Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Defining Change

I suppose I should clarify what it "positive change" actually means before ranting and raving about how to go about and actually do it.

My current working definintion is akin to habit. Like biting nails or adding pepper to eggs, real change happens when I am not thinking about it anymore. It's as if the new action or attitude has become part of my DNA. And, because I'm nearly 35, having spent about 34 of those years establishing certain, perhaps more negative habits (like biting nails or eating after 8:00 PM), it feels like I'm swimming against the tide if I want to make changes for the better.

And, at the core is the desire to choose changes that bring the most pleasure to life. But, as I'm learning again and again, true, lasting pleasure requires hard work. And, strangely enough, that hard work becomes a constant thread in the weave of change--in other words, the work itself is part of the pleasure which allows change. Case in point: eight years ago I began work on my master's degree in English. I worked very hard in college, staying up late nearly every night and most weekends to write the best papers and create the best lesson plans for my English 101 classes. I worked so hard it nearly drained me completely. But, it did establish high standards that I am always working towards (if not always meeting). I worked for three years as a part-time instructor, making less than $30K a year, but working all the time. Now, I'm in a tenure track position--the greatest benefit is that I am teaching at one school where I can fully develop my teaching self. The hard work continues, but it is more like a drive, or ambition now; still a lot of work, but the work and focus is habitual. The ongoing implications-professionally and personal--of my habits as an instructor are only just starting to come to light.

The quote in the margin likens change, which is uncertain, to adventure. Obviously, then, change is an ongoing journey.

Tonight, when Jack was pulling books off the shelf to pretend and read them to the imaginary preschool we were attending to as two preschool teachers, I grabbed John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley and, as directed by Jack, began to read aloud. I read the third paragraph and, mostly because of my current obsession with what change is and how to make it happen for real, I read it as a metaphor of change:

Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us...The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it. I fell better now, having said this, although only those who have experienced it will understand it (Steinbeck's Travels With Charley, page 4).

Somehow, the balance of allowing change to occur while still attempting to plan it seems to be the intersection where real change occurs. That's my hunch. I'm still working out the details.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Almost started a new blog, but starting over can be a bitch.

At some point in my life (grad school? moving to Boston? new job?) I was in a constant frantic state of unease. It wasn't pleasant. In the midst of the unease I must have said or done something which made Ed turn to me with the kind of distant compassion you only see in movies that are meant to inspire Buddha and said, "Laura, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable."

It was an ephiphany. The ephiphany pissed me off. I hated that it made sense. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable seemed to have a kind of permance to it--that somehow, if I just accepted my insecurity and incertainty that I would simultaneously find some security and certainty. Ugh.

Lately, I've been working hard at trying to figure out how to make permanent, positive changes in my life. Ed & I have created a few goals for ourselves (the biggest include paying off debts and saving for a downpayment on a house) and I have attempted--in short stints--to make other changes.


For a while, at least, the posts on this blog will attempt to articulate what it means to change, how change does (and doesn't happen) and even work through why we feel the need for change. I guess I'm hoping to record as much of the process as possible so it gets easier.