Sometimes we feel like we need to force change. We know where we want to end up; we create plans and mood boards; we talk about change, announcing our intentions to the world, inviting it to hold us accountable. We plunge in, try, fail, try again, fail again, grow discouraged, try from a different angle, fail again.
Nothing seems right. Nothing seems to satisfy us. We feel like we should be somewhere else, doing something different, fighting against being where we are right now; refusing to do what we need to do right now; refusing to be who we are.
But what if we took a different approach? What if, instead of dreaming and planning, we put out an invitation to change, invited change into our life?
And then waited. Patiently growing familiar with who we are right now, our restlessness, our imperfections. Patiently completing the daily tasks we have in this, our current, imperfect lives. Accepting that this is our home, moldy showers, Covid clutter and all. That this is our job, unrealistic expectations, imperfect colleagues, expense reports, and all. That this is our relationship, dirty socks in the middle of the living room, and all.
And learn to live with it.
Not to tolerate it but to live with it.
What does it mean to live with ourselves: that this is us, this imperfect body, restless mind, roller coaster of emotions. That this is the only body we get, so what do we need to do to cherish it? To live in it now, rather than later when it becomes something from our vision board, something worth instagraming? To take the steps necessary to keep it safe and happy by going to the dentist and stretching it and fueling it with premium instead of just regular food.
What does it mean to live with our tasks? To stop complaining about cooking and vacuuming and doing laundry and washing dishes – and fantasizing about having someone else do them or blaming someone else who isn’t doing them – and just do them simply and move on.
What does it mean to live with our homes? I have home-envy, obsessing over shelter porn, wishing for a home in the woods where I would probably be lonely and miserable and obsessed over getting back to the city, to an apartment uninfested with spiders; wishing for a bigger apartment with two bathrooms and more storage space and a view of something other than the neighbors across the courtyard. What if I let go of the home envy and accepted that this home is where I need to be right now? How would I treat this home differently?
What does it mean to live with our jobs? To stop thinking about what I should be when I grow up, what I can do to make a difference in the world, and accept that I am doing important work here, and making a difference in a small way and I don’t need to be someone else professionally, I just need to be who I am at work and do what I am hired to do, and do it well.
What does it mean to live with our relationships? To stop thinking about how to rescue my sister, to help her be happy; how to improve my mom’s situation; to solve my husband’s dissatisfaction with his job; to say the perfect thing that will resolve for my nephew all his restlessness; to wake up my other sister.
Many years ago, a friend was obsessing about getting married; she kept bouncing back to a certain man, and then bouncing away again because there was something lacking in him. But there was something lacking in every man she met: this one didn’t listen to her; that one was too religious; this other one didn’t take her seriously. Then she met the guy she thought would be The One: he checked all her boxes except one. He lived on the wrong coast. He was in the family business, which was California-based, and she would have to move away from her family, her friends, her career. She asked my advice. I asked whether he was open to moving to New York: No. Was she open to moving to California: No. That was the end of that. How will I know when I’ve found the one? She wailed. No one is perfect and you can ‘t change people to make them perfect; the right man will be the one whose imperfections are tolerable to you. A year later she married the guy she had kept bouncing back to; now she is happily married and has two adorable kids.
My cat has this habit: I can call her to sit on my lap all day and she just gives me this disdainful stare. But, if I have been sitting quietly and then I think to myself that I should get up and go make dinner or go to the bathroom or go get the laundry, or do something other than sit on my butt, the cat will come and sit in my lap and curl up and go to sleep.
Sometimes an invitation to change is not picking a direction and racing toward it: sometimes an invitation is opening your heart, keeping your eyes open, focusing on where you are, and letting change come to you.