Looking back, I am glad I went through the pain (I know that sounds strange, but it’s true). I wouldn’t want to relive it, so how can one feel glad? The end result was a blessing, but not without a lot of effort to get there. The only way to relieve my distress was to accept the situation or change it. I refused to accept, so was determined to change it. I worked hard to change my circumstances. It’s hard to move out your comfort zone to embrace a new opportunity when it didn’t feel like your choice to begin with. Change is scary and exciting: I love and hate it. It propels you out of your comfort zone and thrusts you into the unknown. I need time to come to terms with a directional shift: the bigger the shift, the longer I need to reach that place of acceptance.
But I can tell you something that I will never say to someone who is going through a dark time due to an unexpected or unwanted change; I will never tell them that “everything happens for a reason” or that “change is good”. Because that’s not what someone wants to hear. Intellectually, I knew that I wouldn’t feel the same way forever. I knew my depression wouldn’t last. At the same time, hearing someone tell me, “this is for the best” didn’t make me feel better. It made me resist change even harder. Let me give you a hypothetical situation to explain what I’ve experienced in the last month:
Imagine a house.
It’s comfy and welcoming, full of character. It’s flooded with daylight and filled with plants, both inside and out. You tend a vegetable garden bursting with colourful, organic fare. You’ve grown up in this house. Raised a family. You know every squeak of the stair. Your children’s heights from the age they could stand until the day they moved out are etched in the door frame. You’ve painted over wallpaper, changed cupboard doors, updated the bathroom, but the bones are the same.
It’s your home.
You love your neighbours: you organize yearly block parties, go carolling at Christmas, babysat each others’ children. You’ve borrowed entire cartons eggs and whole bags of flour, dropped off the kids in an emergency, took turns hosting Friday night potlucks. You almost feel at home in their houses as you do in your own.
This neighbourhood, this house: It belongs to you and you belong to it.
Then one day, out of the blue, the government tells you it is expropriating your property to tear it down and build a highway bypass. You don’t have a choice. They tell you that it’ll be great; you will get a fair price for your house and you can move into one of the shiny new condos they’re building and you’ll love it because, hey, you won’t have to mow the lawn anymore, and what a view of the new bypass! But you have only a few weeks to move out because construction starts in a month.
How do you feel? Shocked? Numb? In denial? Devastated? In mourning? Now you are walking around the house, fingers automatically touching the gouge in the back of the bedroom door that your son made with a pair of scissors when he was three. Your toe scuffs at the burn mark on the kitchen floor where your husband dropped a smoking pan of blackened cake he had tried to bake for your birthday. You stand in the middle of your bedroom, sun pouring in the window. You look out at the backyard filled with toys and flowers and perfect climbing trees. In the distance, you see your neighbours and your friends in their backyards, walking down the street, laughing in driveways. You have to look away.
When you contemplate the future, you feel uncertain and overwrought. You don’t eat. You can’t sleep. Dread is a stone that you carry heavy in your gut. You want it to end. Every morning you wake up and this feeling doesn’t end. You realize, this is depression looks like. This is what anxiety feels like.
You won’t move into the condo. That is not a choice you can live with. It won’t be the same. It would be like living with the ghost of your past. Besides, some of your best friends on the block are moving. They don’t want to live next to a highway, either. So you decide to look for a new house.
It takes a monumental effort to get up in the morning and go look for houses. You scan the real estate ads, you even visit a few. And slowly, it starts to feel real. The stone in your gut begins to dissolve. You begin to say goodbye to the house in small ways. You finish painting the bathroom that was left undone. You let the weeds grow among the flowers. You look at the house in a new way, noticing things you will be happy to let go.
Then you see it: there is a house in another part of town. You have a friend who moved there a few years back and loves the community. You book an appointment to view the house, and fall in love. The house is nothing like your old home, but it is unique and beautiful in its own way. You feel suddenly as though you are ready for a change. That this whole time, you’ve needed a new perspective but were too comfortable in your old home and in your familiar neighbourhood. You slowly reinflate with hope and excitement and joyful expectation of a new chapter in your life. And you realize that even if the government changed its plans and you could stay in your old house, you wouldn't. You're looking forward to an unwritten future, to its new possibilities.
And that’s where I am now: Hopeful, excited, and joyfully expectant.