The new year is all about change. We make resolutions. We start new routines. We imagine our lives changed — and that we will be the engine of that change.
What does the project of change entail? In my own life I’ve been thinking about this question a lot of late. The last few years have been filled with change. I got married. I lost my beloved father who, joy of all joys, married us a few months before he died. I decided to move my career in a new direction, and to take on the tremendous learning curve and hard work that entails. The whole world as I’ve known it has turned upside down, mostly for the better, and it’s taught me a lot about seizing the reins and letting go, all at the same time. Both are essential for change. We must take control by making decisions and backing them up with our actions, but we also have to relinquish control, remaining receptive to unexpected opportunities that may propel us forward, and to obstacles that may be redirecting us to higher ground. It’s this willingness to seize the reins and to hold them lightly that will get us where we’re going in the end. We aren’t the author of our narrative, after all, but the protagonist, and like the hero of any great movie, we will be tossed about by a fate not of our choosing, and we will have the opportunity to shape that fate with how we respond to the obstacles, and opportunities, in our path. When we make a resolution, and when then we make it so, we are engaged in this work. It is, to my mind, mighty work.
If you decide to make a change this year, to your waistline, your bank account, your love life (or lack thereof), or any of the myriad other things we humans are apt to want to change, you’ll notice that change always happens now, in whatever moment you’re living in — and it may take a hundred nows to get to your goal. Someone wrote a whole book about this so I won’t beat a dead horse, but I do want to try and put this power of now business in its proper perspective as it relates not to the spiritual enlightenment goal that that book was about, but to the lives we’re making out here in the rough and tumble world, where spiritual enlightenment is useful, but usually not enough.
Yes, we do need to bring ourselves more fully into the present. The present is where our lives begin — whether we’re two minutes old, or two decades or seventy years — and it is as rich and full of possibility as our imaginations will let us perceive. Often, what blocks our imaginative abilities is what we know — or think we know — of the past. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, too, as old memories have surfaced, demanding I pay them a little, what I hope will be final, attention. At first, the only thing I wondered is what these old memories were doing here in the present, where they do not belong. Then it hit me. Entering fully into the present does not mean shutting the door on the past. Anyways, this is not even something we’re particularly equipped to do. One whole side of our brain is devoted to mining and cataloguing the past, so we don’t have to learn the same lessons, again and again. It’s why by the time we’re 3 or 4, we know that a lit stove is hot and don’t have to touch it to find out. The problem comes in, of course, if knowing that the stove is hot, we develop a phobia about cooking, even though we’re competent adults who can full well handle ourselves around a hot stove.
And so it seems, the key to change is to get up on that metaphorical horse, seize the reigns lightly, and use the present moment to attend to the past — just enough to learn what it has to teach us, so we can yank those reins and move on. For example, if in the past you’ve binged on sugar whenever you’ve skimped on protein, or gone too long without a meal, you’ll know that you can curb your sweet tooth now by eating protein rich meals, and eating them more frequently (along with any other changes your goals may require). In this way, the past ceases to be a quicksand trap where you get mired and becomes a map that guides you on your way.
This “mining the past and moving on” approach works for inner change as well. I found this out personally when those old memories of mine started to burst through the surface in recent weeks. These were stray memories, mind you — and not particularly noteworthy ones — from a painful time in my childhood after my parents divorced and my father was sent away (which is how my child’s mind processed this loss). Because I want to move on from the past, now more than ever before, I asked those memories what they’d come for, and how they could serve me now. The answer came swiftly. Within a few days, I suddenly I understood that I had long had a desperate need to connect, deeply and all the time, that was seeded all those years ago when I was eight, when my father, who had been my mirror and kindred spirit, went away, first to the condo across town, then to another state and, finally, from my life altogether, thanks to a court order that probably wouldn’t be issued today. I saw how my desperation for deep, meaningful connection had hindered my ability to develop and enjoy relationships based on simpler, more utilitarian things, like shared interests, affinity, and goals out in the world – the very things that most interest me now. It was just the insight I needed to make change in 2013.
This month at Revel In It we’ll be chatting up a storm about change, and the juicy links that tie together the past, present and future.
We’ll tell you stories about The Visioning and Planning Phases of life — phrases you may recognize from last month’s story on The Doing Phase. We’ll tell you a story about food policy and change and another about something we call The Interconnectedness Revolution, a change we argue that is already here. Finally, we’ll tell you stories about interesting people who are changing the world (or who already changed it) through sports, fashion, food and, with the Academy Award nominations coming down the pike later this week, film. Speaking of film, one of our favorite stories of the month is one we’ll tell you about film storytelling and what it can teach us about the story of our own lives. Our roots at Revel In It are in film, so we can’t wait to share this particular little gem with you. Until then, and everywhere along the way, we wish you a month — and year — of glorious change.
PHOTOGRAPHY via Unknown
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.