Brief update from the front lines of change

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Rather than write about change, which, apparently, is what I write about most of the time here, when I’m not plugging myself shamelessly (see above), I’m trying to actually change. You know, for a change. Haha.

It is HARD. And by “hard,” I mean that song I wrote does not come within five-landing-strips-of-a-gigantic-barn close to describing the level of difficulty. As my teacher and many other teachers before me have said wisely and well, however much you dislike the things that are keeping you from going where you say you’d like to, they are the things that have kept you alive, and they are not going down without a fight. Plus they have much, much bigger muscles and much greater familiarity with the dank, dark alleyways of your soul than these fresh little hopes.

Nevertheless, I am making what looks like some small progress in this one small (but terrifying!) area of change. I will reserve my observations for some time in the future, when I’m further on the other side of this bastard, both because I need to conserve my energy right now and because I am in the thick of it, which doesn’t give one much of a useful perspective when it comes to analysis. I will, however, float out a few scattered observations in the hope that they may help you or someone you love flail less during the grappling period.

Things that help when you’re in the throes of change:

  1. Unbroken blocks of time, scheduled in the calendar. They can be small, but they should be there. Whatever the thing you’re working on changing requires your undivided attention, because if you let up for a minute, those gremlins sneak in and take the wheel.
  2. Insane amounts of sleep. As much as you can grab. Gremlin-fighting is exhausting. Water is probably helpful, too. I should probably be drinking a lot more water.
  3. Something relatively non-hazardous that lets you unplug. I sat in an Epsom-salt bath for two hours last night. I haven’t done this since I was recovering from my Crohn’s onset.
  4. Knowing you can cancel extracurricular plans. You do not have to cancel, but reminding yourself you can cancel may be enough. I think this is something about feeling like you are The Boss of You.
  5. 50/10 hours. That is, 50 minutes of whatever is hard, followed by 10 minutes of something that is easy. It can be easy and pleasant, or easy and boring, or even easy and yucky. But 50 of hard to 10 of easy has helped.
  6. Writing things down. By this I mean both keeping a list of your intentions AND using something to slough off the crazy scribblings the gremlins get busy producing. Morning pages are excellent, but really, any timed blathering on a page will do.
  7. Letting the rest of it temporarily go to hell in a handbasket. The gremlins, they’re DYING for you to feel like you have to keep the house clean and keep up with your exercise regimen and and and. Of course, if your change-thing is staying tidy or starting to exercise, adjust to fit. What I’m saying is that perfectionism is a gremlin’s best friend.
  8. Calendaring in a light at the end of the tunnel. I have a break scheduled for later this week. During that time, I will not even think about change. It is a change from change. Not that I will use the time to go back to my bad habit, I’m removing myself from the environment, to ensure no backsliding. But it will be a truce. The gremlins and I will be on holiday, having a picnic.

It’s interesting, looking at these, because I note that many of them are things my friend Brooks recommends for people who are doing a clutter bust: concentrate on one thing at a time, give yourself plenty of rest, drink lots of water. And it makes sense, because changing a really big, or really small, but entrenched, habit is like letting go of an especially charged piece of clutter: something you’ve had around for a long time, that you have a lot invested in, but that is no longer serving.

This is already longer than I’d intended. So much so that a part of me thought perhaps I should scrap it or even just file it away and write something much shorter. I was close, until I heard what sounded suspiciously like a chorus of gremlins rubbing their tiny hands together with glee.

I will write a shorter post another day, when I have time. Right now, it’s time to change…



  1. Hi Colleen,

    I subscribed to your feed following your appearance at TedXTacoma and while I’ve purged many Google Reader feeds in the last few months, yours remains a treasured one. Your posts often seem to hit my metaphorical nail with a desperately needed virtual hammer.

    It’s been a rough year, one full of endings and transitory beginnings which may quickly also turn into endings but somehow in the meantime they landed me in China for six weeks. My time here will end on November 21st and I have NO IDEA what the Universe has in store for me beyond then. But for the short term, I want to focus on not worrying about “what’s next” and figure out how to just be. China has been a good practice run…I don’t speak or read the language and often I’m left to my own devices. The caucophony that surrounds me here became white noise pretty quickly. I spend a lot of time inside my own head. A good place to be fore now…

    Your posts over the last 6 months provided me with tidbits of possiblities for discovering my own direction, hints for eliminating clutter that may not necessarily be material and a map with no “X” marking a treasure, but instead destinations I may find interesting.

