The article’s subtitle was this: “Being the same person over time is not about holding on to every aspect of your current self but about changing purposefully.”
The words that stuck out to me the most were the last: changing purposefully, because so often the bad changes are almost accidental, aren’t they? They’re the ones we make just one day at a time, and we mean to do something different the next day, and before we’ve blinked it’s been a year or two, and then it really is a change, in our lives, in us, and it’s a bad one.
But changing purposefully means knowing what you are doing, and knowing why you are doing it. It means knowingly stepping out of something that you are currently into something else that you may not know or understand yet, because often we don’t even know who we are or who can be until we have become them. This is why staying static can be so dangerous, because it means we don’t know the other things we could be.
And I look over this house that we bought and are now remodeling, this house that we are changing. We have painted and put up new light fixtures and outlet covers, but the real thing we are changing is the floor. But really it’s an uncovering, it’s a reestablishing, it’s a restoring back to its original self.
It’s purposeful change, bringing the house, the floors, to a state that is closer to themselves, closer to what they are meant to be then what they were before. The previous owner had carpet over them, maybe she lacked money, maybe she lacked time, or maybe she just liked carpet. But underneath the covering was what the house was really built with; underneath was what the floors were actually meant to be.
And a few things stand out, as we’ve been going through this process. First, the work of taking up the layers, the work of earing out what the floors were not meant to be. The hours of pulling up carpet and then the days of prying up carpet tacks. Just the uncovering isn’t easy. Just the taking up of what is not meant to be, the extra layers of what once seemed nice, what once seemed soft and pretty, what once should have just been temporary, but had now turned sticky, filthy and heavy from lying there too long.
And then, when that was gone, and outside in a pile so dirty that the dirt wafted whenever a breeze came by, we went back inside to the damage they had done. Because of the carpet, moisture had seeped in to the wood. It was cracked and bowed and discolored from being covered up. It’s layers hadn’t done it any good at all in the end. It hadn’t even protected it. It had made it worse.
It wasn’t pretty. You see, the getting rid of the old, a filthy carpet, a bad habit, doesn’t mean the underneath will just come dazzling through. Because the protection likely hasn’t done the job. The covering up hasn’t made the real material, the real person better. Everything’s likely been damaged through and through.
And then, the work. The throwing out the old isn’t good enough. The floor guys sanding, for days, over and over, and then layer upon layer of the new protection, the one that works with the floors; the one that doesn’t cover them up but works with who and what they really are.
And then, the gentle waiting. The acknowledging of fragility. They have been uncovered, sanded down, stained, and they are not quite yet what they are meant to be. The giving time to heal. So we walk around, we don’t put any undue pressure, we leave them alone until the healing has been done.
And there’s something else. During that process, the rest of our lives fell apart. The work is hard. Because it takes all of your energy to do that work, and in the meantime, the dishes don’t get done and you’ve had to move the things off the floors and so everything else is everywhere, and it’s just difficult to make sense of anything. So difficult. And it takes time. It takes time to do the work, to find the energy, and then there’s often nothing left for anything else, and it might look like things are actually getting worse. It might look like nothing’s getting done.
But finally, after the work, after the waiting, and in the midst of the mess, the transformation. The change. The revealing of what was meant to be all along, but hasn’t been, because of bad habits, of coverings up, of laziness.
I don’t know why you don’t change. I know why I sometimes don’t. Because I worry that I’ll become someone totally different, when actually I’d be becoming more who I was meant to be all along. Because I worry it’ll be too much work, when actually it’s so much work to keep the carpet clean and dry and replaced every few years. Because I worry the rest of my life will fall apart and everything around me will start caving in.
Well, that one may be true. But if you believe in one transformation, surely there is always room for just one more.