Someone I love is making a difficult and potentially life-altering decision. Right now. As I type this. I don’t know if it’s the best decision. I don’t know what I think it is. What I do know is that I’ve been watching this person spiral, lose control of things, get into trouble, and second guess everything. We’re beyond the point of saying that something’s got to give because many things have already given. This is the point where something’s got to change.
I’ve never been very good at dealing with change. This is a point that those close to me bring up with relative frequency any time I exhibit even the most remote apprehension about anything. The anxiety leading up to it is often worse for me than the actual change itself, and even when I’m excited for something (my upcoming move, for example), I’m still nervous. I’m still questioning if I’ve made the right choice. I’m still second guessing. The day I turned in my resignation for my first teaching job was completely unexpected. It was something I’d considered, but didn’t plan to do without another job. I found the sign I needed in the form of an email notifying me of a pay freeze that would render me unable to pay my bills. I resigned that morning and spent an hour sitting with my friend in her empty classroom, having a panic attack and crying until my whole face was swollen.
That was in 2008, and it set me on a path that took nearly 5 years to figure out. And in that time, it feels like nearly everything has changed.
And yet sometimes I think I’m less afraid of change than people give me credit for. Or maybe I’m still afraid of change, but I’m braver than people give me credit for. Maybe I’m both or maybe I’m neither. Someone used to help me figure those things out. Then our friendship changed.
Like most people (I think), I fear change less when a sizable possibility exists that it will be positive. When I spend a lot of time looking for how something positive might come out of it and I can’t see it, I’m much more anxious about it. The ability to just let go becomes very difficult for me. I’m not afraid of change. I’m afraid of things changing for the worse.
So when I see people I care about making important life decisions and preparing for big changes, I feel nervous for them (even though, yes… I’m aware that I shouldn’t because it’s not my life). This worry doesn’t come from a bad place. It comes from a place of caring (maybe too much). Of wanting to help and be involved and be a part of things even when it’s obvious someone wants to push me away or keep me at such a distance that I can see what’s happening, but my words fall on deaf ears. Or worse, I’m told what I say doesn’t matter so I should say nothing. It’s an odd feeling to care so much about someone who so obviously doesn’t care what you think or have to say, regardless of your relationship to them.
“It’s fine.” That’s what I’m frequently told.
I think and worry too much. “It’s fine” is never going to be a good enough answer for me.
It’s difficult to stand so far away and see someone struggle through a change, knowing they won’t let me help. It’s difficult to stand so far away and watch someone self-destruct, knowing that I can’t save them, and that even if I tried, my actions would be viewed as doing more harm than good because I’d be interfering and meddling in things that aren’t my business. It’s difficult to stand so far away and see someone change from a dynamic, caring person to someone who is constantly irritable, flat, and uninterested in nearly everything that once mattered to them. It’s not only difficult, but also painful to stand so far away and feel with every fiber of my being that someone I care about so much is making a mistake.
The thing about being forced to watch the crash from afar is that you usually get a wide-angle view of the events that lead up to it. You can see that if only that car would have stopped at the yellow light instead of flying through it when it was turning red, it wouldn’t have been coming around the bend when that truck was swerving into the other lane. You can see everything leading up to it, but you’re powerless to stop it.
It’s so hard to accept that the crash is necessary. No matter how awful it is, it’s somehow necessary. I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t believe at all in fate. Sometimes I feel just like John Locke, beating my fists against the top of the hatch, believing that I’ve done everything I was supposed to do and desperate to know why the logical progression didn’t work for me.
Why. The elusive why.
A crash changes things. Whether it’s a minor crack or ding that needs to be removed or a foundation that has been destroyed, the course of things is altered. It’s changed.
What has eluded me for years is this: when we know change is inevitable for someone else, and that that change affects us, do we try to change with them? Or do we take that change as a sign that it’s time to let go and part ways? (Does one always lead to another?) Do we take it as a sign that they need to learn their own lessons and that they must fail in order to do so, or do we continue to try to help them through it and save them from what we perceive to be some great fall?