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Posts Tagged ‘change’

618126“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ~Andy Warhol

I am a creature of habit, a slave to each and every one of my tendencies, which is why they’ve become tendencies for me in the first place. Sometimes I recognize when I’ve fallen into one of those routines, and other times I have absolutely no clue.

Sometimes the habits I have are good for me, and help me grow as a person. Other times they’re completely detrimental and probably should have been cut out of my life a long time ago. Even when I recognize that I’m doing them, though, I don’t always know which is which.

But one thing I do know is that after the fact I analyze, and I try to make a plan for “next time.”

“Next time” has become an echo around here, a reminder that this time I did the same thing I always do, but “next time” could be different. “Next time” could be a turning point that could completely change my life. Or it could just be me repeating the same old patterns because I’ve forgotten all about the analysis immediately following my routinized behaviors. Here are a few off the top of my head…

Behavior #1: When I know I am wrong I don’t admit it. Instead I try to create a circuitous path of misinformed logic that will lead me to freedom, or at least to a point where the other person (who knows I was wrong) just doesn’t feel like it’s worth it anymore to argue with someone who is like a brick wall.

Behavior #2: I pretend not to hear others when they’re constructively criticizing me. I make a big show of saying I’m open and willing to listen, and then I very demonstratively don’t listen when they take me up on it. Sometimes I nod and say, “Sure, okay, thanks,” but those are just placeholders, excuses for not really listening.

Behavior #3: When it comes to my friends I put them entirely above me, listening to their problems and issues and either offering advice or just listening because that’s what they need. I give myself completely to every single friendship I have (not that there are many), sometimes to the detriment of my own health. This behavior has often been seen as smothering, and I do tend to lose the few friends I gain.

Behavior #4: My mind needs time to process change, so if I’m not apprised of some upcoming change ahead of time, if it’s sprung upon me suddenly, I can be surly and uncooperative when it comes to said change. That is, if I don’t just completely shut down instead, which is entirely on the table most times.

Behavior #5: I get defensive about a LOT of stuff. From my gray hairs (“Stop calling me old!”), to leaving the toilet lid up (“I don’t ever do that”), to buying the wrong brand of paint (“You didn’t tell me you wanted the other one”), to just about anything, really, I can argue about pretty much anything, even when someone is trying to compliment me.

Behavior #6: I like to be in charge of my time, even if it’s something simple, like doing something two minutes from now because someone told me to do it right now. Or if someone leaves something open ended I tend to wait until it absolutely has to be done in order to get it accomplished. It may seem like something little, but to me it is the world. It means I have just a bit more control over things, even if I really don’t.

Behavior #7: I’m self deprecating. And while I know you might be thinking that clashes with Behavior #2, it fits right in. Because, while I hate it when others criticize me, I do it myself all the time, and to me it’s okay. It’s like when I say something negative about my mother, then someone else agrees with me. IT’S MY MOTHER. I can say it. You can’t. Same applies with myself. IT’S ME. I can say it. You can’t.

And the list goes on, but the point is clear: there are a ton of behaviors that I find myself repeating time and again with no escape valve, with absolutely no change to any of them even though I’ve analyzed them to no end. I assume that’s because in the moment we, as human beings, tend to slip back into our patterns, tend to rely on what we know, even if it’s not at all good for us. It’s why alcoholics backslide, why women go back to the men who beat them, why you’re still watching The Voice even though it’s just not good anymore.

So “Next time” comes, and we tend to do the same things we’ve always done. At least I know I do, unless I stop when it happens. Unless I analyze before, and not after. Unless I take responsibility for changing my own behavior patterns, which is a gargantuan task, but it’s what adults are supposed to do. It’s what people who want to change for the better do. It’s what people who have healthy relationships rely on to maintain those.

I’m still a work in progress. Ask me again how I’m doing… next time.

Sam

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changeWhy is change always so hard? Routine is easy, but change is a monster put in the corner for fear that it will destroy everything in its path. So many people stay put in ruts and call them routines instead, rituals they actually can’t live without but that are destroying them moment by routinized moment. I don’t know about you, but change usually opens a crater in my stomach a mile deep. And yet it’s necessary more often than not.

But is change for change’s sake the way to go? Absolutely not. I’ll give you an example…

When I decided to move to Tennessee it was for a plethora of reasons, not the least of which was that I felt like I had run out of rope, that my options and my history were just too constricting, and Tennessee looked like the golden goose, the greener grass of mythology. Yet I hadn’t taken into account that I knew nearly no one there, that it was far from my support system, or that it was, well, Tennessee. It was change for change’s sake, and it turned out to be disastrous in the end.

Here’s another example…

A friend of mine felt stuck in her job, a job she had held for many years, a job that was as secure as jobs get, but she was burned out. She had had enough of doing everything for everyone else in a career that just hadn’t given back to her what she had put into it. So no matter how much she craved the security she quit her job, spread her wings, and went back to school to retrain in a job she knew she would enjoy, even though it was difficult to get into in the first place. Three years later, though, and there she was doing what she wanted, even though it made less than her previous job and the security wasn’t there.