    This post is no exception…I’m certain I’m going to desire some changes in the near future. I feel like I’m teetering on that edge…and these are great tools for helping with implementation. Thanks for your hard work!

    1. Wow—thank you for this excellent and specific feedback.

      I’m glad to hear that the posts have been helpful. It must be a nerve-wracking to be in a place so far from home in so many ways when you’re already in the throes of change. Then again, as you mentioned, you’re getting an immersion program in letting go.

      Thanks for posting. I hope you’ll keep reading, of course, but I also hope you’ll give an update on things as they start to take shape. This is some pretty interesting stuff.

  2. You crack me up! And you have a way of putting into words the way I am feeling, especially with regard to making change. I’m working on change myself right now…er….maybe all the time… or, at least thinking about changing all the time, so thanks for the tips. They sound like excellent advice. I’m printing them out and hanging them by my desk: )

  3. I especially like #7. I was just telling 2 very creative friends, one a designer, one a writer, why they have to just dive in and make the stuff they want to make. That they’ve got all these ideas but won’t work on them. My guess is, that fear that it won’t be the masterpiece they think it should be. Of course, I do the same silly thing. But I told them, maybe working on this or that project is the path to the masterpiece, not the masterpiece itself. Then they told me to shut up.

    BTW, I know you don’t like E. Tolle. But the way you speak of gremlins is exactly how he speaks of the ego. Like an alter-being who wants to F with you. Just sayin’.

    1. It is hard to imagine a scenario where I could get enough help dealing with #7. It’s just a thing—the flip side to some good stuff I got, I guess.

      It’s not that I dislike him; he just writes about really smart things in a way that puts me to sleep almost instantly. Oh, well!

  4. Thanks Colleen, your words have spoken directly to me so many times in the last year. I appreciate you. You are Amazing!

  5. colleen – i think we were separated at birth! (i believe this despite hard evidence to the contrary) i’ve been obsessively reading everything here hoping that you’ve done the work that i am afraid to do and, consequently, that you have “the answer” i’m looking for…… all i know for sure is that finding communicatrix was no accident. i’m so freakin relieved to know that someone else out there (maybe lots of someone elses) feels as lost and confused in their 40’s as i do. i thought i would have it all figured out by now – ha! i’m also obsessed with hoarders (the show) (and sister wives) and read everything i can find on it. as a result i’m almost ready to say out loud that i’ve spent almost TEN YEARS of my life refusing to live it and surrounding myself with stuff in a hoarder-like manner. just acknowledging this in writing (to strangers….) is making me uber-anxious. deep breath. ok, i’m rambling, mostly i wanted to say thank-you. reading about your journey makes me think mine is doable – and that is (a) new, and (b) a good thing.


    1. Glad my wacky brain and many, many trips down blind alleys can be of help to someone else! And no, you’re absolutely not alone. And there are actual professionals who can help now, not just dingbats with a WordPress blog and a high-speed connection.

      Seriously. If you start feeling scared or stuck, see if you can’t get some actual, physical help. Not sure if it comes through all the time in my writing, but I have insane amounts of accountability and support set up for myself, and it’s made all the difference. Some I pay for, but most is just people helping people!

  6. Hi Colleen!
    It looks like you got that balance between getting rid of something not longer useful and walking to something new quite nicely. I like especially the point of 50/10. I usually get an extra motivation for that when I know, that I will spend most of the day in front of the screen.

    Then I just put a small bowl with sweets in the far end of kitchen and every hour I go there, turn on the kettle, get one sweet thing (just one! ;) and waiting for a water for cafe or tea to boil I do eyes exercises, stretch a bit or simply close my eyes and listen to boiling water. It’s so relaxing.

    And then I just grab myself and put in front of computer again. With a new perspective and more positive attitude. Which I wish you too ;)


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