I’m writing this post today in response to an excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. A book I had picked up eight years ago as a teenager; a book that made me want to be a writer; and a book that when still read eight years later, has discovered a new space for itself inside my mind.
Gilbert writes: “This part of my story is not a happy one, I know. But I share it here because something was about to occur on that bathroom floor that would change forever the progression of my life – almost like one of those crazy astronomical super-events when a planet flips over in outer space for no reason whatsoever, and its molten core shifts, relocating its poles and altering its shape radically, such that the whole mass of the planet suddenly becomes oblong instead of spherical. Something like that.
What happened was that I started to pray.
You know – like, to God.”
This isn’t a post about religion or God; whatever God comes to your mind when reading that word. This is a post about change. Change that arrives at the most inconvenient and undesired time. The kind of reformation that has been tiptoeing behind your every step from the moment your mind conceived of it. In Gilbert’s case, it came to her during a cold November where she found herself crying uncontrollably on her bathroom floor, unhappy with her marriage, reaching for any voice other than her own internal dialogue, leading her to pray, “you know – like, to God.”
Change feels the worst when you’re suffocated by it, unable to escape the fear attached to every thought of how you’re going to survive the new elements of your life. Sometimes it’s not all that dramatic and is simply being uncomfortable for a little while, (or a long while). Sometimes it’s not feeling ready for the necessary new. And sometimes it’s just being lonely. All of which never feel good and are never things that people want to experience.
But when does necessary change ever come knocking at just the precise moment that we desire it, in just the right shapes and colors that we want or need so that we can rush through the hard parts and get to the good stuff? I label it as “necessary change” because necessary change is never the kind that we want. It’s the type we know we need, but it’s the most uncomfortable and heart wrenching. Yet as much as we hold back and hide from it, we undoubtedly know we are eventually going to have to go through it – either when we muster up enough strength to take the big leap, or when life/fate/the Universe/God creatively orchestrates just the right scene on some random Tuesday morning that we blindly walk into, forever redirecting the course of our lives forever.
Everyone at some point has experienced this kind of blindsided transitioning. It’s the unforgettable “normalcy” we learn to adjust ourselves with while going through it, and the blessed transformation when time has done its job, healed all wounds, and birthed anew. Initial, taken off guard change, is the scariest yet also most beautiful and grateful kind of change. It awakens and enlivens you, strengthens and restores you, until you realize that in some rooted part of yourself, you silently asked for it all along.
“Oh, but it wasn’t all that bad, those few years…
Because God never slams a door in your face without opening a box of Girl Scout cookies (or however the old adage goes), some wonderful things did happen to me in the shadow of all that sorrow.” –Elizabeth Gilbert