And that was okay because she had a goal in mind. She wasn’t just running away from something. She was heading full bore into something she desperately wanted, and now she’s happy to go to work. The difference between me and her is that she faced her fears in order to get somewhere, while I ran from what scared me and ended up somewhere I wished I could have avoided. It proves the age old saying that change itself is never enough. Change with purpose, now that’s enough.

At least until you find you need to change again.

Sam

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Dear Journal: Regrets

no-regretsDear Journal,

I am 38 years old, and for better or for worse those years have made me what I am. There are many positives to the experience along with a ton of negatives as well, and I don’t try to see if the scales balance because I have a sneaky suspicion that they don’t. Regrets, I have a few. Actually, there really are only three big decisions I regret in my life, but still they’re there, and I have to live with them every day. In fact, on any given day I’ll think about one, two, or all three of those regrets before finally laying my head down to sleep and hoping they don’t also invade my dreams.

Does everyone think about their own regrets as often, or can other people block them out to a certain extent and go about their business relatively oblivious to them? If only that were possible for me I think I would have less worry wrinkles on my forehead. And I don’t believe those who say they have absolutely no regrets because that flies against everything that I know about human nature and the rat race. Even if they’ve somehow made their peace with the regrets along the way, some small piece of them has to wish they could have changed them. At some level. Or maybe if they honestly have no regrets perhaps they really are perfect. Which would give me hope for myself.

But maybe I don’t want to be perfect. Maybe on some level I want to torture myself with those very regrets I detest. Perhaps the fight against those memories keeps me sane and hungry to just be better, to just make better decisions instead of repeating all of the same ones that didn’t work out before. And in the name of all that’s good and holy, I really don’t want to add another regret to the list. Three is more than enough, I assure you, to last me a lifetime. Which is not to say there aren’t more, but the big ones are the ones that consume me when I’m not vigilant against letting them run me down.

It’s times like these when I wish I was Catholic, when I wish that some priest in a tiny room could absolve me of my sins and I would think of them no more. But I entertain that daydream for only a second of time because I know that all the other tenets of the faith would overwhelm me even more surely than these regrets do now. And who’s to say one man’s absolution would even be worthwhile or work to rid me of these manifestations in my head? I know I need to confront those regrets head on instead, to let them drive me to the brink of whatever black hole is out there, and then reel it back in so I don’t go insane.

Because that’s all I have the strength for.

Sam

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The Sorry List

apologies-inDon’t be sorry. Change your actions.

I’m probably the sorriest person you’ll ever meet. Believe me, I say “I’m sorry” at least ten times a day, but what am I really saying? I think most times I apologize it’s for something I have absolutely no control over, so it’s an expression of sympathy rather than of remorse. When I really am regretful about something I’ve done I don’t generally apologize. I usually instead try and do something to make it right, because actions truly do speak louder than words.

But sometimes there’s nothing I can do to make it right. Sometimes all I can do is apologize and look at the experience as a lesson so I won’t do it again next time, if I’m honored enough to get a second chance. And on today, the day we’re all thinking about being thankful for what we have, I wanted to list what I’m honestly sorry for in my life, the things I would like to change so that this time next year I am thankful for the changes.

I’m sorry for:

  1. not speaking up every single time I see an injustice
  2. not keeping in touch with my family often enough
  3. not always questioning my motivations
  4. saying negative things about others
  5. focusing on irrelevant things sometimes
  6. not always appreciating what I have
  7. setting my expectations low more often than not
  8. not always believing in myself
  9. keeping secrets from those who love me
  10. yelling sometimes when I ought to hold my temper

But the biggest thing about the list is not just typing it down in my online journal; it’s that now I can go back to it every single time I let one of those things happen again, so I can change my actions, because it’s not about being sorry. It’s about doing something to make a shift in my thought patterns, feeling better about me so that I can feel better about my decisions and about my interactions with others.

I look forward to crossing each one of these “sorries” off my list one by one during this next year and being a happier, healthier person for it.

Sam

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people_change____by_maria534-d5b12pb“Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.” ~Marcel Proust

I looked at her today as if for the first time. She’s wearing the shirt I bought for her the summer before last. When I bought it she was swimming in it, even though it was a child’s small. It fit her like a dress back then. But when I looked at her today the shirt fit like a shirt should, and I have no idea when she grew. She’s changing. My littlest girl is not so little anymore.

I’m 37 years old, and sometimes I feel the same way about time, how it moves on relentlessly and changes things, and changes people. I have these shirts in my closet from five years ago, some from ten years ago, and they show the wear and tear of the years. Some of their collars are worn through in places, and I have to get rid of them. Others are just faded from so many washings, but they’re reminders of another time, of another place, and of the me I used to be. But I’ve changed because people change.

