The day I realized something had changed – I found myself in the car with my husband and our almost 1 year old. We were sitting in traffic coming out of Boston during rush hour. My husband was trying to have a conversation with me – about what, I’m not sure – because all I was hearing was white noise. In the past 3 days, I’d seen the inside of an ambulance, 3 different hospitals, and visited 2 different doctors’ offices for my son. My mind was in shut down mode. I had entered sensory overload and could not take in any more information. Too much noise, too much stress, too much chaos.
So, I turned to my husband and asked if we could spend the rest of the car ride in silence. He was a little confused because silence definitely isn’t my norm but he respected my request.
The desire to sit in silence after a couple of long days may seem completely natural to you. But it’s not my normal “go to” move. I am a master of pushing through, rising above the pain, and functioning when others crumble under similar pressure. Or at least I used to be. On that day, I realized that my mind had gotten so used to slowing down and breathing that it now insisted on a new approach to coping with stress. A transformation was occurring within me.
Recently, I’d been saying to those around me that I felt like I was “in the in-between” – half of me still rooted in past behaviors and the other half changed (in my opinion) for the better. It’s a very frustrating place to be because there is an internal war raging within you and all you want to do is make it go away. The pain becomes too much and you desperately want to wake up one morning with all your thoughts, emotions, situations and actions marching in step, moving towards the “new” you.
The desire to become transformed overnight isn’t something new. It’s why so many people invest in fad diets, cosmetic surgery and many other fast solutions to feeling good about themselves. It’s also the reason people quit right before the transformation occurs. They don’t realize that pain and discomfort are a necessary item for true transformation to occur. It’s usually that pain that pushes us to a new level of understanding or learning. There is an amazing quote by Martha Beck that captures this perfectly. “Every time you go into the fire, you come out with a new life and it’s better than the last one.”
The challenge appears when people start doing everything in their power to avoid the fire or numb the pain associated with it. But what would happen if you walked towards the fire instead of running away? That day in the car, I decided to sit quietly with the pain. It was uncomfortable and made every corner of my mind ache. I went through that week (and many more appointments) not knowing if I could keep going. It would have been so easy to slip back into my old habits of numbing and running away. But I acknowledged that this discomfort was a sign that something was changing in me. That a transformation had occurred and my typical coping mechanisms would no longer work. Instead, I was meant to respect and acknowledge all aspects of the challenges I was facing along my journey. It was now a necessity to feel all the emotions associated with those challenges, learn from them, and release them.
One of my favorite quotes is by Winston Churchill. “When you’re going through hell – keep going.” I now know that in order for me to keep going I need to stop, sit, breath and only then proceed. So, the next time you feel like sliding back into old habits – take a breath instead of quitting. Choose to acknowledge the pain and frustration within your journey. But also, know that it is a natural and valuable part of your transformation.