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The Key to Change

Friday, October 4, 2013

I’m a cheerleader for change. Really, I know this sounds pretentious since many people are resistant to change. But I live for the stuff. I am usually quick to adapt to unexpected change, and often seek it out when it’s not knocking on my door. Back in college I went through several different shades of hair color. I was red, black, brown and blond. I had no attachment to my hair color and loved playing with the change in my look. See Fifty Hairs of Grey for more on that.

About every three years or so I get really antsy because I need a change of pace. I guess it’s good I married into the military. We move every 2-3 years, giving me a change of scenery - new home, new people, new culture. The things is, right after we move I go through the honeymoon phase. I’m all Love Potion #9 on it with my head in the clouds. High on life by discovery that we live a mere 5 minutes away from our large-chain grocery store instead of 30 minutes away like at our last duty station. And then I float back down to earth and into the “crap, this is it… this is all there is” phase. I’m in the latter phase as we speak.

See, right after we PCSed (moved) to Fort Bliss, TX, I joined my nearby gym and got myself onto a Zumba class schedule. For those who know me best, I really love Zumba (a dance-style aerobics workout), so it was a natural activity to maintain after our cross-country move. I held myself accountable by writing the classes on our family calendar to keep pace with my fitness goals. That worked. I mean, I went. And I stuck to a healthy schedule for 3 months. But it was different. The instructor’s style was different. The pace was different. The music was different. It was a big ‘ol fat, hairy change. In the beginning I was very excited to try new classes and I embraced the change, but now I just want my old class and old instructor back. Wow. I sound like the kid who wants her Strawberry Shortcake doll back from the mean kid who stole it from me…

There have been a few times I have come home weeping uncontrollably because of this change. I loved my old Zumba class. It was a “me” time that kept me fit. I also had friends in the class and knew all the steps. Now, I felt like I didn’t fit in. The classes I could attend leant to having a different instructor each and every night of the week. Therefore, I wasn’t learning their unique teaching style, steps and movements. It made me feel lost every single time. The music was also different than what I listen to. It was just too much, which left me overwhelmed, which then left me crying in the bathroom like my dog just died.

I haven’t been able to get back on the horse. I fell into the “crap this is it” phase because I felt like I was never going to get the hang of it. The change was too much that I gradually stopped going all together. I became afraid.
The Key to Change is to Let Go of Fear
This experience trickled down into other areas of my life. I felt ashamed that I stopped working out and let go of something that was meaningful to me, and that made me feel disconnected from my family and friends. I holed up and was pretty moody to everyone around me. I was fearful, or in shame as I’m beginning to understand, and that has halted my goals of change.

I want to get back into my honeymoon phase with my workouts and living in this new place. I want to change my motivational mindset to change my behavior. To do this, I have been reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. It’s a powerful book and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for ways to, as she puts it, “defend against the dark arts” (ie: be a better you…) My biggest takeaway so far is that I shouldn’t be ashamed to say that I fell off the horse. I’ve also learned that I’m ashamed that I let my personal insecurities in class get the best of me. And since I’ve stopped working out, I’m ashamed of my body. Shame is keeping me from being vulnerable and trying again. I am fearful that I will probably stumble and fall… again. However, I need to get past the shame (fear) to get to the change I want to see – the Love Potion I remember from better days.

I’ve also realized after getting in deep with this book that everyone’s change conflict is similar. The tape runs the same in everyone’s brains, though about different things. For me, it was letting a fitness class take away my progression to change my body and it ultimately took away my power. For others, it might be a mother who works outside the home and fears taking the promotion because she’s unsure how the hours might affect her family. Fear is not following a dream because you’re worried about what other people think. Fear is not showing up to a girlfriend’s party because you’re insecure about your weight gain. Fear is lashing out at family members because you're 3 months behind on your bills.

I think one of my favorite honesty writers, Donald Miller, sums up human change best in his introspective novel, A million Miles in a Thousand Years,
If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He's a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn't change, the story hasn't happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just a condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another.
Change is hard. I won’t deny that. Even good change is sometimes hard. I think the “hard” is the vulnerability that Brene Brown talks about (seriously go read it.)

Most military spouses experience frequent change and we somehow learn to adapt quickly to the big stuff like moving and deployments, mainly because this is what we knew about military life when we signed the marriage license. But it's often difficult to talk about the hard change - the little stuff that mattered and perhaps you never knew you had to give up. Like moving away from the one and only friend you made at your new city. Or having to pick up and start yet anther job. Or missing the coffee house barista who always knew your name and order. Or missing your favorite Zumba class.

We often smile like we have this under control. We raise our babies without help, manage all of our family’s personal finances, do all or most of anything household related, and try to remain romantic with our spouses so that our marriage doesn’t become a statistic in the ever climbing military divorce rate. We make it all look like “we got this.” And if we don’t, the fear/shame tapes run and we get stuck and fail to move forward with the natural progression of change with our goals, minds and bodies. The truth is, we often become masters at putting on our brave face when privately we’re very fearful inside for many different reasons. The fear can really wreak havoc on our self-esteem.

Now, I must stop talking myself out of doing Zumba. I need to put my big girl panties on and be vulnerable... again. After all, the key to change is to let go of fear.

Now it's your turn. What are you fearing that is keeping you from change?


  1. Erin! Beautiful post. I'm right there with you every 2-3 years. My husband has been in the Navy for 15 ish years and every move makes me scared to go to that first spouses meeting.. the new school... new workout place... new people to either bond with quickly or move on and be a loaner. We have been at our current duty station for almost two years and I just haven't engaged with anyone since we've been here for one excuse or another. I joined in a moms photography group last week and I literally had to talk myself into going 100 times even on the drive downtown... even getting out of the car. I'm an outgoing girl and love to talk and be creative... but the brave face does truly mask the insecurities inside and I think that all military spouses feel it.. some are just terrified to admit it, just like we are terrified to admit we aren't always superwoman and that we get sad and angry and lonely too... even though we are fully capable of strapping on our boots and big girl panties, it's not an easy life somedays.. but that man that comes home after deployments and hard days and loves us and our kids make it worth it in the end :)

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Thanks so much for this note. I frequently have to talk myself into going to almost anything these days. But you're right. It's worth the stress and worry for the one you love. :)

      - EB


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