It’s like that phenomenon that happens when you’ve grown up with people, and then grown apart. For me it was moving away, and those people I left became frozen in my mind. They’re still 10, and 12, and 16, and they never grew up in my mind. And even though I look in the mirror every day and see this proliferation of gray hair taking over, and though I know I’m 37 years old, they stay exactly the same in my mind.

Then one of them died two years ago, and I was forced to accept that he wasn’t still 15 years old, that he was a grown man but still way too young to have been taken out of this world. Death will force you to see things in a stark clarity that nothing else can challenge. Another one of them passed away a few months later after giving birth, and it challenged me even more to understand, to grieve not for the 8-year old that I remember, but for the woman she became, and for the wonderful mother she never really got to be. The contrast is incredible not only in my mind but also in my heart.

People change. They grow in ways both external and internal, and we don’t see the half of it. What we see are the people we knew, whether it was 10 years, 15 years, or 20 years ago, and we mourn them when they leave us, but we don’t appreciate them for who they’ve become. Lately I’ve been re-forging many of those old connections, finding out what became of those youngsters, how they changed, before it’s too late.

I’m a firm believer in embracing the person I’ve become, even if at times I don’t like that person, because only in embracing that person do I see those parts for what they are, and only then can I change them. Part of that is reconciling who I am now with who I used to be, and from talking to those I used to know I paint a clearer picture in my mind of who I was, and how I’ve changed. But I have to keep reminding myself that we are not the same, that we can’t go back to that place, to that moment in time, except in memories.

And those never change.

Sam

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carefulwithwordsDear Journal,

Why haven’t I learned yet just to keep my mouth shut? Maybe that’s the real reason I’ve lost so many friends over the years. They just got tired of listening to me, probably. I mean, I’ve never entertained ideas that I was a quiet person who didn’t speak unless spoken to. That’s not really ever been me. But why do I feel the need to stretch the envelope, saying things that most decidedly don’t need to be said, or saying things at the absolute wrong time? I tell this to other people all the time: “Always take a minute to consider what you’re going to say before you say it.” But do I follow my own advice? It appears not.

I guess I just need to try and keep my mouth shut more. I can do it at work no problem, so all the time I’ll just pretend I’m at work. Because not only are others judging me all the time, but they’re making up their minds on whether or not they want to be friendly with me, based on every single thing I say. And while I don’t base my self-worth on others’ perceptions of me, I would be stupid not to take that into account before joking about things I shouldn’t joke about, or saying something about someone, even in jest, when I hardly know that person. Or any number of other things I’ve said that I’ve come to regret after the fact.

Maybe instead of imagining I’m at work all the time, I should just ask myself would what I’m going to say reflect well on my children? Would it be something I feel okay saying in front of them, or should I reconsider it? It’s obvious that just preaching patience and talking to others about thinking before speaking is having no effect on me. I want to be someone people enjoy talking to, not because I’m being fake, but because I’m being smart about what to say and what not to say. There’s a world of difference between the two, and being bold and brash never wins or maintains friendships.

So, I want to apologize to anyone I’ve ever offended with my thoughtless comments. I make absolutely no excuses for them, but they’re done. I’m turning over an old leaf, one that I’ve looked at many times and considered but never turned over before. Now is the time. If not now, when? I hate that about me, so I need to cut it out. I want to always be a good role model for my children, even when they aren’t watching or listening, because I’ll know, and I’m just not able to live with it anymore.

Sam

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thThe R on my keyboard sticks. In fact, every single time you see an R in this blog post just know that I’ve typed it in repeatedly before it showed up. I’m not quite sure when it started, but it was probably about three weeks ago. It was subtle, too, at first, so that I merely found it mildly annoying. In the beginning. Then it began truly bothering me this past week. With a vengeance.

I thought about prying the key up and trying to figure out what was happening underneath, thought about being the keyboard doctor, but I stopped myself with one very real fear: what would happen if I couldn’t get it to go back on? Then not only would I be without a perfectly working R key, but I would then have also maimed my keyboard to no avail. At least it’s not my space bar.

When it began messing up my Facebook posts and responses, that’s when I knew it was more than just an inconvenience. I mean, it’s Facebook! That’s probably an extension of my anal retentive nature, needing everything to be perfect, and being extremely disappointed when it reveals itself to be different from my ideal. It’s why I’m hardly ever satisfied, even when things go as well as they can possibly go. I’m always looking for that perfect scenario, that fluid R to complete my keyboard.

When I was young it first manifested in my bedroom while I was counting bars on my window. I would sit on my bed and stare through the glass at those thick black bars that made me feel like I was in prison. I counted them over and over again, even though they never changed. There were eight in total, and it eased my mind to have such a solid footing. I knew there were eight, and everyone else who counted would have seen eight as well. It was soothing in its way.

(more…)

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