One day, while in high school, while walking in downtown Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (yes that is a real place), my friend Glen Mueller and I broke into the Met Department Store. Perhaps ‘broke in’ is misleading. We walked by the store and one of us pulled on the door for fun – and it opened. This was many years ago at a time when stores still closed on Sunday.
It was a very surreal experience. Suddenly we were transported into a storehouse of riches. We could not believe our luck. Looking back I am slightly embarrassed that we did not just turn around and walk out, but at the time the temptation was too great.
The problem was, we panicked. We had no idea what was going on and were quite sure that we were not supposed to be left alone in our treasure trove of riches.
We stole a watch.
We had the entire store at our disposal and we stole a watch. We almost didn’t do that much, we were so frightened. I cannot remember what happened to that watch but I’m pretty sure it was all Glen’s idea.
I have often reflected on how this memory is like life. How many opportunities missed, how many times have we been given a bit of light, only to squander it because of fear and desperation? How many times have I turned left when I should have turned right?
There are usually reasons why I make the wrong choices. Most of those reasons begin with, “It was easier to…” or “but I really want to!”. Like many of us my natural propensity is to take shortcuts or do was is easiest. Real change or real opportunity usually takes real work and it is easier to give the appearance of effort without putting in the hard time needed to move forward.
There is no magic pill.
There are a few very true statements about change that I remind patients from time to time. Change usually takes a great deal longer than we imagine. It also isn’t usually as drastic as we assume either. Last, but certainly not least, change isn’t always measurable or even immediately noticable. Take for example, a decision to go on antidepressents. The magic does not ordinarily kick in the first hour or first day. Often you don’t feel any better even after the first week. One day you come in to my office and I ask you how things have been and you admit that you feel “a little bit better”. That is how antidepressents work. They aren’t supposed to make you stoned, aren’t supposed to drastically impact your day. That is like change.
You can say the same thing for battling depression, or dealing with anxiety, or processing trauma. In fact you can use these axioms for much of life in general. Real life is usually, well it’s usually kind of boring. Few decisions radically affect our present unless they are bad decisions. Good things come to those who get up in the morning. Who get dressed. Who try. Who work at it. Who persevere.
Who do the right thing day after day after day.