Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Leap of Faith/Life is Change

I woke up this morning thinking about how taking a "leap of faith" must be like doing a cannonball into the pool; plunge gleefully into the water, safe in the knowledge that God won't let you drown. Without that big "let go" of control, it wouldn't be a leap of faith.

I took a leap of faith this year, I jumped out into the unknown without any kind of parachute at all. And I'm still waiting for the landing. It seems the plunge just goes on and on. And I'm okay with that. It seems odd to me that I'm okay with that. It's as if on some level, I know that I must "hit bottom" before I can start the journey back up, so I'm just going with it. Watching my finances deteriorate to the same level as when I was in my early 20's and still economically "stupid". Discovering who my real friends are....and aren't. Moving into a residence that seems such a giant step down that I am still having a bit of "culture shock". And yet, I am oddly cheerful. Or perhaps I am just "punchy".  You be the judge.

Life is change. Without change, there is no life. Think about that a moment. A rock doesn't move or change, therefore we say it is "lifeless".  Sit as still as you can for awhile, be like a rock, and then move your arm. The motion of your arm moving is "change" and indicates "signs of life" in it's most rudimentary form. And yet it is interesting how much we, as humans, resist change. We like to feel safe and secure, it is our nature to seek the comfort of the familiar. And yet, in doing so--in resisting change, we are resisting Life. We will go to great lengths to maintain the status-quo. Even when what we have is making us miserable. We will turn ourselves inside-out in our efforts to make "what we have" feel "okay", rather than acknowledge that what we have is no longer functionally "healthy" for us and it's time to let it go and embrace something new or different. And we have a long list of reasons "why" maintaining the status quo is "the right thing to do". If that list ceases to be convincing, we fall back on things such as "honor" or "integrity" or "duty" or "responsibility". Whatever it takes to convince ourselves that we are where we are in life by choice, rather than acknowledge we've slipped into a rut and have become stuck; all but the most basic motion ceasing, thus life reduced to the minimum. Our days become filled with routines that no longer satisfy, but are so familiar they provide a certain comfort; a sense of stability that doesn't fulfill us, but doesn't rattle our cages either. The life of quiet and futile desperation. It is difficult to see that perhaps "where we are" was meant to be merely a leg of the journey, but not the destination.

Why do we do this? Quite simply, we avoid pain. Change very often brings with it pain. Pain is that something that must be avoided if we are to feel safe and secure. Whether it's our own pain, or the pain we may cause others. And yet pain can be the one thing that will push us to make a change. When the pain of being "stuck in a rut" exceeds the comfort we find in the familiarity of the rut, we make a change. It is at that point that we embrace change, and all of the pain that goes with it, in the hope of creating something that will ultimately be "better", and will bring some sense of relief. We reach the point where motion in any direction is better than no motion at all. And with that Motion; Life begins again. We stop trying to "fix" what we have and instead leap into the unknown, finally acknowledging to ourselves that what we have just "is what it is" and can't be fixed. It can only be chosen or replaced. What great pain we cause ourselves in our efforts to avoid pain, never realizing that the only way to relieve the pain is to accept and embrace change.

It is ironic that we avoid doing this; sometimes because we fear the unknown, sometimes because we feel a strong desire to protect others and don't want our choices to cause pain for our loved ones, sometimes because we feel a sense of duty and obligation toward committments we made under a certain set of circumstances that at the time we believed would continue forever, thus making us believe we could keep that committment, even when those circumstances no longer exist. And yet, the mere act of embracing change can be liberating, not only to ourselves, but to others as well. Sometimes we can become so wrapped up in being protective toward others that we fail to notice our "protectiveness" is keeping them stuck as well. Our efforts to "make the best of it" keep them caught in the same cycle we ourselves are caught in. I can look back now and see how our efforts to make our relationship work not only stopped me from doing some of the things I really wanted to do, it also stopped him from doing some of the things he really wanted to do. If only one of us had had the courage sooner to say "Time out! This isn't working for either of us!" we both would have been free to pursue some of the opportunities that came our way. I have to wonder if those opportunities were in fact; God sending opportunities to get "unstuck". God inviting us to move forward, to embrace Life again. God saying "I have heard your pleas and what you want cannot be achieved where you are, but it can be achieved over here!" God must scratch his head in puzzlement when we reject the opportunities he sends us and instead choose to continue beating our heads on an impermeable wall. He must wonder why we think we can change his creation into what we want it to be when it would be so much simpler to just choose something or someone that already is that way.

