I am changing, seeing everything so clear now
I am changing, I'm gonna start right now, right here
I'm hoping to work it out, and I know that I can
But I need you, I need a hand
All my life I've been a fool
Who said I could do it all alone
How many good friends have I already lost
How many dark nights have I known
Walking down that wrong road
There was nothing I could find
All those years of darkness
Can make a person blind
But now I can see
I am changing, tryin' every way I can
I am changing, I'll be better than I am
But I need a friend
To help me start all over again
Oh, that would be just fine
I know it's gonna work out this time
'Cause this time I am
This time I am.
Last week a good friend of mine wrote me an email with the lyrics from this song, "I Am Changing" by Jennifer Holliday. My friend heard the song while watching the show America's Got Talent. She wrote in her email to me: "Last night I was watching America's Got Talentand this 14-year-old girl came on stage. She was very shy with a soft voice. She told the judges she was going to sing 'I Am Changing' by Jennifer Holliday. The judges did think she could do it, but, man, when she started she was WONDERFUL. And when I listened to the song, my heart melted, tears came to my eyes, and a smile covered my face. It really hit home for me and touched me. This is my new theme song!" I was really inspired by this email. The song inspired my friend who inspired me (see how all of this has a ripple effect?)...And it also got me to thinking about change. Change can be a good thing. It can be a bad thing. Some change just happens to us, and some, like the kind in this song, we have to do ourselves. Often the changing of ourselves is the hardest kind of change to accomplish.
Over the past six months or so, I've done a lot of changing. I've changed the way I think. I've changed the way I do things. I've changed the activities I take part in. I've even changed the people I spend time with. None of this has been easy to deal with. Change, for me, is scary. I like consistency (which is why I kept living the way I was for so long despite the fact that it clearly wasn't good for me), but sometimes consistency isn't good. Sometimes the only way to make things better is to change them. One of the most important things I've learned through the changes I've made in my life is something I never really fully appreciated until now...
It's okay to ask for help.
For little Miss Independent Dani, this concept was not easy to grasp. At almost every turn, I resisted others' help. Unlike Holliday, who seems to have no problem belting out that she needs a hand, I didn't fully appreciate how important the assistance of others is when it comes to changing oneself. I didn't want to believe that I needed other people to make my life better, but that's just not true. I did need others. I still do. As much as I want to do almost everything on my own, it's high time I realized that that's not what life is all about. Life is about interacting with other people, about caring for them, and, importantly, about letting them care for me. Little by little I'm opening up, exposing more of who I am to the people to know (and want to know) me. Every day I feel myself releasing the reigns of independence more and more and accepting the fact that with changes come challenges and one of the best ways to cope with challenges is to rely on the help of those around you.
I've given a lot of thought to this since I received that email from my friend and I've realized that, without the help of others, I probably would have been able to make some of the great, positive changes I've made in my life. I got to thinking not only about the fact that others have helped me change, but about how they've helped me change. Looking back (and looking around, as I'm still a work in progress), I realize that I could not have done any of this alone. As much as it pains the independent streak in me to admit, I need other people, and here's why...
10 Reasons Others Can Help You Change
- They provide encouragement and support. It seems obvious but this is a big one. A really big one. When I think about all of the support and encouragement I've had over the past few months -- from my family, my friends, my therapist, and my readers -- I am in awe. Seriously. It's such an amazing thing to have a supportive system, a group of people who encourage you and clearly want the best for you. Not everyone is lucky enough to have this. Not everyone is smart enough to embrace and accept this. For years and years I pushed people away. The closer they got, the further I wanted to be from them. More and more I'm accepting goodness and support in my life. I'm learning every day that the people who love and support me are the people I need to have around me. No more negativity. No more wasted time on people who aren't supportive. No more of all that. Now I accept the love and support of others and because of that I'm able to move forward in a more positive direction.
- They offer words of wisdom and insight. From almost everyone I know I've gained wisdom. Whether it's a comment on one of my blog posts or advice that my mom has been offering me for years, everyone from the most distance acquaintance to the closest companion offers me wisdom and insight (whether they know it or not). Importantly, I've found that when I surround myself with the right kinds of people -- those who want me to succeed and do well, those who have faced their own trials and come out stronger, and those who have learned from their own mistakes -- I find the wisdom to be that much greater. Without other people I couldn't have the same understanding of life that I do now. I learn from books. I learn from listening to others. I learn from taking the ideas I read or hear and applying them to my life in a more personal way. When I think of what I know now and how many people have contributed to that knowledge, I'm astounded. I am never really alone and I'm always gaining something from the insights of others. It is because of these insights that I've been able to change, to grow, and to work towards becoming the person I want to be.
