“Something Has Got to Change!”
When action and inaction collide (1:05)
The dialogue among our merry trio – she, me, and … me (2:50)
How I was back then (5:30)
What I know now (7:30)
“SOMETHING HAS GOT TO CHANGE!”
The other morning I woke up with this thought: “Something has got to change!”
Ahh, such a simple yet powerful statement that’s come into my head hundreds of times over the last 5 decades. However, in the past when I heard this thought, I usually took action – whatever action that first came to mind. Sometimes it was disruptive; often it caused drama and chaos for myself and for the people around me.
WHEN ACTION AND INACTION COLLIDE
The other morning I woke up with Something has got to change! reverberating through my body.
The problem is that the “something” was ambiguous, and in its ambiguity, it became large and overwhelming. Too many options with no direction can, frankly, make me fall into a heap – a grouchy, snappy, crabby heap.
Something has got to change was booming and looming and bringing up feelings of resentment – resentment that I had coaching calls today, resentment around tasks that I needed to get done that I just didn’t know how to start. After all, I just wanted to sit in a big pile of helplessness today.
Now, my partner is a woman of action. Nothing ever changes for her because everything is always in a state of change. Her existence is a swirl of ideas to investigate, possibilities to bring to reality, challenges to tackle, and plans to execute. So, as I’m waking up with “Something has got to change,” she is waking up saying, “I’ve decided I’m building a shed on the Fort Bragg property” – and there is the clash…
Her action is interrupting my helplessness.
And, man! This just pisses me off.
THE DIALOGUE AMONG OUR MERRY TRIO – SHE, ME, AND … ME
The night before, I’d made a commitment with her to go pick up a new nightstand because, as she does, she sold her old one the previous day while I was swimming in the pool.
I wasn’t happy because I was in my Something Has Got To Change place while she was actually making change happen. Every time she spoke, I snapped. Her words of action and planning were like a blinding floodlight beaming into the dark, murky muck of my thinking brain. This is how the conversation went—
Her: “After we take the nightstand in the house, I’m going to make a smoothie. Want one?”
In my head: “No, I want a hot fudge sundae and a pitcher of white sangria … AND I may even follow it up with a side of Lay’s potato chips.”
Me, aloud: “Thanks, that would be great.”
Her: “After that, I’m going to go to Home Depot to pick up a few things. Need anything?”
In my head: “PLEASE stop interrupting my negative thought pattern. Your endless casual and effective approach to getting stuff done is interrupting my self-pity and helplessness.”
Me, aloud: “Oh, yes, that would be great. I need a bag of soil and some moss. Thanks!”
She moves at lightning speed, while I move slowly and methodically. She thinks ahead, up, down, and sideways, all at once, while I like to think one linear thought at a time, one step, one plan. She takes action; I like to process, reflect, ponder, and clarify.
It is an interesting relationship. Our differences bring up stuff in me. If I’d met her 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have had a chance, and I would have missed out on so much joy, love, and adventure, and an acceptance of who I am.
HOW I WAS BACK THEN
If we’d met 10 years ago, every time I became annoyed, I would blame her.
If we’d met 10 years ago, I would try to change her to align with how I am and how I thought she should also be.
If we’d met 10 years ago, the “Something has got to change” would have quickly turned to “She has to change, and I’m outta here.”
All those statements aren’t only true for this relationship; they were also true in my friendships and in my work relationships. It was true in how I viewed the world. I held expectations that everyone would be better off if they were more like me. I was always certain that Something Has Got To Change, and I was very certain that what had to change was them and not me.
But now, through a lot of self-work, through developing, practicing, and really spending time in navigating challenging dialogue, I know that nothing has to change, that everything is perfect as it is, that whatever emotional energy comes up in me is simply there for me to continue to learn about myself.
It’s all just an opportunity, not to spend time looking outside of me, expecting change in others and other places, but to become aware of what’s in me that I can shift.
WHAT I KNOW NOW
As we were picking up and moving the night table, I heard myself saying to her, aloud, and in a really annoyed voice, “Can you please insert a pause?! Just for a second. In between actions. In between ideas. In between next steps. Just for 30 seconds! Just a pause?”
As I said it, I heard it. And that’s the something that has got to change, not in her but in me. I’m not pausing…
Over the past 2 to 3 weeks, I’ve let my morning meditation slip away.
My desk has become unruly with piled-up papers and tasks to do. Sometimes, I can’t even discern scrap paper from things I have to deal with. My to-be-filed box is again overflowing. There is so much change happening in my business at such a fast rate that I feel like I’m along for the ride versus driving it.
And I have a couple of tasks that I’m not sure how to do, so I’m avoiding them. Her Get It Done affect is triggering what’s upsetting me about my procrastination.
“Can’t you insert a pause?!”
Who was I talking to? The pause was certainly not for her. She doesn’t need one. She doesn’t want one. I do.
As I sat and reflected on this, I realized I was resentful. I was resentful about how I scheduled my week. It was a holiday week, yet I was booked solid. The world is uncertain, I’m feeling it so deeply in my heart and soul, but I haven’t taken time to feel into it. It’s summer, the pool is luscious, and the air is sweet, yet I’m in my office working away.
And there are those two or three tasks looming in my path that require me to level up, take a risk, and, frankly, I’m a little uncomfortable because I don’t yet know how to do them with mastery.
“Can you please insert a pause?”
I realize now that has nothing to do with anyone but me.
Until next time, I hope you can hear the messages that you communicate to others that you’re really just speaking to yourself.
p.s. Navigating your relationships, both at work and at home, starts with self-awareness. Our team of Navigating Challenging Dialogue® Master Facilitators and coaches at Beth Wonson & Company are ready to lend you a hand. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our leadership coaching and upcoming workshops.