Growth is uncomfortable.

colicBeing born had to have been a highly unpleasant experience. We’ve all gone through it, we just don’t remember it. But I’ve seen the photos and the whole thing looks pretty miserable. Most of us were shoved forcibly from a warm, muffled cocoon into a cold, antiseptic (and, egad, fluorescently lit!) hospital room, greeted by a spanking. A spanking! Well, nice to meet you, too, Doc! And ever since that first indignant and terrified gulp of air, most of us have continued kicking and screaming our way through life’s many changes.

norman_rockwell_tallerAs children, our lives change dramatically on a daily basis. Think about it: one day, tired of just crawling on the floor, we are able to start walking! Surely our infant psyches are puzzled when, unannounced and uninvited, teeth begin to painfully assert themselves in our little mouths.

Later, those very same teeth begin to loosen and fall out without warning. We learn to read, to write, to navigate the long hallways of our elementary school. And just when all of that starts to feel like old hat, we’re thrust into the hell of junior high and the chaos of adolescence.

Growth is a by-product of drastic changes in our minds, bodies, and surroundings. From the moment we are born, we’re in a constant state of becoming. But somewhere along the way, we kind of lose the plot. Our minds, bodies, and surroundings don’t stop changing as we get older, yet in adulthood, most of us tend to react to change like this:

There’s something to be said for revisiting our childhood relationship to change. As children, surrender to change wasn’t so much a choice as it was a state of being. We just kind of muscled through transitions, knowing instinctively that what we were going through was just a phase.

Maybe what really scares us is the knowledge that life itself is just a phase. When loved ones move away, when we have to upgrade our reading glasses to a stronger prescription, when we outgrow a friendship, when our favorite restaurant closes, we’re reminded that everything–even we–must come to an end.

G61023Yet this selfsame awareness of impermanence is exactly what imparts sweetness to our lives. Instead of resisting the inexorable mutability of life, we have the choice to remain curious. We can remind ourselves that, however painful it may be, change provides us with an opportunity to become wiser, kinder, and funnier.

And when all else fails, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we never have to go through junior high again.


9 thoughts on “Growth is uncomfortable.

  1. Incredible Hilary! You have a remarkable way with words, this post really struck a chord with me. I loved the line,”Yet this selfsame awareness of impermanence is exactly what imparts sweetness to our lives.” I have been reflecting a lot lately and struggling with my ability to find words for my thoughts/feelings. This summarizes it very well.
    I recently entered a new phase of my life that has brought my impermanence to the forefront of my thinking. You and I think a lot alike 😉
    By the way, I fully support convulsive fits of laughter in public! That shouldn’t hinder you from reading Sedaris. I am certain it was equally as entertaining for those sitting around you.
    One more thing (sorry for the long comment) – where can I hear you sing? I am a big music buff and am very interested. I am sure you are great!

    • Thank you so much for your response and that wonderful compliment. I had the serendipitous experience today of attending a lecture, the subject of which was (wait for it) impermanent and Buddhism. All day I had impermanence on the brain. (-:

      I don’t mean to be trite, but change really is the only constant in life. Thanks for reading.
      Also, my website is linked on my blogroll, so you’ll find information about gigs and recordings there.

  2. Beautifully stated Hilary. I find it fascinating how truly organic we are and how pertinent it is that society offers us just the right amount of stress to yield the proper growth at the right times. Alas in the great garden of life, you my dear are a resplendent orchid.

    • Thank you, Ben! Yeah, I find that if we can somehow give in to the sea changes that transform our lives, we’re in better shape than if we fight. Painful, uncomfortable experiences very often give way to a re-birth of sorts. It’s a lesson I’m learning again and again, every day! xo

  3. change is uncomfortable whether it is emotional, physical or ideological. sometimes obstacles feel like change when they’re really only an impedance…and one must forge ahead with determination. ah, to know the difference is the blessing of experience and awareness.

    all change challenges our illusions of control and inspires fear and anxiety. emotional change is understandably uncomfortable, as is physical change. but, we seem to resist ideological change the most when it is usually accompanied by evidence to challenge our previous views. why do we do this? why do we cling to our beliefs as those beliefs are contradicted by our experiences?

    i like the birth metaphor as i have long believed that there is a baby inside us attempting to be in control and that damn baby doesn’t like to have to figure things out. change makes the baby think and the baby is busy being a baby…waaa. again, experience offers the opportunity to sort out the baby from the adult and let the adult make the decisions with big britches on.

    • I totally hear you. I feel like I’m constantly trying to achieve a balance between myself as child and adult. I identify the “child” part with intuition and curiosity, whereas the “adult” in me is the one that, as you say, “figures things out.” Our childlike intuition and visceral response can be a powerful tool, but we can’t let the little kid be the one to drive the bus, as it were.

      Anyway, it is a constant struggle, and I agree: the changes that require us to abandon old belief systems are the most difficult and painful. I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my own life, surrendering outdated beliefs is painful because I am reminded (AGAIN!) that control is an illusion and understanding is always a work in progress. xo

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