- They are there to catch you when you trip. We all fall down. It's not a perfect life and we're not perfect. I've done a lot in terms of changing lately and even when I've set my sights on something -- set a goal and worked hard to achieve it -- I've had some slip ups. For example, last fall I gave up drinking heavily but, one fateful night in January I had one too many and ended up a typical mess of drunkenness. I was so disappointed in myself. I was so upset that I'd let myself down. But I didn't give up. Why? Because I had others to support me. My therapist and my friends were there to tell me that this was a slip up, not a return to my old way of life. Making a bad decision once did not mean that all of my hard work was for nothing. I was supported and encouraged and I realized that it was just that -- one bad decision that didn't have to derail months of hard work. I got back to where I wanted to be. I made better choices, all of which were supported by friends and the weekly sessions with my therapist. I can happily say that I have not once been drunk since that day in mid-January, nearly six months ago. I fell down, but with the help of others I got back up again, dusted myself off, and kept on going.
- They can be excellent sources of inspiration. Almost everything in the world that inspires me comes from other people. Whether it be books or music or simply words, people, their actions, and their creations continuously inspire me. (I also, at times, feel inspired by nature and by animals, but more often than not it's human-related things that really spark the fire of inspiration in me.) As I've been changing lately, I've found so many sources of inspiration from others. I'm inspired by how others around me find happiness and see the positive in life. I'm inspired by fellow bloggers who post great insights on the world and living in it. I'm inspired by the encouragement and support of others. Without other people, I'm sure I would be inspired, but I doubt life would be anywhere near as inspiring as it is now. People bring good things -- wonderful, inspiring things -- into this world, and a lot of what those around me have done has helped me to morph into this new, happier Dani. I cannot imagine life without the inspiration of others. I cannot imagine changing the way I have without having others to look to for inspiration.
- They push you when you need a gentle shove. More often than not, I don't want a shove. I'm like that Saturday Night Live character, Stuart, who's always telling his mother, "I can do it! No, let me do it!" But, let's be serious, sometimes I won't do it. When I'm faced with something I don't want to do -- something that seems so hard that I can't even fathom undertaking such a challenge -- I need a push. For example, back to the drinking thing. I would never have given up drinking heavily on my own. I used to sob, "I want to be happier. I want to stop all of this drama in my life. I don't want to be sad anymore," but I didn't change anything. I kept doing the same things, making the same mistakes, and then wondering why, if I wanted so desperately to be happy, I wasn't happy. When I started going to therapy last fall, my therapist gave me the push I so badly needed when she said, "You can't drink. At all." I was shocked. Of course I couldn't do that. No way I could totally give up drinking. I didn't think it was possible. But she pushed. She made me see that I wasn't going to get different results if I kept doing the same self-destructive things. And, you know what? She was right. Now that I've changed my lifestyle, I'm happier. I'm healthier. And I'm looking a lot more like like the person I want to be.
- They remind you of your absolute awesomeness. Without other people around, would I think I had good qualities? Would I believe in myself? Would I know I was awesome? I don't know... All of my life, I've had my parents, my sister, my friends, my teachers supporting me. Without their encouraging words, I'm not sure who I'd be. I'm not sure if I'd have the confidence that I do now. While I might not always show it (who doesn't have their woe-is-me moments?), I do believe I have a lot going for me, and I also believe that this has a lot to do with the people in my life. When I was a kid and my parents encouraged me to write and draw and do all of the things I loved to do, I learned to think I was really good at these things. I felt awesome, knowing that others believed in me, and, to this day I still do. When I receive an email from a friend (or stranger!) telling me s/he loved my latest post, I get this rush of pride and excitement (a much better high, I'll tell you, than any drug or drink ever gave me). It can be even the tiniest thing, but when someone else supports you and tells you that you're doing a great job, it makes doing positive, productive things so much more fulfilling. Sure, I'm working on changing for me, but it feels pretty great to know that other people think I'm doing good things with my life. It's pretty great to know other people think you're awesome.
