I wrote this piece a while back, but it seems more relevant today than ever. We are in the midst of change in our society and the process is messy. However, change can bring good things and make life better for everyone. We just have to recognize that messiness is part of what happens when we break down walls to let in more light.
I have always hated what comes first when contemplating change: the ruin of what is; the demolition of the status quo; the process of undoing in order to redo. This has caused me great discomfort, a person with a strong need for tidiness and order. “Let’s knock down that wall,” my husband might say as he’s strolled into a house due for renovation. “Let’s makes that door wider.”
My first thought has always been, “But that wall or that door was built like this for a reason. Why go against what’s already here, what’s already been working for a long time?”
I have learned, however, that often his vision has been right. Once the wall has been removed, the room has opened up and let in more light, or once the door has been widened, there has been more of a sense of welcoming than before. Still, I had difficulty shaking off that initial reluctance; that initial, “Let’s just keep it the same, thank you.”
I wish I could say this attitude hasn’t followed me into other aspects of my life, such as my health, my career, my family dynamics, or even my bad habits, but the truth is, it has. I have been a reluctant changer. I have preferred stability even if what was stable was not what was best for others or for myself. I have been – and I am not proud of this – the typical “Let’s not rock the boat” kind of person. Let’s just keep things the way they are. After all, I’m sure – just like that wall or that door – they came to be that way for a reason.
So imagine my surprise when we walked into the current house we are renovating – a former dog hoarder’s house with nastiness that defies description – and I walked into a narrow room and said, “Let’s knock down that wall. It will help air everything out and make the kitchen bigger.”
My husband raised an eyebrow. But what about that build-in cupboard? We’d lose that.”
And my response, “We can either keep all the parts and reconstruct it after it’s all been cleaned or we can put a piece of furniture there instead.”
He handed me a sledgehammer. “Would you like to take the first swing?”
I did and not only did the wood splinter in a satisfying way, but I also saw the light pouring in from the other room. Yes!
What has made the big difference? Why have I been able to make that shift? Because I have seen with my own eyes that destruction of the old is the only way to bring in something that might be better. Just because a wall or a door (or even a belief) is the status quo doesn’t mean that it’s not time to question whether or not it is still relevant in the current situation. Maybe it’s time for a rethinking…
How does that affect the other aspects of my life? My exercise program – or lack of one – for example, or how I approach my work? I don’t quite know yet since this is all new, but what I do know is that I have to think about old life patterns like I might an old house: recognize what isn’t working and be willing to pick up that sledge hammer and start swinging.
That’s not to say that everything old needs to go. I am a great believer in the value of tradition. But I am more aware than ever that opening myself up to change can make for new ways to experience life. And that’s a good thing.