In the last post, I talked about how the massive societal changes we’ve experienced this year have caused many to realize that they crave change in their own personal lives. Perhaps you feel this way. Whether you’re realizing that you simply need to take better care of yourself or you have something more complex chipping away at your psyche, it can be hard to know when the timing is right to begin that change.

I’m reading a book by indigenous writer Sherri Mitchell (Weh’na Ha’mu’ Kwasset) called Sacred Instructions, Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change, in which she expresses that many indigenous elders believe we are at a crossroads both in terms of our humanity and how life on earth will proceed. They assert that now is the time for massive societal change.

While I agree, I’m also a realist. ?‍♀️

We’re all on our individual journeys which started at different points, provided different tools and privileges, and offer different lessons and abilities to each of us. Some of us are just trying to figure out how to pay rent next month or how to get through a day of distance learning. So who am I to tell someone going through that it’s time to change?

On the other hand, I am also intimately acquainted with the malaise and/or complacency of saying to myself, “oh it’s too hard right now, I’ll get to that later.” And then ten damn years go by without gaining so much as an inch in the right direction. 

So, how the hell do you KNOW?

While it is absolutely not my place to tell you, I humbly present three stories with some real-life examples of things that helped me figure out my stuff. Perhaps it will be of use to you:

⏲️ When the time is not right.

A few summers ago, I dangled my legs into our apartment complex swimming pool and bitched and whined about how much I wanted to be a full-time author and how I felt trapped in my relationship. A friend sat nearby with legs akimbo, listening. As I swished my feet back and forth, I agonized over what I wanted versus what my reality was. I looked up to see her eyes glazed over. She’d heard some version of this story too many times.

I was stuck and felt stuck. My decision was not just about what I wanted, but what was best for my kids and whether I was truly ready to give up the love I had with this good man. Ultimately, this period became one of some pretty draining depression and a fight to make more money, work on my relationship, and keep my sanity. Writing “the book” was postponed multiple times. Making money was a priority. Preserving my mental health was a priority. Security for my kids and kindness for my boyfriend was a priority.

What I didn’t know then was that what needed to change most was my mindset. I learned this the hard way over the course of a few more painful, beautiful years. Incidentally, I also learned that I didn’t actually want to be exclusively a full-time author…go figure.

Sometimes the answer to ‘is this the right time?’ is absolutely the opposite of what you want it to be. Sometimes you have to change something you don’t anticipate. Sometimes you have to bite the damn bullet for a later payoff.

? Change Check-ins that helped during this time period:

  • Run the scenarios. What could your life look like if things go right with this change? What could it look like if things go to shit?
  • What do you need to put in place to do this in a way that won’t blow up everything?
  • Whether you are jumping into a new change or deciding the time is not right, how can you get support? Living in the tension of action, or inaction often requires support. So who or what in your life could provide that?

⏲️ When the time is right (to be strategic).

It took me nearly 2 years from the moment I realized my marriage was over to the moment I told my husband, “I want a divorce.” It took another 3 years for the final divorce judgment. And wooo, lemme tell ya I was embarrassed by that until I got a little older. Now I look back and think, damn girl, you’re smarter than you looked. ?

The fear I had as a twenty-four-year-old who’d been with this man since I was thirteen was breathtaking. I’m amazed I survived the fear alone. He was almost five years older, a skilled salesman considered a freakin’ genius by everyone we knew, and only I knew how tortured and diabolical his mind was. I cowered when I thought of how he would outwit me in the divorce, what he might to do me or the kids, or even himself,  how my family would certainly be disappointed in me when they found out.

Fear ruled my decisions because I still lived under the delusion that if I just kept my head down and placated him everything would be okay. But deep down I knew that fear was well-founded. So, in a drawn-out way, it protected us.

Over those years, I pieced together the patchwork of myself, gathering scraps of the woman I’d never fully become because I became HIS when I was thirteen. Slowly, I took on freelance work. I made new friends. I worked out. I read books about money and overcoming fear. I opened my own bank account. I printed business cards and went to networking events. (And I also did destructive things like drink too much on my nights off.) By the time he moved out, I resembled an adult woman–one with a long way to go, but one that could pay her own bills and take care of her children.

If I had left him when I first realized I needed/wanted to, I would not have had a job, or a home, or enough self-worth to stand up to him.

To be clear, I am not saying women should stay with abusive partners. I’m just saying that in my case, I needed to set some things up for myself and my children in order to make that change. I couldn’t just go with what my heart wanted, I had to make do with baby steps toward my goal.

? Change Check-ins that helped during this time period:

  • Take some time to yourself so you can think clearly for yourself. Remove other folks’ “shoulds” from in your mind.
  • After you’ve run the scenarios, ask yourself what is realistically feasible/doable in terms of money, time, sanity, etc.
  • IF you decide that you don’t want to make the change now, is there some way you can still continue to pursue it or keep a pin in it to revisit when X or Y changes? Consider putting a deadline or a condition upon it. Maybe that will help you hold on to something you want but simply cannot have right now.

⏲️ When the time is right.

Other times, you know it’s time to make that change NOW but you don’t want to…or you’re seriously conflicted.

When this pandemic hit, I felt an almost immediate call to go north. I‘ve lived in Southern California for nearly twenty years, but I was born in NorCal. For those of you who don’t live around these parts, these two places often feel like entirely different states to Californians.

I had lived in the city of Long Beach and it felt like home. But the pandemic changed my beloved downtown into a ghost town with an ever-growing sense of fear, homelessness, and feces-spotted sidewalks. I know I don’t even have to describe the stress of quarantining in a tiny apartment. Those early days of the pandemic carried a lot more fear. So I did something I never, I am talking NEVER thought I’d do. I moved back to NorCal. Though I was conflicted over leaving my friends, my network, and everything I’d built in SoCal, I knew deep down that it was time. When I signed the lease at our new place (which is like 200% better than our apartment btw) I felt a heady rush of wild inner alignment. This country home is a huge factor in maintaining my sanity and being able to do the work I feel called to do. You can’t be of much help to others if you’re not living in alignment with your own self.

? Change Check-ins that helped during this time period:

  • If you’re feeling conflicted, pay attention to how your body feels when you consider options. Your body knows how you really feel, even when your head doesn’t. I knew it was time to move north when I felt a liquid-like peace fall over me when thinking about it.
  • Be realistic about how this change may cause side effects or temporary states of angst, depression, and overwhelm. Give yourself the grace to work through it. Positive change often means growth which isn’t always 100% pretty.

I hope these stories have been of use. Maybe they’ll even help you figure out what’s right for you now.

Whatever you decide in your life, I wish you peace, fulfillment, and so much goodness. Trust that you will know what’s best for you.

In the next post, I’ll be exploring the ideas of acceptance and adaptation and how sometimes conventional self-help advice can be bullshit. ?? Check out Part 3: The Biggest Lie of the Self-Help Industry