A realist’s guide to change

Not with a bang but a whimper.

That is how my year began. With a going-to-bed-at-10 night, a movie-on-my-laptop night. I was staying with relatives in Phoenix, you see, and there was no point staying up until midnight; everyone was asleep.

We’d watched fireworks an hour earlier standing outside in the dark, a dozen freezing pillars straining to see sparks over the tops of the silhouetted palms.

Just like last year. The fancy dinner, the family, the unnecessary primping to Beyoncé my sister and I did beforehand, all of it was a repeat. Tack on two new dresses, a fresh, daring shade of lipstick and a few more layers of emotional scarring and you’re up to speed.

No doubt we’ll repeat the scene next year. Maybe there will be some minor shifts — a different song to prep to, a different restaurant, new towels in the bathroom. But overall it will be the same.

Change is slow.

I woke up the next morning feeling exactly the same. And maybe in the house next door a middle-age man with a growing paunch was dragging himself out of bed to his 6 a.m. alarm, lacing up his running shoes and changing his life. But maybe he was slapping snooze, convinced he’d start tomorrow.

Change takes time.

It’s ridiculous to think otherwise. If you didn’t run last year, you probably won’t now. Maybe you’ll take walks or take weeks off at a time or take yourself right back to bed.

If you didn’t write a novel last year, chances are you won’t in the next twelve months, either. Maybe you’ll jot down your best idea yet or crank out some short stories worth keeping or write poetry that’s good for once.

Trust the pace at which progress (or maybe retrogression) moves.

Unrealistic expectations sap us of self worth. Comparing ourselves to others only bogs us down. So put on some blinders and plunge ahead, but arm yourself with the knowledge that, just like last year, not everything will happen at once, and not everything that happens will be for the better.

Things can change for the better, but it will take time. It will take months and years and maybe when you look back you won’t recognize yourself.

Because change, while it happens, is invisible.

A realist’s guide to change

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