Change is on my mind lately, as spring approaches. While the warmer weather is welcome, as usual there are some challenges even with the best of change. Recently I’ve been preparing for a move, some time into the future but impetus to clear out the clutter in my home. As I examine the articles that I’ve collected and kept, the challenge for me is to let go of stuff that represents my past, pondering over clothing, household goods, and memories. It reminds me of old plans, how I thought my life would unfold. It also reminds me of people, gone and changed, who have been important to me. If I get rid of the stuff that brings me these memories, does it mean that I let go of the lessons and experiences they brought me? And if I let go, what will the future bring? If I move forward without these reminders of who I’ve been, what I’ve done, will I have regrets?
In the last few days, I’ve been looking at old vinyl record albums. While pausing at each cover, it has occurred to me that at each stage I thought the music represented me. Yet, I have cycled through almost every musical genre, some of which embarrass me just a little! I haven’t played any of this music for years. So what does this tell me? That I, like you, have been changing, growing, reversing course, and taking on new styles throughout my life thus far, all the while thinking at each stage that I was solidly footed in my identity. And I believe that I will continue to do so.
I reflect on these questions in the context of my work, and the observation of my clients struggling with change. This occurs as life transitions change our interests, roles and responsibilities. Yet, in some ways we struggle to acknowledge that we’ve changed, both gradually and dramatically, that something we believed about ourselves doesn’t need to be true today. I see resentments, anger, hurt, and loss unfolding, as people cling to old beliefs and expectations, not allowing for the changes which time has brought. In particular, I see people personalizing others’ changes. We all want to believe that we grow and change, but sometimes avoid accepting the new realities that this entails.
Some rules for change are becoming apparent to me now:
1. Look at your life as it is today, not how you thought it would be. Don’t hang on to old plans which haven’t been operational in a long time.
2. Examine choices you’re now faced with in terms of the current realities of your life.
3. Accept that others around you have changed, and that the changes may be uncomfortable, but interesting and worth exploring.
4. Accept that you have always been in a gradual process of change. You can incorporate change, whether you sought it or not.
5. You can and will keep your memories, but hanging on to stuff can clog up your ability to welcome new experiences.
6. Change is both exciting and uncomfortable. Don’t reject new ways in favour of trying to stay the same!
7. When you say “This is who I am“, add “today“. Make room for who you will be and what you’ll experience tomorrow.