Hard, Messy, and Gorgeous
We just need to let go, be open, and have faith that hard and messy will eventually turn gorgeous.
“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” —Robin Sharma
I’ve been avoiding it, but it’s time to talk about the C word…CHANGE. (Get your mind out of the gutter). The dreaded, yet highly-sought-after phenomenon of life. We all seek it fervently in our minds, romanticize it in our fantasies, and avoid it with absolute gusto as it inches close. Change is an inevitable and natural part of life, but change is hard, requiring us to let go of the past, push through our fears, and open up to the chest-cracking vulnerability of new possibilities.
Having recently moved, I’ve been shell-shocked at how difficult this change was for our family. Keep in mind we literally moved 10 minutes down the road from our previous home. This is hardly an earth-shattering event. Even with this minor change, it made me see the world from a different perspective and got me thinking about why change is so challenging.
For me, the process of moving–packing boxes and going through dusty attic artifacts–laid out a tangible timeline of all the changes in my life. As I was packing up our belongings in our old home, I plucked through all the different phases of my life, including unfortunate pictures of my 80’s hair, strange relics of college mischief, and love letters from ex-boyfriends. I paged through scrapbooks documenting my childhood and parsed through endless tubs of baby clothes and disturbingly-stained burp cloths (ladies, why do we keep these?).
As I sifted through all the chapters of our lives and packed everything up, the house became emptier and emptier, and the walls echoed with our memories and what remained of our story there. Devoid of our belongings, it no longer felt like home, and I felt a deep, unexpected ache at leaving it behind.
Once we were all packed up, we drove away, leaving behind the “neighborhood” cat and our beloved 12-year-old neighbor who had become like a sister to my kids. The despondent wails filled the car, mine being the most prominent (as usual). For the first week in the new house, my daughter begged to go home every night at bedtime. I, too, cried like a grieving maniac at bedtime, sobs racking my body and cold sweats lingering for several sleepless nights.
Change was upon us, and I missed the familiarity of our routine, the faces of our neighbors, and the walks to the neighborhood pond in the evenings. I felt a deep loss, as if I were truly in mourning over our “old life.” This pang in my heart felt exactly the same as breaking up with a high school boyfriend or losing a family pet. Anatole France put it perfectly: “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.”
Change is hard because it always involves loss, at least initially. Giving ourselves time to let go of the past and grieve that loss is necessary. This mourning period is truly the hard part of change. The key is not to get stuck at the funeral but to move forward, keep breathing, and create some space for the newness to unfold.
Change is also challenging because it involves a colossal, ass-kicking dose of fear. What if I fail? What if I make the wrong choice? What if no one likes me or I’m not worthy? What if everyone finds out I’m actually completely incompetent and just faking it? For me, fear can be positively paralyzing; I have to nudge myself continually to choose faith and self-love over fear. Instead of tuning in to the incessant chatter of my fears, I try to remind myself that everything will work out for the greater good.
Change gets messy in the middle because it’s our human nature to snuff out the unfamiliar ASAP. We rush to fill all the empty spaces and gaps that change creates. Once we moved, I began cyber-stalking Pottery Barn and Joss & Main to buy rugs, chairs, porch furniture, and bar stools to fill the rooms in our house. I was like a rabid consumer hell-bent on filling every blank corner. Thank God my husband was able to pull the credit card from my clenched fists and talk me down from the home-decorating ledge.
Similarly, in an effort to fill the void of missing our old neighborhood friends, I forced my kids to go on long, sweaty walks in 100 degree heat to find kids their age in the new neighborhood. They balked, they complained, and they may have had a touch of heat stroke, but we were going to find friends…NOW. (Because there’s no better beginning to a friendship than some well-intentioned stalking). Oh yes, things can get messy as we navigate through changes and find our new normal.
Ultimately, change creates a new canvas, and we can fill it a little at a time. Instead of rushing to coat the canvas in a haphazard, warp-speed mess of blotchy paint (my style), we can slow down and let the brush strokes unfold more organically. Yes, change can leave us upside down, and the gaps and uncertainties make us uncomfortable, but good things can happen outside our comfort zone. We just need to let go, be open, and have faith that hard and messy will eventually turn gorgeous.
Just this week, I have had the pleasure of meeting some new neighbors and creating some new evening rituals. I can see that new friendships will form and we’ll fill this new house with love and memories (and rugs, chairs, and porch furniture, eventually). And that is truly gorgeous.