Janis Joplin sang "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..."  I think about those lyrics alot. There are so many different ways a person can interpret that statement. The most obvious is to envision a person who has lost all their material possessions. Without "things" to take care of, maintain, make payments on, come home to...a person has "nothing to lose" and therefore acquires the freedom to come and go as they please. But I think it goes much deeper than that. I think a person can reach a point where they realize that what they have isn't what they want, and therefore they "have nothing to lose". It doesn't mean that what they have is bad or wrong, it only means that what they have isn't want they want anymore, or turned out to not be what they thought it was, so why fight so hard to keep it, or worse; why fight so hard to try to change it into what they want, when it clearly isn't that by nature? Isn't it better and more loving to acknowledge it for what it is and then make a choice based on that recognition of what it is?

I spent most of my adult life trying to make a relationship work with someone who clearly had different ideas about what a relationship should be. When I look back now, I can see how hard we both tried to change ourselves and eachother in an effort to "fix" our relationship. Most people call it negotiating and compromising. We could have saved ourselves decades of pain and frustration if we had merely stepped back and acknowledged that we simply didn't want the same things out of a relationship and our ideas of how a relationship "should be" were so different that the best we could hope for was to reach that point of apathy which would bring the peace of "settling". Fortunately for us both, we're a couple of knuckleheads who were determined to NOT just "settle", so we battled on until we finally recognized that while we care deeply for eachother, each in our own way; we just want different things and it's more loving for us to part company on good terms and go our separate ways;  freeing ourselves to once again seek the relationship we want, but with someone who's ideas of a relationship more closely match our own. In doing so we are able to remain friends and wish eachother the best as we go our separate ways. It was not easy to arrive at that agreement. In fact, it was incredibly difficult because for some reason, it is "normal" for couples to part on angry, hurtful terms. The process of parting company took nearly 2 years. But it was worth it, because we are now able to cross paths and behave as "friends" toward eachother, without anger, without resentment. We have achieved that level of appreciation for eachother that only comes from having spent many years together and shared many experiences; both good and bad. We understand eachother as no other friend possibly can, but also understand that we can't live together and be happy because we just can't give eachother what each of us needs and still be true to ourselves.

So here I am. Plunging in my "leap of faith", waiting and watching to see where it is going to take me. Scary? Sometimes. But it also has an unexpected side-effect: Hope. Being "out here on my own" allows me to feel hope for the future again, instead of feeling the sense of frustration and futility and disappointment I had when I was still "there". I do not know what the future holds for me other than that life is going to be a struggle for awhile. But at least now I have Hope to keep me going, to keep me "trying", to keep me moving and changing and growing. I now look to an unknown future that could go any number of possible directions instead of looking to a future of "more of the same old, same old" that never quite seemed right and was contigent on the cooperation of someone who didn't want the same things out of Life or a relationship that I do.

Like a leaf in the wind I will go wherever life takes me. I will embrace change and take each moment as it comes without judgement and without expectation. I trust that wherever Life takes me, is where Life meant for me to go, for I don't need to understand God's plan to be able to trust God's plan. It is clear to me now that mankind's understanding of what is "right and wrong" is not necessarily a reflection of God's version of what is right and wrong for each of us as individuals. I believe that God wants each and every one of us to be happy in life and if the path to happiness takes me down paths I would have never chosen for myself, so be it.

It's a Leap of Faith.