A Little Change

by Jaye
Copyright © 2005 Jaye Emrys, all rights reserved

          Many years ago an old boyfriend asked me, after we'd been apart for several years, to marry him. I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to. But I thought about the fights we'd had, the chaos, the insanity that had been so hard to get free of, and told him no. I was certain it would be exactly as it had been when we were together.

          I hadn't taken into account the power of a little change over time.

          I now know that that hypothetical marriage would have been completely different from anything I expected.

          Much later, an author friend gave me an analogy1. When two planes leave New York, one bound for San Francisco and one for Los Angeles, they start out so close that the pilots can wave at each other. It's only as they travel onward that they lose sight of each other, until at journey's end they are hundreds of miles apart. Yet their courses differ by only about three degrees!

Line drawing.

          It's making the change, then holding to it over time, that makes the difference. Where do you want to go? Cable cars and fog, or swimming pools and sun?

          A lot of people make the mistake of making either too many changes all at once, or making one or two changes, but making them too big. The same author friend who gave the New York example, likened it to trying to sprint to Disneyland. You can run to Disneyland, but you have to work up to it. You start by going to the end of the block, then around the block, then a mile, then two. By the time you're ready to run (not sprint -- run) to Disneyland, you have the calluses and the distance muscles prepared for the job. You're three hundred miles from where you'd have been if you'd stayed on the couch.

          In social situations, people with strong personalities who make changes tend to "push" harder than they think they are, and what they believe will be appropriate blows up in their face. If you're one of these, try "a little change."  Try a question instead of a suggestion or an order. "What do you think would happen if we...?"

          Then let time go by and see if the other person doesn't come back thinking he thought the thing up on his own. It doesn't matter if he thinks it was his idea. What matters is whether the idea was good.

          The third thing that happens when you try too large a change is that it wears you out, and you're likely to give up and revert to the old way. It's better to have a new behavior for life than only a few weeks.

          Yes, some things are either yes, or no. Some people who have to quit drinking altogether. But most things, you can cut back a bit at a time. One cup of coffee instead of two after meals.

          But try a little change, let it settle in, and see if you like the vista better. Then try another one, and see the new view.

          My author friend told me a third Truth: that same airplane is off-course 99% of the time, but it still gets to its goal. It corrects a bit to the north, a bit to the south, a bit up or down. You do the same when you drive. That's why you have a steering wheel. The only vehicles that don't have steering wheels run on tracks. They can only change course where there is a switch. Which would you prefer? The freedom of roadways, or the security of rails? The only tool to avoid collisions in a railed vehicle is speed. If you can't avoid someone by speeding up or slowing down, you can't avoid him. Picture that for a few moments. Throttle and brake. That's all you have.

          I don't have any idea what would have happened if my old boyfriend and I had  married. I do know it would have been incalculably different from what I imagined. Better? Worse? Who knows. I've been very happy with my life. I look at a typical day today and a typical day when we were together, and know that if I were to return to those years, I would go stark, raving mad. Maybe I was stark, raving mad.

          Three degrees, over eighteen years.

          Decide what changes you want to make, make them, and sit back and enjoy the ride. You have a steering wheel.

          Do you like LA better, or SF?

          Blessings on you and on your house.

1. Steven Barnes (1993). Personal communication.

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