of permanence.

One of the major causes of dukkha is our puny attempts to make impermanent things permanent. We want to amass and hold on to things which please our ego concepts. We strive to hold on to youth, to wealth, to fame, to romance. All of these experiences are fleeting. They arise, mature and disintegrate. It is not change itself which causes the greatest pain, it is our resistance to this change that causes the real dukkha. The Buddha again and again explained: “Impermanent indeed are all conditioned things; they are of the nature of arising and passing away. Having come into being, they cease to exist. Hence their pacification is tranquillity.
— http://www.buddhismtoday.com/english/buddha/Teachings/041-anitya.htm

There is always an option. There is always another way – an alternate route. 

Here's to Anitya, 

- AeBailey