I’ve been pondering change, lately.
Well, pretty much forever.
I grew up in Florida. During my senior year in high school, our advanced biology class was given the task of setting up, balancing, and maintaining a salt-water aquarium for the school year. No filters or heaters or lights. Just whatever you and your partner could haul home from the beach, along with 20 gallons of seawater and a little fish food.
Gathering was fun.
Setting up was fun. Like underwater interior decorating, with just the right shells and rocks.
Balancing and maintaining were more of a challenge. The fish were all gorgeous until one of them got just a little bigger and started eating all his friends. When it was dark and chilly all through Christmas vacation, some sad sights awaited us when we returned.
Along the way we flushed a lot of dead fish. And made lots of trips to the beach for more suitable companions. More oxygenating weeds. Shells without things dying in them.
Some of my classmates decided to take a C at the end of the semester and quit worrying about it. My partner and I hung in there.
I’m glad we did. I didn’t know it then, but what I was learning was that one little change in any system affects everyone and everything. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that 20-gallon system through the years. Usually when things are changing.
Things have changed a lot in the last year while I’ve been engaged in the journey known as Color of Woman. It’s been amazing. Also hard.
Change is always stressful. Even if it’s the most longed for of changes. It’s always stressful.
My friend, Henry Close, who was trained in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy by Milton Erickson, explains that, before we can change something, we first have to love it. Not hearts and flowers love, necessarily. Just a tiny crack of openness to the possibility that there are huge, often unconscious, things that hold us all back from real relatedness, and yet are, in their own way, trying to help us.
If you’re anything like me, it’s a pretty big challenge. You go ahead and name the folks on your list. Unless they were clinical sociopaths, suggests British psychologist, Donald Winnacott, they were probably doing the best they could, however inadequate or misguided it was. Experimenting with this idea still doesn’t mean that their behavior was acceptable. Or that people weren’t badly hurt. It’s ok if it takes a while.
Now, for the big leap!
The same is true for ourselves. Decisions that turned out badly. Temper tantrums we might have been better off without. Stretch marks. Fear. Nightmares. Anger. Hair we’ve always hated. Opportunities passed by. Self-esteem issues. Actions that haunt us still. We were, in all likelihood, doing the best we could.
Accept yourself, your journey, your body, your dreams. Intentional Creativity is one powerful way to experience that kind of acceptance.
The very best thing we can do for our families is to begin to love the things we hope to change or move past in ourselves for the survival strategies they once were. Like my fishy friends, all those years ago, as we change, everything in the system will change. Eventually for the better.
Excerpted from my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope
The art is is a bit of the portrait of my underwater Muse, 2018.