Choose You Blog
The title of this post is a quote by Spencer Johnson, who wrote the 1998 motivational book, titled Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. That’s a really useful book for people like me who require a certain amount of transition time. You know, to adjust. Because why? Because initially, you see, change feels a little worrisome. I’d like to say this is about personality type but I think, actually, it’s simply being human.
I used to think I was amazingly resilient and flexible, always an OK! GO! kind of person. I thought I leapt and took chances and was ready to see new places, experience new things. I got this impression in childhood, largely I think because my parents always told me I was resilient and adaptable. But upon reflection, they are very biased sources: they needed desperately for me to be. We moved often. I attended four elementary schools. In six years. Two middle schools. In three years. I was always the new kid, and anyone who has ever been always the new kid moving into a stable community understands you must become a person who goes with the flow, personality notwithstanding. Also, my parents kept changing their own circumstances. First they were married. Then they were divorced. Then they remarried other people. Then one divorced. And so on. My father kept up the moving, too. I will be recalling a memory and start with, “Remember that great hearth room in the Georgia house?” And my father will say, “No, no that was Kansas.” And I will say, “I loved the pocket parks there in Kansas!” and my stepmother will say, “Oh no that was Wisconsin!”
So my memories are also a little suspect.
When my daughter was born, I expected it to be another change I’d weather easily. I had managed for over 30 years to maintain the convenient fiction that I was an instantly adaptable person, you see. So one day when I was crying in a rocking chair I was surprised: what was this stress? It was the manifestation and overflow of ignorance of need.I learned a lot about children, people and myself after I became a parent. I discovered we say a lot of things out of convenience and necessity, because we need them or want them to be true. We think children do not notice when we ask them to transition, when we expect them to end something on our timetable. We think they do not notice when we drag them into our world without thought enough for their own.
This can become a habit. It can become the way you frame your life within the world. You can continue to build your time and self around other people and their world. You can continue to expect yourself to prioritize in that way, to transition on others’ time-lines. I know I did.
I know I expected this of my daughter. I know I thought children were attached to me, not to their place. I know I was frustrated by my daughter’s tantrums every single time we left the playground…until I read a book that talked about transitions and easing them. My daughter responded in the only way she could as a two year old: by tantruming. She was communicating the sense of powerlessness she had. She was communicating the sense of loss and confusion she experienced when I suddenly ripped her away from a happy place and time. She did not understand why a mother who loved her did not understand how she might feel about this.
I was not being true to my integrity. I was lying to myself about the transition and my daughter’s feelings and needs.
I was not being honest with my daughter. I kept telling her it was fine, it was no big deal. I was asking her to deny how she felt; I was asking her to accommodate my need.
When I stopped to really think this all the way through, I thought I was not being true to myself or those around me, either. Change needs transition time. It’s natural to resist change or feel stressed by it, and it’s important to find what works for you during change.
For my daughter, I gave her fair warning. “Three more things and time to go!” “Two more things and time to go!” “Last thing and time to go!” “Okay time to go, let’s say goodbye! Goodbye swings! Goodbye slide! Goodbye sandbox! Goodbye friends!”
And we left happily ever after.
When I decided to change my life and lose weight, get in shape, and make my own good health a priority, I think I did the same thing of easing myself into the transition. “Goodbye bad eating! Hello Weight Watchers!” “Goodbye sloth! Hello exercise!” “Goodbye being too busy! Hello making time to care for myself!”
This week I took another step forward.
I started working with a nutritionist, and awesome lady named Kathie Nelson. I was reluctant to start working with a nutritionist. I was worried she’d tell me I was doing it all wrong. I was afraid I’d have to change everything, and while I was willing on some level to make some change, I was afraid the change I’d have to make would ask too much of me.
Isn’t that so often how it feels.
I said to my husband and friends, “Well I’m starting up with a nutritionist now. I’m going to have to get honest again, with myself and with her, if I expect to do anything any better.”
He said, “Why do you say that as if it is a bad thing?”
When I got on the phone with Kathie, I said, “To be honest I’m really worried about this.”
She said, “Why?”
I hmm’d and mmm’d. I told myself to be honest.
“I eat a lot of quick meals. I eat out of a box a lot. A lot of my food starts frozen. I buy from my caterer. I do a lot of quick meals, and if I can save time and money on food I will. I like to eat out. I don’t eat a lot of junk food or fast food but it’s been known to happen, and without guilt. I’m really rushed and to tell the truth I guess on food I’ve become a sort of slacker.”
To her credit, Kathie did not laugh out loud at me. To my credit, she said, “Okay.”
“Really?” I asked, waiting for the hellfire and damnation to begin.
“Really. So tell me, why is this how you eat, what is the food, really?”
I described it in more detail, and realized that I was doing so slightly defensively. I try to keep it healthy and I really think I manage that, even if I’m not Betty Crocker. When I share some of my common recipes, such as Mexican Bruschetta, people seem to think it sounds great. So I think my food is okay, but I was truly waiting on this expert to tell me it was all wrong.
And she didn’t. Instead she told me the ways it is right. The ways in which it is all right. And then we decided to start with one small thing. And see what’s next, logically. I’ve started by getting back into journaling my daily food and exercise. I am telling myself the truth. I am respecting my own integrity. And I am telling the truth to others, too. I know
She has done the equivalent of helping me transition my young self off of the playground. I know what is ahead and it feels okay.
Taking the step to see Kathie was a challenge. But the good thing about acknowledging my own need to transition into things, and building my trust in my ability to do so in a way that is good for me, has really been one of my biggest Choose You boons.
How do you transition? How do you get going? How do you stop?