When You’re Resistant To Change

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I don’t have a particularly good track record when it comes to change. I don’t like it. I always assume it’s going to end badly and, because of that, I tend to stay in situations longer than I should. The familiar unpleasant is less terrifying to me than the unknown. When it comes to thinking about the future, most of the time I do a really good impression of Eeyore. For the longest time I thought this aversion to change was just part of my personality, an intractable part of being an introvert, but that’s a cop out.

Recently I was talking to my boss about some upcoming changes to the furniture in my office and, while I tried to wrap my head around it, I said, “I think it will be good. I just need a minute. I tend to process change as loss.”

And she stopped me and said, “Actually you don’t. You process change as loss when you are convinced that you are losing something. But not all change is like that. If I told you I was going to double your salary you wouldn’t process that as loss, you’d be excited.”

Oh.
Busted.

I am learning to take a different approach to change. When I feel myself trying to hold on to something that feels like it’s being taken away I try to ask myself, “What am I afraid of losing?” It’s a remarkably helpful posture to take. It leads to all sorts of questions about what things were never mine in the first place and what things are intrinsic and could never be taken away. When I find myself with my fists clenched around the thing I’m trying to hold on to, I am trying to remember to ask, “What might it look like? Where could we go from here?”

A part of the reason I’ve been so resistant to change is because I think of time as a thing that’s running out. I’m 43, I’m not as young as I used to be. Certain doors have closed that will not open again. But I’m trying to flip my thinking around to see time as something I gain, rather than something I lose. I’ve had the gift of 43 years and every day that I wake up is more time. More room for growth, more time to learn, more room for the miracles.

When I look at the world as it is today, I long for change. I long for a justice system that is actually fair and equal. I long for an economy where hard work and careful saving is enough to build a strong foundation. I dream of a day when women are seen as fully human, autonomous, and able to make decisions about their own bodies. There is so much I want to change.

If we want to change the world, we have to be willing to accept that things will change. I know, it seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but sometimes I forget.  I would prefer it if changing the world could be orderly and predictable—more like a surgery where I can dictate what will be severed and what will be left in tact. But life isn’t like that at the best of times; revolutionary change certainly isn’t.  Change may be uncomfortable but that doesn’t give us the excuse not to go forward. 

A friend of mine has a sign in her kitchen that reads, “Everyone wants a revolution but no one wants to do the dishes.” I often think about that. If we truly want to change our faith and change the world, we have to do the work. I have to do the work. I have to notice the places in my own life where skin colour matters and dig out the root of that evil. I have to pay attention to the words I use and notice which voices I’m listening to. I have to accept that change is coming and try not to stand in its way.

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Claire Colvin
Claire is learning to call herself a feminist. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. In 2013, her National Novel Writing Month entry was a science fiction story about a broken world where everyone was required to be as similar as possible. Claire wishes she could fold the world like a map so the people she loves weren’t so far away. She lives on a small mountain near Vancouver and writes at clairecolvin.ca.
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin

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