Fear and change

be flexible quote from Bruce Lee

Have you ever noticed that human beings are ridiculously awful at dealing with change? It’s ironic, because change is the only inevitable thing in life. That classic Benjamin Franklin quote about death and taxes should be revised to include change too. Death, taxes, and change are certain; sorry Ben, revision for the modern world. Even if a person resolutely vows to never change, if he or she resists personal growth, the world around will still change.

Loved ones move, or die; friends get married or divorced (or likely married and then divorced); people start having children; companies downsize; our neighborhoods grow or shrink; even our bodies change as we age – like it or not! It’s ironic that we have such a difficult time with change, when the world around us and even our own bodies are in a state of constant change. Change, whether we like it or not, isn’t always bad. Change can be very good in fact. I live in a neighborhood that is a thriving, growing arts district full of people young and old who genuinely love the neighborhood. When I bought my house, there was a farmer’s market at the end of the street, now that space is a barbeque and beer joint which is unfortunate for me since I don’t eat meat or drink beer. Even as much as I love my neighborhood and wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else in my city, I have moments where I question the change/progress. I love the addition of a woman-owned french patisserie, I can walk up the street and have a freshly made french macaron whenever I want, but I have moments of doubt about a boutique hotel proposed to take over a green space often used for community events like a pop-up dog park.

Like it or not, the world will change and our lives will change. Resisting it doesn’t stop it. We like to think that we have some sort of control over the world, but really we only have control over ourselves. Like the tall, sturdy tree that Bruce Lee talks about, if we don’t bend, if we don’t learn to sway in the wind then we will break. Change will come whether we accept it or not. If we want to make our lives more difficult, we can try to stop it. Who wants to make their life more difficult though? Surrendering to change is frightening, even for the best of us. Letting go of the illusion of control can be outright terrifying. Resisting the inevitable can only result in pain for us. Change will happen whether or not we accept it, so it has to be better to spend our energy in accepting change – to focus on acceptance of the change and give in to the beautiful chaos that is being alive. The alternative is not being alive and change is certainly better than death! Everyone, save perhaps the true bodhisattva, is going to have a moment where change is so uncomfortable that we want to rebel against it. While change is an essential part of the world, fear is an essential part of the human being. Fear lets us know that something is happening, that it needs a response. We tend to label certain emotions as “bad” and fear is often one that we think that we shouldn’t experience. Experiencing emotions is particularly scary and extreme for those with emotional sensitivity/borderline personality disorder, but the entire spectrum of emotions exist because we are supposed to experience them. Every emotion, every feeling, serves a purpose. Fearing emotion is as useless as fearing change; we are going to experience emotions both “good” and “bad,” wanted and unwanted.

In other words: Don’t be afraid to be afraid.

Swim in that fear, let it caress your soul. Invite it in for tea. Say, “Welcome, fear. Come in and sit with me.” Appreciate fear as you would appreciate joy. Feelings are a part of being alive and they’re going to come whether we want them or not, whether we are ready or not. So you can dance with your fear just as you would your joy, or you can fight your fear like an attacker but that will not make the fear go away. The only thing that makes your fear recede is to face it. Change is going to come – meet it at the door, and open it. Don’t bolt it tightly, pulling heavy dressers in front of it and piling bricks on top of that. Change will just come through the window. Perhaps the biggest challenge of life, whether you have an emotional sensitivity or not, is surrendering to it. There’s a saying in al anon, “let go or get dragged.” Surrender is not a passive state, it’s an active one. Surrender means acknowledging our fears, recognizing they exist for a purpose, and letting them sit until they have served their purpose. Surrender means seeing that change is coming and allowing it to effect our lives; be afraid of change – that’s ok. Accepting doesn’t mean liking, surrendering doesn’t mean enjoying; it means that we know that change is inevitable and we accept that we are not perfect, fearless individuals and that it’s perfectly ok to be afraid of it. We don’t let that fear rule us however, we don’t let that fear make us fight change. We let it roll through our spirit like a river, washing away whatever it wants to take with it, leaving us smoother, more polished, like a stone.



saying goodbye to my 20s

about a month ago, you know that week it was cold, i was walking through highland village after most of the stores were closed. my friend and i were going back to our cars after walking to starbucks across meadowbrook. somehow a conversation about my new shoes turned into me whining about my upcoming birthday.
“you know that life doesn’t end at 30, right?” says my friend dubiously. i should probably mention that 40 is looming for her but you wouldn’t know it…
“yes.” i replied grudgingly.

the truth is, age was never an issue for me until i started to age. at 18, my girlfriend live-in girlfriend was 32 and age was just a number. at 29 with twenty days left until my 30th birthday, it frankly scares the shit out of me that i am almost the age that sally was when we met. as january looms with new years eve just 48 hours away, i truly begin the process of saying goodbye to my 20s. it’s hard to do that because i remember very little about the first 16 or so years of my life, so the majority of what makes me who i am happened in the decade plus from 18-29. it contains both the best and worst memories of my life.

in that ten year period i managed to move across the country (vertically) twice; moved a total of eight times; fell in love (or at least believed i had) also eight times; went to three different colleges before finishing my bachelor’s degree; held down a myriad of jobs (3 at the same time at one point); went to more concerts and bar band shows than i care to count up; traveled around the country, to canada, and to europe for the first time; got in over my head with credit cards twice, but never filed for bankruptcy thanks first time to my parents and second time to myself; overcame an eating disorder; maintained an online journal or blog for nearly the entire time; met tori amos; realized i’m a foodie and learned to bake; quit smoking twice; lost my idealism at least to a point; did something i will always regret, thus blowing my “no regrets” policy; got legally married once; did many things that i am now aghast i used to tell stories about, many of them in the city of chicago; learned i love to take road trips by myself; started my first novel(s); i could go on and on but i shall have only this one paragraph-long sentence.

sometimes, i miss the insane girl that everyone seemed to fall in love with. there was nothing she wouldn’t do, except sing onstage and she would do that with a few shots. she was that breath of fresh air that reminded people to live unafraid! or at least that’s the way i choose to see me through the eyes of all the people that knew me then, some of whom still love me. you never knew what you were going to get with her, but it would be something big no matter what. it might be laughter, it might be her stripping in a car, it might be her throwing a hairbrush at you because she was having a bad hair day and you said the wrong thing. i spent more than half of my 20s unmedicated…