Embracing the Unchangeable:
Navigating Life’s Inescapable Realities
I’m quite an introspective soul. My mind is a constant whirlwind of thoughts; it rarely takes a break. It’s as if I have a brain that’s forever delving into rabbit holes. In the midst of this ceaseless mental activity, I often find myself deeply immersed in contemplation, examining the intricate tapestry of our lives.
As the years go by, these moments of reflection have become more consistent, and weirdly less profound. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me just how little I truly understand. When I was younger, my naive self believed in life having a profound purpose, in absolute positivity, and in giving the universe what it needed to reward me with all I imagined possible. Now I believe, life has a funny way of showing you what you didn’t know you needed to know. Life’s fragility and unpredictability are more apparent than ever, reminding me that control over it is a fleeting illusion. This realization is having a curious effect on me: the more I learn, the more I feel compelled to seek out new knowledge. It’s as though I’ve stumbled upon the profound truth that actually I know nothing at all. My foundation and trust in what I thought I knew has shifted. Maybe it’s an age thing, or a shaped-by-circumstance thing (you know that pandemic thing), or a reaction to everything and all that has gone before and led me to this point, I am not totally sure.
In reality, it’s not uncommon to feel dissatisfied with certain aspects of our existence, yearning for change, yet grappling with the inescapable truth that some things are beyond our control. This paradox is a universal human experience, one that I, as a British expat living in America, working in mental health, and running an online business, am intimately familiar with. My life is a complex interweave of challenges, illness, wellness, lack of resources, time, energy, responsibility and change. All of which seem out of my control or at the very least (or best) minimally within what I can control.
The yearning for change can be overpowering at times. We might dream of a different career path, yearn for a change of scenery, or desire a more fulfilling relationship. These desires often come from a place of genuine longing and the belief that life could be better, more meaningful, or simply different. However, the harsh reality is that not everything can be altered to align with our desires. It has taken many years for me to learn this lesson.
FIRST ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT WE CAN’T CHANGE
One of the most challenging aspects of life is acknowledging that some circumstances must be endured. This endurance isn’t born out of complacency or resignation but rather from a profound understanding of love, responsibility, necessity, and ethical considerations. Let’s delve deeper into these facets of life and explore how they intersect with our yearnings for change. For me, the 5 reasons why are below. Yours may be different, but for me, these are my driving forces.
- Love: Love is a powerful force that can both inspire and confine us. We may find ourselves in situations where we deeply care about someone, be it a family member, friend, or partner, and their needs or circumstances tie us to a particular place or situation. Their needs are greater than ours OR their ability to access their solutions is over and above what they can handle. This love becomes a tether that keeps us grounded, reminding us that some sacrifices are worthwhile for the sake of those we hold dear.
- Responsibility: Responsibilities come in various forms. It could be the duty to care for aging parents, the commitment to a long-term project at work, and for us, the deep responsibilities that came with our brand of parenthood. These obligations have made it difficult to pursue drastic life changes, as all these require constant demands on our time, energy, and attention. Fulfilling these responsibilities of course is not only my duty to the commitment I made to my children but also comes with a sense of pride and purpose, even if it is these very same things that are limiting the ability to change other aspects of our lives.
- Necessity: Sometimes, change is simply not an option due to financial constraints or other pressing needs. Financial stability, for instance, is a necessity that many of us cannot compromise on. While it can be frustrating to feel financially tied down, it’s a reality we must face and navigate as best we can. Those groups that advocate for mold toxicity and leaving with nothing, make so much sense but I just do not see that fitting into the all-encompassing reality of my life. With Grandparents and children and work and mortgages and financial obligations, it seems impossible to do either. Stay – stay sick but keep the balls in the air until we physically can’t any longer, or create that void and chaos by allowing everything to collapse and burn around us. I know the latter option would ensure my children did not survive so that alone answers that question.
- Obligation: Obligations may arise from commitments we’ve made to our communities, organizations, or even ourselves. We may have promised to support a cause, complete a degree, or maintain certain standards of integrity and ethics. These obligations can guide our decisions and limit our ability to make radical changes. Again, see the financial points above, but more, I feel a sense of “must” remain consistent for my kids, for my spouse, I believe they deserve nothing less from me.
