Welcoming Changes

I recently realized that each new social context we inhabit has its own special set of unspoken rules. And that it can take quite a while for us to figure out just what it means to hold hands in a given situation-- when we don't have anybody telling us what those new rules are, or how they apply.

I think this kind of confusion comes up a lot in new dating situations-- Do you hold hands with all your female friends, or am I special? Did you kiss me because it was New Years or because you want to start a committed relationship with me? And what did those kisses mean to me?? Are you giving me a ride home because this was a date, or because it's raining and I walked, and you're just nice like that? How many people do you date, or kiss, or give rides to at any given time? Do all your friends already know that about you, or am I the only one whose shocked?

It also comes up in new work environments, when we move to a new city or state, even when we ride our bicycles in some part of town we haven't experienced this way before. The boss says our team is all about feedback and personal growth, and everything is a two-way street... Does that mean he's open to hearing my suggestions about things he could do better as a boss? My neighbor invited me out to a bar with some of her friends, and I showed up in heels and a slinky tank top... everyone else is wearing sweatshirts and jeans...

It can be a real challenge to navigate all those unspoken expectations, or to have the courage (and foresight!) to ask questions about those unvoiced norms in a new situation. Often, we put our foot in it, feel stupid, worry that we'll never fit in. Sometimes we even give up and go back to what is familiar and easy-- whether it's healthy and helpful to our personal goals or not.

I have a good friend whose spent most of her life moving from place to place for her work every couple of years. She tells me it takes her a minimum of six months to start making friends and find all the right places to buy her groceries and take her dog to the Vet. Six months of feeling like an outsider. But she keeps going with her plans, and asks questions when she has the courage (and a likely resource person to ask)... Eventually she doesn't want to ever leave her new home, and the friends she has here, because it has actually become a home.

And from my own experiences with picking up and moving someplace new, I've learned to view moving as an opportunity to set new standards for myself. Nobody in the new place knows that I never vacuum. So if I suddenly start vacuuming every Tuesday night after work, nobody is going to give me a hard time about it. Nobody knows I never invite friends over for dinner... and I've always wanted to... Change your hair style or try wearing bold colors instead of beige at work-- nobody's going to comment because they don't know it's a big change. They don't have any set expectations of who you are or how you go about living your life.

Nobody in the new place knows I used to be an awesome golfer who spent every evening on the golf course (I'm borrowing this example from a friend), so if I decide to take up water skiing instead, I can start from scratch, and nobody here will expect me to already be an accomplished athlete, or will worry when they learn I'm only golfing once a month now. A new place is a chance to find that new grocery store with even BETTER organic produce than the one you always shopped at before. It's a great opportunity to live better and be someone you always wanted to be-- even if it's deciding not to do something. Not seeking out all the local bars since there's nobody to give you a hard time if you don't show up for a pint or three after work.

At least for me and a few of the people I've asked, it is often easier to start a new habit or break an old one when you don't have anybody whose good opinion you value more than life itself watching and worrying over your shoulder. It was easier to relax and learn to drive with the nameless driving instructor at school than it was with Mom holding the break lever in her left hand and jerking it every time I forgot to push on the clutch.

Life is all about change. And while I know that familiarity-- old friends, dad's cooking, the way you always hit the ball over the fence, or that one bar where everyone knows your name-- that's important and worthwhile... Sometimes finding new ways of being opens the door to Abundant Living in a way we hadn't even known was possible before. Sometimes setting a standard for how we want to be treated in our next relationship, or choosing to take that dance class that none of our old friends was interested in trying-- It brings a depth and a beauty to our lives that we didn't even know we were missing.

Hey, it's Spring-- Everything is growing, and changing, and blooming, and pushing out little green shoots of something new in places it's never grown before. Maybe it's time for you to give Change a chance, and see what good things pop up in your life.

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