I’ve noticed recently that a lot of things are “life-changing.” As in…
“Marie Kondo-ing the kids’ drawers has been life-changing.”
“Adding collagen to my diet has really been life-changing for me.”
Or, a variation:
“Advertising on Pinterest is a game-changer.”
Sometimes I feel like I’m on the local train, while everyone is flying by me on the express line, transforming their lives in a flash. I wonder: can real change happen so quickly? We all wish to be transformed. We all wish for it to be a relatively fast, easy and painless process. But I think we’re really all stuck together on that local.
The only truly “life-changing” experience that happened to me overnight was becoming a parent (which is neither easy nor painless). Real change is a much slower and slipperier process. Like a lot of women I know, I’ve been on an endless mission of self-improvement since I was about twelve years old. I’ve gone down some dark alleys (usually involving self-loathing disguised as a fitness or diet routine), and I’ve also made a lot of—very slow—progress.
Here are some baby steps I’ve made recently:
1. I’ve set aside time on Friday afternoons to CLEAN MY HOUSE!
This has inspired more cleaning the rest of the week. Cleaning has never been my strong suit. Bake a chocolate pecan pie for Pi Day? Sure! Organize the overflowing shelves in the office? I don’t want to! And I don’t have time! Can’t you see I’m busy with work and pie-baking? If you stepped into my house right now, you wouldn’t say: “wow, it’s so clean,” but you also might not say, “yuck!” And perhaps more importantly, I’d feel okay letting you in without two hours of hard cleaning first. There’s been an upgrade in the state of “normal.” Which feels a lot better to live in.
2. First thing in the morning, before I stand up from my bed, I take a moment to…
Blow a Feather
And I notice that I’m weirdly tense and hunched from sleep and I’m able to let that go and start the day a little lighter and freer. This is the “magic” formula I teach to my students and suggest they do throughout the day. But when I start the day with it, I find it so much easier to remember to do it later on and later again and even when I’m stressed and especially when I’m tired…. As with the cleaning, once I’ve started, the practice tends to expand.
3. My family is going on four days in a row (whoop whoop whoop!) of getting out the door for school without anyone losing their temper or freaking out.
This feels like a small miracle. A miracle that involves a great deal of tedious work: everyone getting dressed sooner, a bunch of check-ins, a big heart on our kitchen calendar with—now—the number 4 in it, me accepting that I have to be more hands-on with all this than I want to be. And all of us getting to school/work in a much better state.
I confess I’m a little wary of reporting these small changes, because I know how precarious change can be. How easy it is, for a looooong time, to slide back into old patterns. But that’s in the nature of change too. It gets boring to keep working at it once the novelty has worn off. Or to start over when I’ve been up half the night with a sick kid and the bed’s not made and the floor is covered with Legos and I’m yelling at people to get in the car and my shoulders are up to my ears…
We all want (easy) transformation. We want the poetry workshop or the Ted Talk to be life-changing. We want, as Alexander Technique teacher Patrick Macdonald wryly observed, to “change without changing.” People come to me seeking change. They ask: “how do I play this song better?” or “how do I stop my neck hurting?” or “how do I deal with my husband/mother/kids/boss/self being so impatient?” They want the answer to be miraculous, and by tomorrow night, thank you very much.
But the only path I know is long and leisurely.
Blow a feather
Slowly, slowly, slowly it will change your life.
If you want fast, I guess you’d better talk to Marie Kondo.