- They listen to all of your crazy, kooky ideas. This one goes out to my mom in particular. I'm always calling her with my latest idea. "Mom, I'm going to write a book about Bella!", "Mom, I'm going to start a blog!", "Mom, I'm going to start a second website!" -- to name a few. Whether I follow through with the idea or not, my mom (and any of my friends that I share my ideas with) is always supportive. She listens and never says anything like, "Well, you said you were going to write a book six months ago. What happened to that?" Instead, she says, "That's a great idea! I'm going to email Oprah!" and "You should send your blog posts to Real Simple!" and "People will love reading about that!" and "You're just as talented -- if not more so -- than some of those other writers out there!" While I don't always follow through with my brilliant ideas, it's so great to have someone in my life that doesn't shoot them down, someone who thinks their great and wonderful and have potential. My wonderful friends are like this too. They hear about some of my crazy ideas and might think that it's never going to happen, but they help out with their encouraging words. "That sounds great!" and "You can definitely do that!" and "What a great idea!" are some of the most musical sounds to my ears. Even when people just listen, it means a lot and encourages me to keep going, keep growing, keep changing.
- They believe you will become who you want to be. Even when I don't believe in myself -- when I've felt that all hope was lost and that there was no way I could ever become a productive, happy person -- other people believed. There are people who have always believed in me (my parents), people who believe in my professional abilities (my bosses), people who believe in my talents (my teachers), people who believe I'm awesome (my friends), people who hardly know me but who believe in me anyway (my readers), people who believe I can become someone more stable and sane (my therapist). No matter what I believe, other people believe in me. That's pretty great, isn't it? Other people believe in me! In me! Other people want me to succeed and do well and they believe I can (even when I'm not in that believe-it-can-happen mindset). This is one of the greatest things about having other people in your life as you're working on making a change. They believe. It's like no matter what I do, or even if I mess up, they still believe I can do it. This makes me work harder, want it more, and, of course, believe in myself. I know I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't have some pretty stellar people in my life who really believe in me.
- They reach out and ask you about your progress. I have some really great friends in my life who are always asking me, in a really honest, serious way, "How are you doing?" They want to know. They want to know how the progress in my life is going. They care. Without these inquiries, would I be motivated to keep going? Maybe, but it certainly helps to know that every week my therapist is going to want to know what's going on. It helps to know that every so often a friend is going to look at me with those caring eyes and say, "Seriously, how's everything goin'?" Being asked about how I'm doing, how things are going in this whole changing process, is important. It reminds me that people are there, that they care, and that they genuinely want to know what's going on. It also forces me to check in with myself and really think about how things are going. When other people ask me about my progress I'm forced to think about it (which is one of the great things about therapy!). It's so great to know people care and, when other people care about you, it reminds you to care about yourself!
- They point you in the right direction when you're lost. No matter what journey you're on in life, you're bound to get lost from time to time (especially if you're anything like me and have absolutely no sense of direction...yes, I can get lost even with a GPS!). Sometimes getting lost can be a good thing. It can lead us in new and exciting directions. But sometimes it can be dangerous, scary, and isolating -- which is why it's great to have others around you who can show you the way. On a small scale, sometimes I veer away from my new found positive attitude. That's when a helpful friend or family member will say, "Now, it doesn't sound like you're being very positively present..." Yes, this is obnoxious, but it's also a great reminder that I need to get back on the path. This is a small example, but there are tons of ways that others help me when I'm treading on the edge of the path, thinking about venturing into the woods of negativity. When I'm on that edge, something brings me back -- a blog post written by a fellow blog, a friend calling to check in, a big hug from someone who loves me. It can be a small thing (a smile from a colleague) or a big thing (the mention of my blog in the paper), but so often it is others that point me in the right direction, reminding me (whether they know it or not) to keep going down the path. Changing isn't easy, but having others to lead me, show me, point it out to me is so helpful.
As someone who doesn't like to admit that she needs anything from anyone, I was truly enlightened after writing this post. I'll admit that I wrote the heading above before I thought of 10 things. I thought to myself, "Hey, I can come up with 10!" and, not only did I have no trouble at all thinking of 10 things, but, in doing so, I realized how much others really have helped me to grow and learn and discover more about who I want to be. Of course I've done a lot of this on my own, inside, but I know I couldn't have done it alone. I know now that I do need other people. Without them, I wouldn't be who I am and I wouldn't be on the road to becoming who I want to be.