Saying goodbye to comfort

For years, my co-worker Mary and I have gone to the same Chinese buffet every Thursday for our weekly lunch meeting. One day, another co-worker teased us about being in a rut. When we came back at him with the fact that he has lunch every Monday at Subway, he said, “Oh, that’s not a rut, its a tradition.”

I think traditions are important for all of us as human beings. And for me, there are certain things (like where I go for lunch) that are much more easily decided by being in a rut than they are by having to devote alot of time and attention to them on a regular basis.

On the other hand, those I work with also tend to refer to me as a “change junkie.” I’ve often thought that my addiction to change is a result of the fact that from birth to my 30’s I moved across this country 8 times and overseas twice. Its kind of hard to get in much of a rut when you’re constantly facing the challenge of “starting over.” So, being in a leadership position at work, I’ve had to learn to be more sensitive to people for whom the kind of change I’ve grown accustomed causes a tremendous amount of stress. And there are times I’m envious of those who, when they go home to visit their parents, sleep in the same room they grew up in. There is certainly a place for constancy as well as for change.

But I would guess that most of us blog and engage in activism because we feel strongly about the need for change in our politics and culture. The ruts we find ourselves in are unbearable and unsustainable. And for some of us, Gandhi’s words “be the change you want to see” are the cornerstone of how to make that happen. But the challenge of when to hold on to someone/something and when to let go is difficult and is often impacted by our discomfort with change.

What is it that makes change so difficult?

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.

Anatole France

Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never be able to truly change at all, because you’ll be forever in the control of things you can’t give up.

Andy Law

For me, change means that you have to be willing to embrace the grief process of letting go of the people/beliefs/things of the present. We usually don’t do that unless the present has become so unbearable that we’re willing to live with the grief of saying goodbye. It also means being willing to risk the fact that the change we move towards might turn out to be better, worse, or more of the same.  Most of the time we really have little information on what the outcome of change will be.

All of this makes staying in the same place a whole lot easier than changing – until that place becomes more uncomfortable than the process of change. The uncomfortability of our current situation is certainly motivating more folks to be ready to step out of their ruts and prepare for change. As that happens, I think we can expect alot of uncertainty in the air and alot of grief over the goodbyes that will need to be said.


by Tracy Chapman

If you knew that you would die today

If you saw the face of God and Love

Would you change?

Would you change?

If you knew that love can break your heart

When you’re down so low you cannot fall

Would you change?

Would you change?

How bad how good does it need to get?

How many losses how much regret?

What chain reaction

What cause and effect

Makes you turn around

Makes you try to explain

Makes you forgive and forget

Makes you change

Makes you change

If you knew that you would be alone

Knowing right being wrong

Would you change?

Would you change?

If you knew that you would find a truth

That brings a pain that can’t be soothed

Would you change?

Would you change?

Are you so upright you can’t be bent

if it comes to blows

Are you so sure you won’t be crawling

If not for the good why risk falling

Why risk falling

If everything you think you know

Makes your life unbearable

Would you change?

Would you change?

If you’d broken every rule and vow

And hard times come to bring you down

Would you change?

Would you change?


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    • Edger on August 24, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Or are you making up words for a change?

    Has anyone got any spare change for the powers that be who are afraid of change or try to keep from changing because it might cost them some change?

    Every time I thought Id got it made

    It seemed the taste was not so sweet

    I watch the ripples change their size

    But never leave the stream

    Of warm impermanence

    So the days float through my eyes

    But stil the days seem the same

    And these children that you spit on

    As they try to change their worlds

    Are immune to your consultations

    They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

    –David Bowie, Changes

  1. Is that one negative experience of change cancels out about ten positive experiences. Risk aversion.

    But we need to remember, if we have a negative “change experience,” …..we can change again!

    • kj on August 24, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    reveling in the call and response here at old docudharma.  the essays have a lovely way of echoing one another, but not true echoes, as each has a different tone. i guess chimes might be a clearer description.  that is greatly comforting to me.  

    all these voices, singing, chanting, snarking, yelling.  it’s  good. very very good.  and, imo, none of them are born out of comfort, but out of discomfort, dis-ease, dis-illusion, which is pretty much a standard ingredient for change.  i think.

    • kj on August 24, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    it’s a gorgeous day, blue sky, nice breeze, locusts going to town. jkb is out of town, it’s just me and the cat and open windows.  and here comes the landlord with a powerwasher.  so i gotta get into something that resembles clothes, close all the windows and blinds, and go talk to him (he’s a talker).

    this is too much destruction upon my comfort!   arg!!!    

  2. I don’t think it’s particularly healthy to ever be too comfortable — too comfortable brings on complaceny usually.  I think we have to realize that we are subject to change, often without warning.  I guess it’s all relative to how you view the “unknown” — there are many who fear the unknown and thus, change is difficult!  And there are those who may relish the unknown, like a new adventure.  In some cases, they might relish the unknown thinking things will be better than the present.  It all depends on the reasons for change.  If you’re running from yourself, then no change will ever take care of that.  If the prospects for a better existence is elsewhere, then that change may be a good one, etc., etc.

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