Slow Change

I have a friend who is climbing Mt Everest. Literally, as we speak, he is waiting for the weather to clear so he can make his way up to the summit. Isn’t that amazing? I know him from church. His name is John Zeckendorf and you can find him on Face Book. You can also find a bit more information about him here.

I find it incredible that I know someone that is actually climbing the highest mountain in the world. What I find even more amazing is that he has been blogging while he’s been climbing ( you can find that on Face Book too) and I’ve had a little insight into what the process is like. Probably as much insight as I want, actually. There’s no way I’m ever going to put my body through anything like what it takes to climb Mt Everest.

In an update this weekend he writes about how much he’s acclimatised in the five weeks he’s been at base camp. Did you know that when you’re climbing Mt Everest you need to spend weeks at base camp taking shorter trips to different places on the way up? You drop oxygen and food (I think) and whatever you need, and you acclimatise as you go, so that you’re prepared to go up to the summit. Just training at lower altitudes is not enough. John writes that he has noticed lately as he sees newcomers arrive at base camp that he has come a long way. He’s not gasping for air anymore, he’s able to walk and is no longer moving like a zombie.

He says “It is such a gradual process that you don’t even realise it until you look back and see where you have come from and know that you aren’t there anymore.”

I’ve been thinking about that lately, about how much time is needed for real integral change. Books and movies make us think that change happens in an instant – in a life-changing moment. Maybe it does sometimes but that’s not generally how I’ve experienced my major life change.

The way my brain works is a little like compost I think. It’s a slow and natural process. Sometimes the thought processes stink, sometimes they heat up, and in the end you can get really good stuff out. But it takes time.

I’m so impatient. I want the good stuff now – without all the composting. If I come up with a good idea – writing a book, getting fit, renovating the house – I want it to happen now. Right now. And so much of the good stuff of life just can’t happen instantly.  So many things go better if we give ourselves time to get used to them – to plan and to dream and to work it out slowly. And much of our growth in life happens so gradually that you can’t even see it happening. You only notice it when you look back.

When my children were little people would lovingly tell me to ‘enjoy every minute’ and I couldn’t, you know? I had a bit of an issue with postnatal depression and it wasn’t easy. Every minute felt like a lifetime. Days dragged, weeks dragged. I loved my kids, and I knew my life was good and that I should have been more grateful, but it was hard. It was hard to see how I’d make it through that time. I couldn’t see how the time was passing, I could only see the things I wasn’t doing. The games I wasn’t playing with my kids, the books I wasn’t reading, the craft I wasn’t making, the delicious home-baked goods I wasn’t baking, the cleaning that wasn’t getting done.

I would compare myself to other mums, I would compare myself to my husband and come up short. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be.

Now, some of that is because I had a lot of growing to do. A lot of selfishness to get over. A lot of laziness to work out of my system. But some of that was because I am naturally an introverted person and therefore living full-time with little people was a serious drain on my energy resources.

Now the children are grown, I can look back and remember the little things I did do. The time we all went for a walk along the beach in the rain. The decorating of the Christmas tree. The cuddles on the couch. The many conversations. The walks down to school singing songs from The Sound of Music. The many dance concerts and soccer games I sat and cheered through.

Through my faults and failures and the fact that I had to be real about them with my kids (we lived together – they knew exactly where I was failing) we created relationship. We created depth of friendship. I learned to accept myself. They learned to accept someone like me. Now I look back on our lives and I’m grateful for it all. Even the hard stuff.

When you look forward to all you haven’t achieved yet, you can easily get discouraged. Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a look back and see how far you’ve come and what difficulties you have overcome on your journey.

John asks, “Have you taken the time to “look backwards” to see the progress you have made?” I’d encourage us all to take the time to look back over our lives and check out the view. I think you’ll probably be encouraged at just how far you’ve come.

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