Status Quo or Transformation?: The Truth of Making Life Changes

Martha loved her life. She grew up in a small town, surrounded by family and friends. She married her high school sweetheart, moved into her favorite little yellow house on the corner and filled it with kids, dogs, and community. She’d been on an airplane a few times in her life, left the state twice, and never left the country. Martha would have been perfectly content to continue her sheltered, protected life, but one night over dinner her husband announced he wanted to retire in Florida.

Sammy loved his life as a freelance photographer. He lived out of a backpack and never knew where he would be in the world from one week to the next. He had friends across the globe, prided himself on owning nothing, needing very little, and leaving a small footprint on the earth. Then one afternoon in a small African village, a little boy sat down next to him and offered him a bite of beans. As the boy became his constant companion, Sammy’s heart opened in a new and different way.

Both Sammy and Martha were comfortable in their homeostasis, resistant to external factors and committed to keeping up the status quo. Another way to describe their state is a metaphorical inertia. They were content with the pace and direction of their lives, and resisted outside forces attempting to change them.

These days there are philosophies floating around with catch phrases like, “if it’s hard you’re going the wrong direction” or “you’ll know it’s right when everything falls into place.” Now certainly we’ve all been in situations where nothing seems like it’s working, clearly we’re going down the wrong road and we need to make some different choices. But on the whole change takes hard work, and it’s usually precipitated by something disturbing our worlds. It hurts to let go of parts of ourselves and our lives that we love and cherish, and grab onto something unknown, uncertain and new. It requires debating, questioning, changing our minds, grieving, feeling anger, sadness, resignation, sometimes hopelessness and helplessness, and finally accepting and trusting that we’re on the right path, all while we’re behaving in new (and often unfamiliar) ways.

Martha started psychotherapy to figure out how to “fix” her husband, but ended up uncovering a long-forgotten dream of writing a novel. Soon she was leading a writing group at her local community center, and is currently looking for a publisher of her book about small town life and its secret underbelly. After a few sessions Sammy decided he needed to settle down in this young boy’s African village for a year, and see what happens when he stays in one place. He’s also talking with a lawyer friend about international adoption processes and procedures.

It’s time to stop romanticizing change and acting surprised when it’s challenging and difficult. The more we accept that transformation is a natural part of a healthy, vibrant life, the more we can embrace the hard work and move into the next stage of our lives.