On Embracing Change this September
Leveraging life's impermanence to improve yourself
This time of year never fails to put me in a “back to school” mood, even though the last time I actually went back to school was to speak to my sister’s middle schoolers about my storied career (all they wanted to know about was the time I met Jay-Z from my days in advertising).
As a kid, the process took on a predictable, two-step grieving process:
Do everything summer-y in as short a time as possible: spending all day at the pool (even if it rained), hunting down the ice cream truck that roamed our neighborhood, and riding my bike til my feet felt like they would fall off.
Get over it when my mom would take me shopping for back to school supplies and our first day outfit.
I would geek out over colored pencils and the perfect Lisa Frank folders, and stress about finding the look that would perfectly capture how mature I’d become in the past three months, an ensemble sure to captivate the boys and make me the envy of all the girls. (Neither of those things ever happened, obviously, but an awkward tween can dream..)
It seems fitting that this “back to school” feeling never really goes away. There’s a new feel to fall. You’re rejuvenated after an end-of-summer vacation, you’re switching from iced coffee to hot, you’re wearing socks again…everything’s different!
But just like heading back to school can be exciting and a little scary (I remember dreading second grade because I knew I’d have to learn cursive and that did NOT look fun), autumn often brings with it change that stirs up these conflicted feelings. Because not everyone’s great with change.
Maybe after a summer spent telling yourself (and all your friends and family), “I’ll look for a new job once everyone’s back in the office and companies start hiring again,” now you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is. Or maybe you’re a college student entering his senior year and realizing, “Oh sh*t, I really have to start thinking about a job now, for real. Like, for real-for real.”
Maybe a relationship ended. Maybe a new one began. Maybe you’re about to have a kid. Maybe you’re about to have your third.
Whatever your circumstances, it’s healthy to acknowledge life’s impermanence and then get on with it anyway.
At yoga recently, we arrived at the point in class where the teacher encourages the hardcore students to do all the hippie dippie stuff. No matter what yoga class you go to, when you’re done with the sweat-inducing Warriors and Down Dogs – and before you settle into Corpse pose to chill out for the last five minutes – teachers challenge you to “Work on your headstand practice” or meditate or do inversions.
In this class, the teacher wanted us to get into plow pose. Basically, you lie on your back, then swing your legs over your head, with the intention of getting your toes to touch the ground right up around your ears. It looks ridiculous…it crunches your neck..and it can feel really great when you nail it, with your hands supporting your lower back to help get you there.
Well on this day, my legs just did. not. want. to get there.
It felt a bit like that game “Light as a Feather Stiff as a Board” that you used to play at sleepovers, when you really are convinced that there’s no ground underneath you. That’s how it felt – logically I knew my head was on the ground, so there must be solid terrain back there for my feet to land on, but all I could see was the ceiling and the tops of my knees hovering stubbornly around my eyebrows.
I was about to give up. My neck hurt. I looked stupid (an integral part of almost all yoga poses is looking stupid and doing it anyway), and I was convinced the floor around my mat had given way to a silent, motionless earthquake, wherein, if my feet did manage to connect with the ground, it would crumble and I’d be pulled into some black hole and drop into the depths of the earth. And I had brunch plans so that would not be cool.
Just one more breath, I told myself. I shimmied my hands farther up my back, hollowed out my stomach just a little more, and …there it was. The floor. I’d done it.
When it comes to change, it’s helpful to remember you’re almost always just about through it. If it’s good, savor it because it won’t last forever. And if it’s bad, breathe through it just a little longer and you’ll make it to the other side.