I’ve been thinking a lot about change. Maybe it’s because we’re not too far past the season of making New Year’s Resolutions. Hell, since we’ve just passed the Lunar New Year, it’s a do-over for those who have already dropped the resolutions they made when they hung up the 2017 calendar.
You can probably tell that I’m not a big believer in making New Year’s Resolutions. Changing out the calendar doesn’t do a damn thing on its own except redecorate the wall. And since that’s the case, why wait for January first to make a change? If you need to change, go for it. Regardless of if it’s Thursday, the day before your birthday, late February or Christmas Eve. Just change.
Part of change is the feeling of being stuck. Maybe it’s financial, or a job that sucks, or a relationship in the shitter. Or your house is a mess, and you’re sick of having to dig through the basket of clean laundry to get a fresh shirt every morning but you don’t actually hang up your clothes. Maybe you only own one mug, so you have to wash it every morning before you can fill it with coffee. Or the bathroom cabinet is such a mess that you cause an avalanche trying to find what you need when you need it.
At some point, it becomes more painful to deal with the same old bullshit all day every day than to actually make the changes that make life better. Maybe it takes 10 minutes to clean out a cabinet or put the laundry away or pick the dead leaves off the houseplants so you’re not annoyed every time you look at it. Over the long term, how much mental energy does that save?
A strange event caused me to think this way. When my friend Jay died in November of 2016, I ended up with the responsibility of deciding what to do with all of his possessions. Among his things was a piece of whale baleen, probably humpback, signed as art.
The baleen spent last summer in my storage unit getting dusty and dry and sort of warped. When I emptied my storage unit in October, the baleen took up residence under my couch where it got even dustier, dryer, and collected cat hair until a few days ago when I accidentally stepped on it while moving the couch.
All this time it had been in my mind to go online, find out how to clean and polish it, and then devise a way to hang it up where I can see it.
Stepping on the baleen, and the ominous cracking sound it made (don’t worry, it just caused a small chip on the edge), was the catalyst. Why have I been wasting all this energy on procrastinating over something this simple when it took me 5 minutes for the internet search, maybe 10 minutes to clean it, and maybe another 10 minutes over 2 days to oil it twice? Figure another 5 minutes to hang it up, and it’s still just half an hour of my time to do something I had put off for over 4 months!
This is just the most recent example of how small things have kept me stuck. This has happened a lot with me over a lifetime, and I like to think I’ve learned my lesson. What I definitely know is that taking care of the little things can make it much easier to accomplish bigger and more important things.
Why is that? I suspect it’s because taking care of the small things that drain my energy clear my mind to focus on the better stuff in life – photography, planning my garden, starting yet another home based business…
Often that energy drain is because, as a human being, I don’t want to change. Even when that change is for the better – something that will make me more knowledgeable, better organized, happier, wealthier, or (especially!) more creative.
Sometimes it’s easier to just drink a lot of coffee while hanging out with my cat. That being said, after a while it becomes painful to be stuck. One small change after another adds up over months or years and is equal to one huge change. And while it may feel like massive action is needed to get unstuck, sometimes you just need to clean the baleen and hang it on the damn wall.
Hey, it worked for me.