- Ethical Reasons: Our ethical principles and values play a crucial role in shaping our choices. Sometimes, the desire for change conflicts with our ethical beliefs. For instance, leaving a job that provides for our family, even if it’s unfulfilling, can be a moral dilemma. We must grapple with the ethical dimensions of our decisions and weigh the consequences they may have on ourselves and others. I find myself grappling with this constantly.
EMBRACING CHANGE AND WAYS TO MOVE FORWARD
While it can be discouraging to feel trapped by these factors, it’s somewhat essential for my mental well-being I continue to remind myself that not all is lost. My capacity for change isn’t limited to external circumstances alone; it also extends to my internal mindset and perspective. As this is currently my only option for change (internal rather than external) I have been rabbit-holing this for a while. Here are some strategies that I have found to help navigate the complexities of wanting change while feeling obligated and forced to honor my current commitments:
- Embrace Mindfulness: This was so annoying to me at first. I was constantly thinking: “Shut up about your stupid mindfulness people. It doesn’t change a thing!!” Practicing mindfulness allows us to accept our current circumstances without judgment – allegedly anyway. It’s supposedly a powerful tool for finding peace and contentment within the present moment, even when we yearn for change. I am trying. I am definitely not there yet. I am not. But I have shut down the voice and started to try to appreciate the idea of acceptance. I think for me, it would be considered radical acceptance right now more than mindfulness, but I am on my way at least.
- Have Realistic Goals: While some changes may be out of reach, others can be pursued gradually. Break down desires for change into smaller, manageable goals. This gives you a sense of progress and control. I have done this. I have accepted that my situation is what it is. I am making goals to move things forward. I am even looking at new projects to create opportunities for community-safe living for my oldest. I have an idea for a college-type campus for living. A place where there are safe apartments, a centralized eating place, firepits, and community, but peer support and services to aid our not-quite-ready-never probably-able-but-should-be-afforded-an-opportunity to live independently adults. That idea is currently percolating in my mind and not sure if I should file that under “realistic goals” but I am not a small thinker so, let it be known I also dream of winning the lottery.
- Seek Support: Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist to discuss your feelings of dissatisfaction and the constraints you face. They can provide valuable perspectives and emotional support. My spouse and my friends ground me. They get it. No judgment. No expectations. No rudeness or mocking. They are solid. Without them, what do I have?
- Find Joy in What You Have: Cultivate gratitude for the aspects of your life that bring you happiness and fulfillment. Focusing on the positive can ease the burden of unchangeable circumstances. I want to add the eye roll emoji here, but I won’t. I am again, going to continue to try. It is hard some days, but then I just let go and hug a chicken. Pure joy is available in that even when all else seems hopeless and lost.
- Explore Creative Solutions: Consider alternative ways to incorporate your passions and desires into your current life. This could involve pursuing hobbies, volunteering, or finding new outlets for self-expression. Or building housing solutions for semi-adult-adults, or hugging chickens. I am good with creative solutions. My life revolves around being flexible and creative. This is one skill I can say I embrace fully.
Really this human experience is a patchwork quilt woven from a myriad of desires, expectations, responsibilities, abilities, and ethical considerations. I can’t walk away from those I love, I can’t rob a bank to fund our lifestyle changes so, here we are. While we can yearn for change, we should also recognize there is some beauty in lessons learned by enduring and embracing the unchangeable aspects of our lives. We have to create what we live. Like restoring a tumble-down farmhouse. It’s a delicate balance, one that requires introspection, resilience (I hate this word but here it is sort of appropriate), hard work, hard choices, love, and a deep appreciation for the complexities of our existence. I try to remind myself that life’s most profound transformations often begin within the heart and mind, even when the external world remains unchanged. This is where my most important and intense learning has often been crafted, and feeds my desire to continue learning to thrive not simply to just exist. Who knows where we will be next year or next week but for those who don’t know me, I can say, I don’t quit, I never give up, I never stop seeking. Maybe one day, life will mean more than 42 and a dead fish.
Reddit: The meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)
In the ASCII Language (computer language), 42 is an * or “Wildcard” The greatest computer ever built was asked what the meaning of life is and it literally told everyone in ITS language that “Life is what you make it”