I’ve been writing a poem on the theme of change for my poetry group next month and it started me thinking about change in relation to personal growth (to be fair, it’s not very often I’m not thinking about this in some capacity, being a bit of a self-improvement junkie).
But is got me wondering: how many of us long for big, life sweeping changes? An exciting adventure or opportunity to steal us away from the same old, same old? An epiphany of life changing proportions that drops us into an entirely new state of being?
I dream of all sorts of things: travelling the world with my family, becoming a successful writer, achieving spiritual enlightenment.
It’s great to have dreams and aspirations. The sticking point is the melancholy that comes when these seemingly massive changes fail to materialise. We begin to feel like they might never happen; we become despondent, and sometimes we give up on these dreams.
But perhaps we need to take a step back and allow for the long view.
Ever heard of the butterfly effect?
I’m talking about the theory, not the movie. The idea is that everything in the world is connected, and we have no idea how a small and seemingly inconsequential action might impact the future in such a complex world, the illustration being the flap of a butterfly’s wings culminating in a typhoon. From this point of view, we just don’t know what the impact of that kind word or smile, that phone call to a friend or that beautiful picture you posted on Instagram might be.
When the futility of it all comes crashing down, just take a pause, take a breath and then take the smallest step you can towards the thing that brings you joy.
I’ve been procrastinating for over a year about exploring avenues to publish my poetry, mainly because I’m labouring under the (true) illusion that poetry is not a reliable engine of wealth (thanks Johnny Clarke, I like this one so much I’ve got it on a t-shirt, which my parents bought for me-point proven).
But this is a barrier set by my old story, which says that nothing is worth doing without monetary recompense (I’m coming to realise that many of the best things in life really are free). So if I’m not in it for the money, then why? Well I’d like a wider readership, what writer wouldn’t? But the main reason is because I feel a pull to do so. There’s a voice telling me I should at least try to get a poem published. If I follow this pull, who knows what will happen? Maybe nothing, maybe something. One thing is for certain, if I do nothing then nothing will definitely happen.
So today I took the first step: I fired up the search engine and began looking for poetry anthologies and competitions accepting submissions. I found three likely prospects, one of which sounded particularly interesting, and I made a note of them.
That’s it. The smallest step in the right direction. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take another.
There’s a lot to be said for changes that are slow and steady, which is good for me because that’s my default speed (unless I’m exercising, then I take it up a few notches…unless I’m running, then it’s slow and steady again).
Incremental change allows us to adapt along with it. We can slowly develop and progress, have time to backtrack, sidestep, zig zag and go around in circles for a bit and still get to the place we held in our minds eye; or maybe life takes us in a completely unexpected direction. Wherever the little changes take us, it’s only in looking back after years that we can see how far we’ve come, that we’re able to appreciate the hurdles, frustrations, opportunities and moments that helped us to grow and, if we’re lucky, sometimes we can see the interconnectedness of it all.
This kind of change, the kind that’s woven into the fabric of our lives over a long period of time, seems to be the kind of change that lasts. We grow so slowly we almost don’t appreciate that we’ve grown at all.
Making monumental changes can be fun and exciting, but slow and steady can be just as satisfying in the long run.
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