“Change is too hard.” I’ve heard that so many times I feel like it is just this universal truth of the human condition. I am barraged with statements like this from my clients on a daily basis in treatment. As a counselor I choose to use reality testing to challenge their belief, to find unique outcomes where this was not the case and by doing so build on self-efficacy.
As a member of the human race, however, I completely align with this sentiment.
Let me start by saying that I have been “in love” with one boy for the past 6 years of my life. He is now married and his wife is expecting a baby. Have I moved on? No. Let me also say that in 2007, after 6 months of dating, he chose drug usage over me. In 2008 he came home early from a mission due to a lack of testimony and drug withdrawal-related issues. In 2010 I was on my way to being engaged to another guy when my first love called me after a meth withdrawal landed him in the hospital. In 2011 he told me that he was quitting college to raise “award winning pitbulls and become a DJ.” A few weeks before he actually got married to the current wife he called me up and over the course of the conversation told me that he would call off the wedding if I would have him. It has been dramatic to say the least.
When the film “Like Crazy” came out I saw it up at Broadway Theater in SLC with my friend Jessica. **spoiler alert** After a few years of trying and failing to make a long-distance relationship work, the two main characters, bound by previous vows of commitment to each other, end up married and in California. The film ends with the two interacting awkwardly as their drama comes to a completion and this intense love that they had built up, that may have been real at some point in time, has lost it’s luster. Now that they have caught up with the momentum of their projected fantastical infatuation they realize that they are no longer the person the other fell in love with. They gave up all they had in pursuit of an idea not grounded in reality. Their imminent unhappiness is tangible as the final shots vacillate between a montage of the beginning of their love to the current state of emptiness. It is raw. It is uncomfortable. And the minute the credits appeared on screen I started sobbing uncontrollably in the theater. Jess documented what she thought was a funny moment, several couples offered their concern, and I just cried at the image ingrained in my brain of what was to become of me and my man.
Did I stop seeing him after that? After I had a visceral response to the truth of our situation that created, what I perceived as, mass hysteria in a public theater? Haha silly simple-minded creatures, of course I did not. Even though I knew with all of my being that we were completely and absolutely wrong for each other I made myself powerless to change. And so it continued up until he married someone else and cut it off for me.
So why don’t we change. Why don’t we allow insight to be enough to propel us into motion? Because change feels impossible. Because the implications of change for the deluded soul are too severe. Change means that this relationship that I spent so much life on is invalidated; it really wasn’t as important as I made it out to be because if it was then it would continue. Change means that I am stupid, or was stupid at some point in time which led me to my current state of needing to fix the stupid mistake I originally had made. But mostly, change means a ton of work that I currently may not be willing to put in. Frankly it exhausts me just thinking about exactly how much effort I will need to make to overcome my depression and my trust issues and my tightly-held trophy for most wounded individual. I think I’ll take a nap to muster the energy to continue to talk about this.
The more I attempt to pry my fingers loose of these skeletons in my closet, the tighter I cling because I have built up an identity around the suffering I have incurred. Without my meth-head love of my life who am I? Without my debilitating depression protecting me from venturing out of my comfort zone would I find that I am just not interesting enough or smart enough or funny enough? Everything looks more impressive with that as the backdrop: straight A’s AND she can barely get out of bed; doing well at her job DESPITE her recent personal catastrophy. Without it am I just doing as well as everyone else? Will I finally see that the world spins madly on regardless of what is going on in my life? Doesn’t that sound impossible to bear?
So I stay where I am. I write off change as “too hard” or “near impossible.” I deny the possible negatives and positives of the unknown because although I am miserable, I am well-aquainted with what the misery looks and feels like. I echo the statement of Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle, “I don’t do well with change. Sometimes I think I will die before I change.” And for intents and purposes, I might.