As David Bowie sang, “turn and face the strange.”
Are you currently going through changes in your life? Or facing the reality that things are starting to change for you?
I think when we begin to “turn and face the strange” in our own lives, it can seem a little daunting. Or maybe a LOT daunting. Change is hard. Like, really hard sometimes. Change requires us to be flexible and to give up control and to be adaptive. All of those things sound good in theory, but most of us are creatures of habit. We often like routine and consistency and structure, though some of us might be loathe to admit that fun fact.
At the end of the day, change is one of the MOST consistent things we will face during our lifetimes, and so for that, it’s best to start to befriend it. Or, at the very least, get a little more familiar with it. What do you usually do when change is coming your way?
Run from it? Hide away in a dark corner somewhere and cope through denial?
Do you self-destruct to avoid having to go through the changes that you’re facing?
Do you bravely look it in the face and agree to all of its uncertainty, your fear, and the unknown?
Uh, yeah, me too - I definitely do the third one.
Hah. Just kidding.
Like I said before, change is hard. It’s tough to know it’s coming, to know that you’re being asked to bend and grow and stretch and cope. To know you need to be more flexible to adapt to what the future will hold, which is generally unpredictable. I think most of the time, the unknown is what really freaks us out. We don’t know what to expect, so we make up scenarios and stories - and our imaginations are quite extreme at times. Then, rather than recognizing that our imaginations might be playing tricks on us, we take those imagined scenarios and start to look at them through the same lens that we view our reality - like it’s already happened, or it’s fact. And that, my friends, can lead us into some dark and scary places.
Fear is a total liar, even though he tries to manipulate you into believing he’s truthful and honest and trustworthy.
But he’s not.
So, changes are hard because there’s the unknown, the fear of what’s to come (or not come), the anticipation of waiting and not knowing, and just the mere fact that things won’t continue on like they have been.
How can we cope with this in a more grace-filled or productive way?
I say, lean on others during changes in your life. Make sure you’re processing through all of these big changes (and all of their accompanying emotions and thoughts and reactions) with your therapist, and your friends, and your confidantes. Make sure you are leaning on others, rather than trying to handle it all yourself. We were never meant to shoulder the burdens of life alone, and no one should take on that kind of weight on their shoulders. Talk, reach out, write to a pen pal - whatever you need to do to connect with others in a real, authentic way.
Process it yourself, too. There is power in the skill of journaling, being able to be self-reflective through writing and expression. This allows us to connect with our deepest selves, and can sometimes allow thoughts and emotions that were buried underneath a bunch of other garbage to emerge. Write about what you’re going through, and the changes that are taking place in your life right now. Write about how you feel about it. You might start to find that it makes you feel a little better, or it at least gives you a little more clarity into your experience.
And remember, maybe more importantly, that you don’t need to have all the answers. You can be afraid. You can feel challenged. You can be scared of the unknown and worried about what will happen and freaked out. You can feel totally out of control. It’s just NOT normal to go into change feeling totally calm and in control - so remind yourself of that. Nothing is wrong with you for being scared, and for feeling fear, and for not knowing what will happen next. Just know too that you’ll get to the “other side” eventually, and the journey is worth more in the end than the destination. How we choose to cope with that journey is what is inevitably the most important part.