I have always hated change. Especially when something would change drastically or quickly, and I didnt have much choice in the matter. Like that time when I was about 7 years old and we went on a class field trip to a Maple Farm, and I somehow ended up with a gigantic ball of maple syrup in my long, curly, gorgeous hair. And then my dad, for reasons I cant quite remember (maybe my mom was away on business or something), took scissors, and CUT OFF MY HAIR so that it went from being down to my waist, to just below my ears. He couldnt get the huge ball of syrup out, so he cut it all off without telling me first. It was just suddenly gone.
Or that other time when 3rd grade ended, and the town decided that the street we lived on would no longer have bus pickup to school, and that instead we would be “bussed” over to the new school that was on the other end of town, because we were considered part of that district or county or whatever. So with no notice at all, I had to leave all my friends and go to this other school that I didnt want to go to.
There are so many other examples, but these two were the first that came into my mind.
So you can tell Im not bitter about them or anything.
The biggest unexpected and unwelcome change in my life, of course, was on July 13th, 2011, when I quite literally woke up to this new world in which my beautiful husband was now randomly dead. Why did that happen? I didnt authorize that! I didnt give my permission for him to be dead! It didnt make sense! This was not the plan for my life! I was still newly married. Only 4 years. We barely got a chance to start our life together, and now it was over? Just like that? It didnt seem right. There was no time at all to adjust or prepare or figure stuff out. No time to do anything at all, including comprehend that my person was dead.
And then, after that horrible day, where that massive change was thrust upon me, there were more changes and even more changes – all the result of this horrible death thing happening. I would have to sell his car, because it was no longer safe. I would have to move out of our apartment, because I was broke beyond belief and couldnt afford our rent by myself. I would have to then move into an apartment with a stranger who was looking for a roommate. I would then have to move out of that apartment 6 months later, because said stranger turned out to be a total jerk and kicked me out. I would then have to look for another place to live, with another stranger who I met through our mutual friend. I would have to work more jobs, lose my health insurance, survive panic attacks, anxiety, push myself to the limit emotionally, on and on and on. So much change, and no choice about any of it.
It would be about 5 years or so after his death, until I would start to feel like maybe I could have a SAY in all of these things that had to keep changing. Maybe I would finally get to decide how certain things might happen in my life. I would move back to my home state. I would leave my teaching job of 16 years. I would leave NYC and the life I knew there. None of this was easy. And part of me felt like I had no choice. But the bigger part of me felt like it was MY choice this time. I had sat down and weighed the pros and cons, and I had figured out what I thought was best for me and my life now. Instea of being dragged into something else for the hundredth time, because my husband was dead now and this is just the way it needs to be. This time, I got to decide what needs to be.
So I finished my book. And now I get to promote it and sell it and sometimes give copies away and get it to people who feel it would help them. I worked hard on my dating life in order to give myself the best chance at finding love again. When I found it, I held on tightly and didnt let go. I will be taking the Massachusetts Real Estate exam soon, so that I can become a Real estate agent and give myself a better chance at being financially secure for the first time in a long time. Im hoping that my partner and I will be in a place soon, where we can be looking at living together options, and hopefully even that big terrifying “M” word happening again, at some point. All of this change is scary beyond belief. But it took awhile to feel like at least Im part of the changes that are happening, rather than being dragged through them unwillingly.
I think that I tend to associate change with panic, fear, and an overwhelming feeling of losing control. But that is not always the case. If you sit back and do nothing, chances are, eventually, change will come knocking on your door and you will be an unwilling participant. But , if YOU are the one making the changes, and you are creating things and making things happen, it doesnt feel quite as daunting. It is still scry as hell, but Im much less afraid of something that I feel connected to and slightly prepared for, than to those changes that pull you under, without ever asking if you know how to swim.
Remaining in place, with everything staying the same, might seem safe at the time of doing it, but the reality is that you cant stay there for too long. Eventually, the change will take place, whether you are accepting of it or not. And even though I know I cant control everything in my life, because some things, like death, just happen – it feels a lot better and a lot nicer to know that when most of my changes happen along this drive, I am the one doing the steering. It took a long time to get there, to take back control of my own life – because loss and death and pain steal that away from you for awhile. Some people never get it back. They never get to a place where they care enough about their own life to take back the wheel and start navigating a new path. Going from just existing to really, actually living again, was one of the hardest pieces of figuring out this life after loss thing. None of this is easy. Ever. But, once you’ve doen the hard work of grieving and processing and finding levels of healing, it really is up to you HOW this loss changes you.
I want to be in charge of my story. The changes in life are terrifying either way, but much more so when I am nothing but a sleeping passenger, never awake enough to experience whatever happens next.