Want the Change

And I know I am solid and sound;
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow;
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.
-Walt Whitman

Change is hard. It’s one of the things we struggle with the most, along with zipping up our jeans after a night on the couch with Ben and Jerry’s and Vikings.

Wait, that’s just me.

My gym was sold last year to a young hotshot who is now flexing his extremely toned muscles to show us all who’s boss. The entire philosophy of the gym is changing, along with the name, the décor, the class schedule and the instructors.

As you can imagine, there was a considerable amount of disgruntled whispering amongst the members in between deadlifts and sit-ups. We gossiped and jogged. It’s debatable which activity was getting us fitter. Complaints were panted as we tightened our pelvic floors and planked. Questions kept time with the rhythm of rowing. Will there be this? Will he do away with that? Should I stay? Should I go? Will I still be able to read Woman’s Day while cycling at the pace of a snail? Will he say “snatch” without sniggering? Will he replace the hand soap in the toilets? Is he single?

Behind all this, of course, was fear. Change is confronting. It unsettles us. It frightens us. It challenges us. We would rather stay comfortable. We are friends with the familiar.

But lo and behold, some of the changes Mr Muscles is introducing are…great. Some are not so great—I’d go so far as to say WANKY BULLSHIT TEENAGE RUBBISH but I won’t because that would be rude—but some are fabulous.

Late last year, when we knew the gym had been sold, I decided to reserve judgement and wait until I trialled the new version. I determined to stay as far away as possible from the Complaints Brigade. (You know the ones. You walk into Zumba and they’re huddling in the back corner, usually a lycra’d ringleader and her nodding minions, so you stand as near the front as possible even though that forces you to confront the ugly reality in the mirror that your mambo makes you look like you’re constipated and your new leggings simply package the bulges in a brighter shade of pink.)

So it was with some trepidation that after New Year I jogged through the repainted doors to find a whole new world of sweaty possibility. I did a couple of new classes. I treadmilled looking out a different window. I read the inspirational quotes scribbled in manly font on the mirrors. (WANKY.)

And…I like it, overall. I’m excited, even. Looking back, the place was getting a bit tired. We were all in a rut. The same faces, the same classes, the same routines, the same moves executed badly by members who, quite frankly, treated the gym as a social hub and talked at their tops of their voices while I was trying to concentrate on not falling over during the squat track. Not that I’m bitter. At all. Bitches.

I think I’ll stay.

And here’s the thing: I had a choice. I couldn’t do anything about the fact that the gym had a new owner, and that he was young and male (it’s a women-only gym. I know, doesn’t make sense to me either) and enthusiastic as a puppy and perhaps ever-so-slightly ignorant of what women need and want and how people deal with change and transition. But I could choose to accept it and allow myself to believe that perhaps it might be good. Perhaps I might like it. Perhaps my body might benefit. Perhaps it might just be…better. I opened myself to possibility and took the risk of being hopeful. For once, I embraced change. And it worked (apart from the wanky stuff).

This year there are major changes ahead for me. I am trying to lean into the fear and make it my friend. I am choosing to believe that the changes ahead are good ones. Necessary ones. I am even daring to believe that this year may be one of my best yet—not in spite of the fear and the difficulties and the reality that for a while my life will feel very strange and maybe even awful—but because of all of it. I want to really live. The good and the bad. The tears and the joy. All of it.

Dare with me.

Many poets have written about change and transition. Here are two of my favourites.

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

David Wagoner

Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XII

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

Rainer Maria Rilke

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