Anticipating a change can be scary, but you can also have a sense of control. You can at least try and plan for what is to come. You can tell yourself, “I think this is going to happen and then I will do this”. Not that it will work out that way. But before things actually change—when you see the change a-comin’—you can at least receive comfort by pretending you have some control.
Then the change comes.
And you are in the thick of it.
You are no longer waiting for the boat to leave the shore. The boat is out in the water and the waves are getting bigger.
Two things happen once change has begun to occur.
You can release a bit of the fear of the unknown. You now know what the change is going to feel like because you are in it. Some of the landscape is coming into view. You are beginning to see things and experience things from the inside of the change.
The second thing that happens is the reality of the change sets in and now you have to deal with the new experiences, the new emotions. You can no longer plan for the inevitable. It is happening. You need to act. The question goes from “What will happen?” to “How am I going to get through this?”
Once change occurs, things do not become more certain. A whole new set of questions pours in:
Can I do this?
Is it always going to feel like this?
Is it going to change again?
What should I do next?
Am I going to make it through this?
In my next post I am going to talk through a few ways to stay grounded while change is happening.
For now I want to focus on one question we may not want to ask while we are in change. It is one of the most important questions we can ask during change. However, the way it is asked and when it is asked determines whether the question is helpful or actually hurtful.
The question is…
What is the learning – what is the possibility – in the midst of this change?
I know this is an annoying question. Actually it can be a horrible question in the midst of gut wrenching, unexpected changes. This question could be misconstrued as meaning that the change you are going through is good or has purpose simply because there is something to learn from it.
There are times you should not ask this. And no good friend should ask this either. See my note below about when not to ask this question.*
Here is the thing –
I do believe we can always learn something from change. I do believe that there is always possibility in the midst of life’s storms. I do not believe that this means things always happen for a reason or it is good when people go through painful trauma. Horrible things happen to people all the time and nobody deserves these things. They do not serve a higher purpose.
However, I do believe goodness shows up within change – even horrible change. And the lessons we need to learn often come in the midst of turmoil and upheaval. Even if these lessons are not visible until sometime later.
So when you are ready, when you have navigated the change, survived the hardest moments, when you have created breathing space….
Ask yourself, very gently….
What possibility is in here? What am I learning?
(Not what “should” I be learning… but what am I learning?)
If you ask gently enough the answer can be surprising.
There may be a lesson, an invitation…
The learning may be really freakin’ hard. It may be something you would rather avoid. Change works that way.
If you figure out what is inside the journey—the lesson or blessing—you can engage.
And what if you are tired of learning?
Well, unfortunately learning is a part of our journey. It does not stop. If you want to be a more loving person, you are going to have to keep learning. Sigh.
Like change, there is always more learning. It just keeps happening.
If we turn away from the learning—just like turning away from change—we stop growing and feeling. This results in less love, less joy, and less light in our lives in the long run.
So take a deep breath, sigh if you must, and ask, “What is the lesson in this change?”
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*Note: You do not need ask yourself “What I am learning?” if you are in the midst of grief. If you are in the process of letting go of people or places or even ways of being, you need space to grieve. Yes, there probably will be hard or beautiful learning that comes from those experiences. But we need the space and time to grieve – not to find some false silver lining. In grief, give yourself time not questions.