We also had to memorize and recite Newton's first law of motion, the one which deals with inertia. Four years later, when we got there in physics class, half of us remembered and recited it again. It popped into my head last night, and I've been unable to shake it. An object at rest remains at rest. An object in motion remains in motion, in a straight line, unless acted upon by an outside unbalanced force.
When I took that into the realm of metaphor, as I always do, it resonated with other things I've been working on in the last couple of weeks. Bear with me as I take a little road trip through my head.
I'm not very good with change. I like stability and familiarity, routine and ritual. I want to know what to expect from my day and my week and my year. I get very anxious when I don't know what's going on, or when circumstances are outside my control. I even plan my spontaneity.
And so for a number of years, nothing in my life changed at all. An object at rest remains at rest. I've been at the same job for more than ten years. I've lived in the same town, although in several different apartments, for eight years. I haven't dated anyone in seven years, and mostly haven't even been looking. I've known most of my friends for between ten and fifteen years, and most of the ones I've known for less time are spouses or SOs of college friends.
It was good, and I was happy. I stayed in my comfortable stagnant inertia and watched others have their lives. I watched as my friends married, and some bought homes, and some had children. Then a couple of years ago, like Rip Van Winkle, I woke up and realized that everything had changed around me. I wasn't happy any more.
That's when I set myself in motion. Slow, steady, predictable motion with definite goals, but at least I was working to change. Each thing I did made the next one a little easier to achieve. An object in motion remains in motion, in a straight line... I had a Plan. Like all plans, it didn't survive first contact with... not the enemy, really, so much as forces outside my control.
...unless acted upon by an outside unbalanced force. And when I get unbalanced, boy do I ever! I've been bouncing all over the place, round and round my plan, but no longer in a simple straight line. The changes terrify me, because I don't know what to expect next, but overall I'm happy and it's good. And that's confusing too. I haven't quite adjusted, and even when I think I have, I slip back sometimes.
For example, in May I went to the Steampunk World's Fair. I was at the dance, happily dancing with a group of people, when I looked around and thought, "Wow, most of these people I just met today. And the one I've known the longest I only met four months ago. I'm..." My perspective switched, and abruptly I backed up until I collided with the table behind me. "I'm surrounded by strangers, and I'm trapped against a wall. Nobody here knows me. My keys are locked in a stranger's hotel room. I'm wearing a stranger’s clothing. I'm..." Then the perspective switched again, and the incipient panic attack faded. "I'm having a wonderful time."
That's the most dramatic example, but moments like that have been happening all along. It's been hard to adjust and I keep feeling off-balance. I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps that's really the point. My goals and plans don't really matter, except to soothe my anxiety a little. What matters is not only that I remain in motion, but that I keep allowing myself to be acted upon by the outside unbalanced forces. That's the way to change and grow.
Somehow, I've managed to point myself in the right direction without understanding what I was doing. New music and plays at the Community Theater, new authors and books to read, new places to go and things to do, new friends to talk to: all of them are about new ideas and new perspectives. Or even just reconsidering my old ideas and perspectives and making sure I'm not just sticking to them out of habit. There's nothing wrong with keeping the old that still fits. I'm not trying to be someone else, someone different. I'm trying to be more of who I already am, and to do it better.
But it's all right if it makes me a little crazy. I'm trying to learn to like change instead of hating it, and that's not going to be easy. That's okay. It's good for me to talk apples to someone else's bananas, as long as I know that's what's going on, because it makes me think. It's fine to throw away a plan I've made if something that interests me more comes along. That's actually progress for me, and I shouldn't let anyone make me feel guilty about it. And sometimes there will be disagreements, and that's okay too, as long as I keep my temper and don't overreact.
And sometimes I'll take a step backwards and curl up in a little ball for a while. That's also just fine, as long as I get back to the forward momentum before inertia sets in. This object intends to remain in motion.
tl;dr: It's the journey that matters, not the destination.